November 25, 2005

A Boy Named Mary

As I mentioned on Tuesday, my family has a tendency to celebrate the holidays a little bit differently than most. My mom spent the majority of her life as a teacher and speech pathologist, eventually specializing in kids with learning disabilities and mental handicaps. Or whatever the politically correct way is to label those nowadays. When she retired a few years ago, no one thought she'd stay retired for long. We were right. After a year or so, she became involved with several local organizations and training programs which help recent immigrants - most, refugees seeking political asylum here for fear of persecution at home - learn life-skills, find jobs, apply for asylum and get on their feet enough to bring their families here as well.

This Thanksgiving, like most other holidays, was spent in a house full of refugees - eleven, if you're keeping score at home - many of whom hadn't ever celebrated Thanksgiving before. And as much as I said I wanted to spend the holiday with my family, what hit me the hardest again was the fact that most of these people had to leave their families back home. D (that's him in the picture, holding the baby) left his three daughters behind. He plays guitar in a band with his friend S to distract him, keep him occupied. J left his three children behind. He didn't have a choice. He'd been imprisoned for years - I've never been able to get an exact number - and so badly beaten he not only has physical scars but mental ones as well. M left his daughter behind too. "It's hard," he said. "It's the hardest thing in the world." And I believe him. I have a hard time leaving for work every morning because I miss Mia so much. A, who claims she's my long lost sister, was there as usual, this time accompanied by her 18 year-old daughter who just arrived from her country. A still has two more kids to bring over.

And then there was Mary...

Some things get lost in translation. Names are no exception. Yes, the four month old boy picture above is named Mary. It's unclear why. But at least Mary, unlike his parents, was born in a country in which, while he'll most definitely be harassed because of his name, he'll never - knock on wood - be tortured for his beliefs. And that's what Thanksgiving is all about. That and the turkey.

Posted by Chris at November 25, 2005 6:39 PM

Wow! You have an amazing family! I'm happy that Mary is well on his way to a better life.

Posted by: Marie at November 25, 2005 8:39 PM

Oh- thank you for this lovely post on your Thanksgiving celebration. I suspect your Thanksgiving more closely reflected the real deal than most- lucky, lucky Mia that she has this to look forward to as her family history unfolds.

Posted by: Vicki at November 25, 2005 8:41 PM

Very nice. What an awesome family you have.

Posted by: Jenn at November 25, 2005 8:57 PM

In pain there is beauty...just look at those faces. Large pain, large capacity for kindness, and understanding. Empathy. The meaning of the holidays! : )

Posted by: Gypsy at November 25, 2005 9:09 PM

Sounds like you had a great day with your family and friends. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. :O)

Posted by: Milly at November 25, 2005 9:28 PM

That's what Thanksgiving is all about. :)

Posted by: Martha at November 25, 2005 9:47 PM

That is so wonderful. It makes me so happy to know that there are still people in this world who have huge hearts, open minds, and who open their houses to people in need. Go Chris' parents!

Posted by: Stephanie at November 25, 2005 9:52 PM

Beautiful Chris. I'm glad you had such a meaningful Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Queen Of Ass at November 25, 2005 10:05 PM

Man, CactusMom rocks. And perhaps we should take up a collection for Mary... you know, to help with the future costs of therapy? ;)

Terrific experience. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Pammer at November 25, 2005 10:07 PM

Your Mom is a great woman. :)

Posted by: dragonlady474 at November 25, 2005 10:32 PM

Sounds like your mom's heart is bigger than Texas. It is so cool that your family is there for these people.... GREAT entry.

Posted by: Lisa B at November 25, 2005 10:51 PM

Such interesting people! I think it's such a blessing to have folks around with vastly different stories, just to keep us in perspective.

Posted by: Heather at November 25, 2005 11:30 PM

Well at least he wasn't named Sue.

I can only imagine that it is hard to always share your family, but at the same time that sounds like a perfect Thanksgiving. Be proud that your holiday was about more than just turkey and football.

Posted by: Eeek at November 25, 2005 11:57 PM

Your mom is great! And maybe they could call Mary "Mario" instead.

Posted by: Kelley at November 26, 2005 12:56 AM

That's okay...the guy who checked us out at Safeway the other night had a girl's name, too...but he was built like a linebacker...I doubt he gets much grief. :) This is the best Thanksgiving photo I've seen in the blogosphere yet. Mia's

Posted by: Marilyn at November 26, 2005 2:26 AM

I understand that feeling of wanting your family to yourself - but those of us blessed with plenty of family, I've come to realize, need to share with those who don't - and then you end up with beautiful moments like these.

And Mary is a great name, hopefully Mother Mary will be with surely the only little boy named after her!

Posted by: samantha at November 26, 2005 7:57 AM

What a wonderful tradition!

Posted by: Theresa at November 26, 2005 8:43 AM

amen to your last paragraph

Posted by: chlamygirl at November 26, 2005 10:14 AM

your family is astoundingly kind. Mary? Made my day.

Posted by: Betty at November 26, 2005 10:43 AM

Maybe it was Mirry like on lord of the rings...I dunno just trying. Sounds like you have an amazing mother. I'm glad you enjoyed the day. I was dissapointed with my aunts turkey so I think I'm gonna do a late private thanksgiving for hubby and me, since he didn't get to be there.

Posted by: Bethany at November 26, 2005 1:17 PM

How awesome of your mom to do that. And how fortunate that Mia will be raised in an environment that sees beyond (or attempts to, at any rate) color, ethnicity, etc.

That said, now is the time to burn Mary a cd with "A Boy Named Sue" on it. :D

Posted by: Rhonda at November 26, 2005 6:14 PM

Chris: Great photo and thanks for sharing your family Thanksgiving stories. Incredible!!

Posted by: Dolly at November 26, 2005 10:31 PM

Wow. What a great experience to be able to share the day with them.

Posted by: Allan at November 27, 2005 8:51 AM

Thank you for Mary. If it's okay I want to link to this entry. I was VERY moved by it. Thank you Chris.

Posted by: Kelly at November 27, 2005 12:30 PM

good for mary and good for people like your mom!!! that is really special what she does!

Posted by: lizabetty at November 27, 2005 7:49 PM

What a cool way to spend Thanksgiving. Hope you had an awesome weekend, as well.

Posted by: Heather at November 28, 2005 1:52 AM

Awww, beautiful post. You have an awesome mom for caring about other people in the world. Great picture!

Posted by: Sweety at November 29, 2005 1:35 AM