With only a few weeks left in the semester, I’m sure I’m not the only one who needed a vacation —but then I had to fly to California to deal with Thanksgiving in a mixed family.
Coming from a “mixed family” can mean many different things. In this case, my family is mixed in more than one way.
My parents have been divorced for about eight years. Being part of a separated family puts you in the situation of splitting holidays, since you want to facilitate your time evenly.
Yet the divorce wasn’t my first taste of mixed family life during the holidays.
My racial makeup is roughly half Caucasian, a quarter Latino and a quarter Arabic.
My dad—the Anderson side—is 100 percent Caucasian, made up of mostly Dutch and Texan roots. The Andersons migrated to Iowa from Denmark through Ellis Island in the early 1800s, according to my father, Ed Anderson.
My mom (the Cortez side) is half Mexican and half Syrian.
“We came to California in 1945; I was 7,” said Lorice Cortez, my mom’s mother and my Tete—Arabic for grandmother. “My dad said he was not going to shovel one more year of snow. He was done. Luckily, one of his brothers came to California.”
This cultural mashup goes as far back as my 21-year-old memory, even though I’m sure it was present well before my birth.
Our holidays incorporated the different cultures in a progressive way. My family showed me our heritage through an honest light—where each culture was respected and equally important.
“It’s really important that you get to see who you truly are,” said Cathy Anderson, my mother. “You should never be ashamed of where you came from.”
I remember watching football on Thanksgiving while eating turkey, the Arabic dish of kibbeh and the Hispanic dish of tamales. I don’t know of many other people who can say they’ve experienced the holidays like I have.
First up for Thanksgiving 2016 was the get together with my mom’s side of the family…or should I say lack thereof.
Life happens and things change. Unfortunately, the Cortez–Anderson side of my family was only able to manage four of us for Thanksgiving this year—my mom, brother Matt and Tete Lorice.
Even though there were only four of us, we were still able to bring together aspects of our different cultures. We had hummus and pita bread to start and baklawa to finish with plenty of ham, creamed corn and mashed potatoes in between.
“I think it’s important for my children and my grandchildren to enjoy Arabic [and Hispanic] culture, so you have more knowledge of where you came from,” said Lorice Cortez, who likes to incorporate Arabic dishes like kibbeh into most holidays.
Next was the Thanksgiving get together with my dad’s side of the family, the Anderson side.
“It’s so wonderful to be able to get the family together, especially when it’s tough,” said Joanna Scofield, my grandmother and my dad’s mother. “We have to work our schedules so we can see everyone.”
We gathered in my grandparents’ backyard in Fallbrook, California. The day started crisp and beautiful, but slowly crept toward cold winds and rain. We caught up on what everyone has missed during the months we’ve been separted.
The topics of conversation bounced between sports, politics and everything in between.
As we talked, I realized that even though I may have mixed feelings about spending the holidays with a mixed family, it has shown me the value of diversity. I wouldn’t change who I am or where I come from for anything.