Happy Thanksgiving frommy family to yours! Although I was disheartened to postpone my Kentucky KitchenTable project, Thanksgiving dinner could not have been a more appropriate venueto discuss citizenship. I did my project in Lafayette, Georgia; a small townthat my grandparents have lived in for as long as I can remember. Mygrandparents, Charles and Marjorie “Jean”, were at the dinner. Charles works asa substitute teacher. In his free time, he does woodwork. Jean loves to sew,cook, and read mystery novels. My mother, Kris, was also one of the guests. Sheis forty-seven years old and teaches elementary school. My mom lives in Somerset,Kentucky. My aunt and uncle, Merri and Keith, also spent Thanksgiving with us.Merri owns her own preschool, and Keith drives the school bus during the dayand works on helicopters during the night. Merri and Keith have four children,but only my baby cousin Annabelle was able to come up for the holiday. Annabelleis eight years old and in the second grade. She loves horseback riding andgymnastics. My aunt, uncle, and little cousin live in Enterprise, Alabama. Mymother and I brought the ham and turkey, my grandparents provided the sides,and my aunt and uncle brought desserts. I thought our dinner was unique becausewe prepared the dishes together, even Annabelle got involved by setting anddecorating the tables!
One of the first questions I asked was the required question, “other than voting and paying taxes, what does citizenship mean to you?” My grandmother was one of the first people to speak up, which was not surprising considering how much she loves to talk. Her thoughts on citizenship were more focused on “being a part of” or “belonging” to a country. As soon as she said that, my uncle Keith jumped in and said that citizenship to him meant taking pride in your country. He explained that citizenship was more than where you were born and raised, it was believing and taking pride in your country. My grandfather agreed with his opinion, but he added onto this definition by saying that citizenship was taking care of your country. I do not have his exact sentence quoted but it was something along the lines of “doing your part, taking care of your neighbors.” My grandfather, who served in the military, had a brotherhood mentality when talking about citizenship.
As the conversation continued, we started talking about the differences between generations. This part of the conversation was especially interesting because we had three different generations at our dinner table! When my grandparents were young, the world looked very different. My grandmother talked about dropping out of school in the eighth grade and getting married. She raised five kids before she finally went back and got her GED and her bachelor’s degree in early childhood development. My grandfather shared his story of growing up on a farm before joining the military. After he retired, he also went back to school and became a teacher. Another super interesting story that my grandparents told was about living in Germany when the Berlin Wall was knocked down! My grandmother still had a piece of it on display in her living room. Overall, I felt like my grandparents’ generation had a close connection to family. Even though couples got married younger, had children sooner, and stayed busy, there was an emphasis on spending time with each other. Dinner was a time set aside for family. Many families today continue this tradition, but in our fast-paced world it takes a lot more effort. This conversation reminded me of the “Power of Patience” by Jennifer Roberts. In this reading, Roberts explained the importance of slowing down. This reading has made me more conscious of taking the extra minutes to have quality conversations with my family and develop a deeper appreciation for them.
After that conversation ended, I looked over the list of questions in our handout packet. Since we were all from different places, I thought the question “is there anything you can do that might make things better for you and your neighbors where you live?” would be an interesting one to ask. My grandmother chimed in first and said she would love starting a neighborhood watch program. Recently, there have been several robberies around her area. She thought that maybe if the neighbors were watching out for each other, there would be less risk. My mom – who teaches in one of the poorest counties in Kentucky – said she could take a $20 bill, go to Goodwill, and buy every one of her students a winter coat. This conversation tied perfectly into our earlier discussion where we defined citizenship as taking care of your neighbors. My grandma’s idea and my mom’s idea differed so greatly it reminded me of our deliberation projects. One of the biggest things I noticed about all the deliberations was the diversity of topics. Every student saw a different wicked problem in the world based on their personal perspective. Additionally, this conversation made me think about the “Snare of Preparation” by Jane Addams. These actions to make our communities better are not difficult to complete. If we want to define being a citizen as taking care of our neighbors, then to be a good citizen we should follow through with our ideas.
One of the last topics we discussed was about our hometowns. I wanted to end our dinner on a positive note, so I asked, “what is one thing you love about where you live?” My uncle said he loved living around his family. His children still live in Enterprise, and his parents live less than an hour away. My aunt said she loved her preschool and all her babies. My mom said she loved Kentucky because it had all four seasons. I have to say that I agree with my mom, Kentucky has beautiful weather! Unlike Georgia and Alabama, the trees in Kentucky change colors and lose their leaves. The weather goes from 90 degrees to 70 degrees to 50 degrees and so on. In Alabama, there is summer and winter. The temperature is 85 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. My grandmother said she did not love where she lived, and she would be happier in Florida. She said the warmer weather would help her arthritis (my grandmother also thinks eating ice cream will cure heartburn). My grandfather talked about his extra grandchild, Aria, who lives next door. She’s a little toddler who loves my grandparents to death, and she’s always coming over to play checkers. I asked Annabelle what her favorite thing about Enterprise was and she told me about her horse. This was my favorite conversation of the night because it made everyone smile and think of the wonderful things in our lives.
Overall, I would consider my Kentucky Kitchen Table project a success! The food was great, and we had a great mix of people. Although most of it was my family, we were all from different places and it was very rare for us to get together like this. There were three different generations present and that offered different perspectives on citizenship. I wish my cousin Annabelle was a little older because right now she is too young to have a thoughtful input on these types of conversations. However, I think her perspective when she gets older is going to be interesting because she is bi-racial (half white, half African American) and she is also adopted. I learned a lot about my family, mostly because we never have conversations like this. We never even get together for dinners like this unless it is Thanksgiving or Christmas. This dinner forced me to slow down and talk, and I have gained a better understanding of my family because of that. I hope, moving forward, we can start a tradition of having these important conversations.