By A.J. Llewellyn
As somebody who grew up in Australia, with no Halloween, no Thanksgiving, no Twinkies or Tootsie Rolls or M&Ms and tiny corner "milk bars" instead of massive supermarkets, moving to California in 1984 was an adventure I have never stopped appreciating.
My favorite of all the American holidays became Thanksgiving. Partly because my first Christmas here I was so broke my two room mates and I shared a packet of M&M (plain) between us. We tried desperately not to beat up the fourth room mate who'd eaten our carefully collected stash of vegetables we thought we'd hidden in the bottom of the fridge.
The following year, a new friend invited me to Thanksgiving and I met one of the loves of my life, candied yams.
I adore Thanksgiving because I always believed all Americans celebrated it. I loved that a total stranger could be included in a family meal and I loved that you couldn't offend anybody the way you can inadvertently offend by saying, "Merry Christmas."
So I was stunned on Monday when one of my dearest friends told me her 5 year old son - and my cherished and adored Godson (I have 11 Godchildren by the way) - was caught in the middle of political correctness run amok.
I was astounded to learn that a mother at Condit Elementary School in Claremont, CA objected to the school's annual Thanksgiving celebration. For months, these five year olds have been preparing their own Pilgrim and Indian costumes out of construction paper.
They love this holiday.
It's a long-standing, 40 year ritual for Condit and Mountain View Elementary Schools.
According to Mary Raheja, who says she is of the Seneca tribe (They however, say she is not enrolled on their books) it's like celebrating the Holocaust.
She wrote this to her child's teacher: "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."
Raheja found a few parents to side with her while the The school's superintendent David Cash ruled that after 40 years, yes indeed, dressing up for Thanksgiving is racist.
I was so pleased to find on Monday that 90% of the children turned up in their costumes, according to my friend, oblivious to the controversy.
David cash was under police guard and heavy public criticism but in the end, Thanksgiving went as planned and I saw the photos. The kids looked adorable and learned a valuable lesson, the art of completing a task and having people admire their handiwork.
I was pleased that the entire world has NOT gone mad. These are five year olds. Plenty of time for them to learn what happened AFTER that legendary first pot luck meal.
This morning, I lay in bed listening to the news, learning that for the first time ever, a Native American tribe, the Oneidas, is having a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Other tribes have participated before but this will be the first tribal float. I wish I could be there to see it in person and will have to settle for television.
I found myself smiling, remembering my first and only Thanksgiving in New York. My brother was living there in a shabby one bedroom apartment on Hudson Street opposite the White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas slipped off his barstool and died.
We woke up, played Bob Marley and sloped off to the Parade, caught up in the pageantry...and later on as we strolled through Little Italy, the pastries.
That to me is what Thanksgiving is all about. Parties, parades and an extra scoop (or three) of yams with my veggies.
Have an awesome Thanksgiving!