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Guyon: The Best First Impression

11/27/09 7:55AM By Annie Guyon
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(HOST) Today is the second annual National Day of Listening, and as part of that effort, commentator Annie Lawrence Guyon, recalls a story often told during her family's Thanksgiving holidays - about the welcome they were given when they came to this country.

(GUYON) My parents were British and immigrated to the U.S. in 1963 with three kids and $300 to their name.  They worked hard to make a good life for us but because they were never entirely sure it had been the right move, Thanksgiving was always tinged with a bit of irony at our house.  Though Mum would lay out the full, traditional meal - albeit with Brussels sprouts instead of green beans and a glaring absence of American oddities like marshmallows - there was a distinct "family without a country" atmosphere, with an unspoken implication that we were basically celebrating the rejection of Mother England.
As a reliable tonic to the tension, the conversation would often drift to the tale of our family's entry into the United States and it gets me teary every time I tell it to my kids.

My mum's sister Pat had married a GI from Maine after World War II and her new in-laws, Julia and Mahlon, served as our enthusiastic welcoming committee.  We happened to enter the country on my Dad's birthday and, though they'd never met us, they threw a party replete with streamers, balloons and a homemade cake that Julia had lovingly decorated.

Their warm welcome gave Mum and Dad the best first impression of America they could have had - and us kids an instant set of honorary grandparents.  Though we eventually settled on the West coast, frequent trips to Maine reminded us how lucky we were to have been taken under the wing of this generous rural New England couple. Fond memories of them and an enduring love of this beautiful region are what inspired me to move here, decades later, with my own young family.

I've always been very thankful that my folks had the mettle and motivation to come to America.  In an attempt to show my gratitude to them, one Thanksgiving as a kid I wrote a clumsy, rhyming poem, listing all the reasons why I was glad to have been raised here.  Mum wept, saying she never knew I felt so strongly about this country.

I did and still do.


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