Thanksgiving: Appropriate or Appropriation? — Nicole Sallak Anderson

Nicole Sallak Anderson
9 min readNov 24, 2021
One of my last whole family Thanksgivings, circa 2005

Growing up, I looked forward to Thanksgiving more than any other holiday, for it was the one time each year my entire family gathered. My mother and father’s siblings along with all the cousins would descend upon our house and mayhem would ensue. My mom worked for days, if not weeks, in the kitchen preparing, and all the sisters brought some sort of side or offering. As a kid, I recall loving the event because I always had a delightful story to tell afterwards. There was the one year my cousin Nathan ate my sister’s goldfish, he was only two, and another time, a decade later, when my cousin David and twentysomething Nicole danced with our grandmother Marian to “Shakedown Street” all three of us totally drunk on wine and the joy of life.

In my thirties, it became clear that my mom was growing tired of hosting the event, so my husband and I took over the feast. There were many missteps, especially when it came to the turkey. One year, my husband got it so wrong, the bird was five hours late, all the appetizers were gone, and everyone was drunk beyond belief (see picture above). We are of Polish descent, after all. I also remember our hosting days with great fondness for there were little ones, the cousins’ kids now playing with one another. The bonfires were always epic, my father would spend all fall creating his pyre and my husband did the same. We’d stand out in the Chicago area winters, buzzed on wine, coffee, and too much pie, turning like pigs on the roasting spit, to make sure our asses didn’t freeze.

We haven’t celebrated a Thanksgiving like that in fourteen years, since Walt and I moved to California. Once we got here, the celebration changed up-my parents and sister would come to California for Thanksgiving and Walt’s mom and dad joined us for Christmas. While this new development created many fond memories, it never compared to the tradition we’d left behind when we relocated from the Midwest to sunny, but still very cold at Thanksgiving, California. When my family arrived for Thanksgiving 2019, I remember very clearly having a sense that it would be the last one I’d host here. That something else was taking shape as my sons went off to college. I told my parents this before they arrived. That spring, covid-19 hit and then in August 2020, the house burned in the CZU…

Nicole Sallak Anderson

Novelist, California wildfire survivor, essayist. Find my latest novel, It Takes Two, a romance with a reincarnation twist @Amazon.