Next up in my series of writings featuring immigrants enrolled in my memoir classes: Mia Miller. For this installment, I’ll excerpt from one of her pieces.
Mia was born in Egypt in the French speaking Jewish community of Cairo. Her family later moved to Paris, where she attended college and fell in love with Jonathan Miller, an American who was also studying there. The two of them were married in the United States, and after retiring from a long career in education and social work, Mia now volunteers teaching English to immigrants who have children enrolled in Chicago Public Schools.
When I asked the memoir writers in my classes to write about a celebration that centers around food, Mia chose Thanksgiving. “It is, for me, a Jewish immigrant, a holiday that has universal meaning for all of us in America, no matter what our race, creed or ethnicity,” she writes. “It’s a holiday where I am reminded that I have so much to be thankful for for being in this country with the many blessings that were bestowed upon Jonathan and me.”
Mia came to the United States in 1969 and celebrated her first Thanksgiving in Niantic Connecticut with Jonathan and his parents. “I learned to cook a Thanksgiving meal from my much beloved mother in-law, Vivian Miller, whom I called Mom,” she writes. “I loved every dish Mom served.”
When Mia was growing up, her own family kept celebrations and rituals to a minimum. Now she has embraced the Miller family traditions and made them her own. “To this day we have kept many of Mom’s recipes and traditions,” she writes, noting that the two holidays dearest to her husband’s parents — Thanksgiving and Passover – both center on food. ”For Jon and me, these two holidays are sacrosanct,” she writes. “The common thread of these two holidays is one of survival — Thanksgiving is about the pilgrims giving Thanks, and Passover celebrates the exodus of the Jewish People who left Egypt, the land of oppression, for a new life of freedom.”
Mia says she cherishes the “connectivity across generations,” and the way cultural, religious and culinary heritage passes from generation to generation. “Food brings people together,” she writes. “Thanksgiving is a Miller tradition that was handed down by Mom and Dad to us, from us to our sons, and I hope, in some part, to our grandsons and granddaughters when they become adults.” She ended her essay with a quote from a favorite American musical. “As Tevvye in Fiddler on the Roof used to say: Tradition, Tradition!”