Torn Between Two Families

My Holiday Decision Taught Me the True Meaning of Family

My mother’s childhood has been a source of pain and enduring mental anguish throughout her life. The poverty growing up and the abuse suffered by the people that hated her for being native stayed with her.

When I found our native relatives, my mother finally felt accepted and loved by those around her. It has been three years since we spent a holiday with non-native family. When I said I planned to spend Thanksgiving with them instead of attending our native family gathering I could see she felt hurt by my decision.

I understand the source of my mother’s pain. The difficultly she endured for so long I could not begin to imagine. But her family suffered that with her. They were all starving and struggling to survive during that difficult time. My mother still blames her niece for her sister’s death and I don’t blame her.

But as I struggle to learn my own heritage, I am constantly reminded that I can not forget from where I have come. My mother’s sister has a daughter, Lisa and a son, Cameron that we haven’t spoken to in three years. In embracing our native family I feel we are losing touch with our original family. I feel torn between the two.

My native uncle has been helping me in the study of my heritage. The things I learn from him are both a blessing and a burden. I can’t separate people into races anymore. I can’t love those around me and hate anyone in the world. I can not hold anyone accountable for deeds I have ever done in my past. I can see in my uncle and his children this is how they live and the model they believe in. If I am to know that peace I can not pick and choose how much of it I want to accept.

I contacted Lisa and asked her what the family will be doing for the holidays. She admitted that they really haven’t done anything together in the years since we left. I felt my heart sink slightly. Had I caused this? My entire life is filled with memories of family functions and holidays. As she caught me up on the family gossip, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. We had found our perfect family but had left our original family behind. What was I missing? Why did this feel so wrong?

Lisa is only older than me by two years. She was Edna’s first born and we grew up together having much of the same interests being so close in ages. When Lisa asked about our native family and what we do on holidays, I brightened up. I had a novel idea! I put Lisa’s number in my phone contacts and told her I would call her back. She made me promise. I felt in that moment, how much they had missed us every year we were away.

I was nervous as my uncle’s voice answered his phone. When I was done explaining my idea, I feared I would hear uncertainty in his voice. “Sure! We’d love to meet them!” he replied. My heart skipped a beat. I called Lisa and she loved the idea. We set the plans in motion to have a united family Thanksgiving. Within a couple of days both sides of our family were working together to decide who would cook what. My mother hugged Lisa and cried when she came to visit. I didn’t feel guilty any more. I felt happy.

Admittedly, I was also concerned now for my non-native family. I remembered how Daryl’s Apache friends had stared at the nervous white people like wolves sizing them up a meal. At this family reunion they would be the minority among a crowd of Indians. My uncle reassured me Apache haven’t eaten a white person in centuries. I wondered if he was joking.