Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Sarah Vowell on Thanksgiving

I recently read Sarah Vowell's newest book, The Partly Cloudy Patriot (she's my favorite author, along with Daniel Handler.). I just love to conjure up her distinct voice in my head as I read her books--she also does radio commentary on This American Life. I found this passage to be extra insightful, and I thought I'd share:

"Our great-grandmother Ellen passed through here (Ellis Island) on her way from Sweden. We watch a video on the heath inspections given to immigrants, walk past oodles of photos of men in hats and women in shawls. Though no one says anything, I know my father and mother and sister are thinking what I'm thinking. They're thinking about when we moved away from Oklahoma to Montana, how unknown that was, how strange and lonesome. I read a letter in a display case that says, 'And I never saw my mother again,' and I think of my grandfather, how we just drove off, leaving him behind, waving to us in the rearview mirror. And here we are in New York, because here I am in New York, because ever since Ellen's father brought her here, every generation moves away from the other one.

"It is curious that we Americans have a holiday--Thanksgiving--that's all about people who left their homes for a life of their own choosing, a life that was different from their parents' lives. And how do we celebrate it? By hanging out with our parents! It's as if on the Fourth of July we honored our independence from the British by barbecuing crumpets."

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