Pilgrims, Turkey & Kimchee

A year ago, I was going through my parents’ photo album to put together a digital slideshow for my mother’s 70th birthday bash. That’s when I happened upon this photo.

This was our first thanksgiving in America. As you can tell from the photo, it was American through and through, from the 10-pound turkey in the center, to the basket of fruits stocked to teetering height. However, there is no kimchee (pickled cabbage) at this table. My youngest brother’s face is all smiles. Next to him is my younger brother, Daniel. Even at that age he was the most pious: Note the deep furrow creasing his youthful skin around his tightly closed eyes, proof of spiritual sincerity. He is a pastor today and the church he planted several years ago is keeping him busy. My mother’s fingers are not interlocked, but folded across each other, giving her posture more “femininity.”

My father is at the head of the table. He came to New York a year before us, so at the time of this picture it was his second year in the United States. He worked several jobs and saved enough money to get a rental in a fourth floor, walk up apartment. This was not his first Thanksgiving, but the first as a family in America. He was thankful to God for that blessing because he worked hard for it.

That leaves the boy with his back to the camera. That is me. I would like to say that I was in deep prayer like Daniel. Honestly, though, I have no idea.

While this photo fills out the details, I’ve never forgotten that meal. I remember that we all felt as if we were being initiated into the American community. After all, rituals mark membership.

And what ritual is more American than Thanksgiving?

Baseball and weekly visits to Kentucky Fried Chicken assimilated us to the daily habits of Americans, but this ritual was worth a photo shoot. This holiday, my father told us around the table, embodied the core values of America: faith, hard work, family and…. (continue to read at Presbyterian blog)