At 70, Grandma’s First Thanksgiving

Article and Photos by Svetlanna Farinha

Grandma Claudia Powley
Grandma Claudia Powley arrived in America for her first-ever Thanksgiving dinner with her family.

Dressed in a gray Washington Redskins T-shirt bearing the team’s red-and-yellow logo, Grandma Claudia Powley, 70, sat upright on a cream, tweed fabric couch awaiting her first Thanksgiving dinner.

It was that time of year when we travel and gather with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company, stuff ourselves with food and be thankful for health and life, this year, the Bouchers of Castlewood Drive, Upper Marlboro, Md., had something extra to be thankful for: the presence of Grandma Claudia, whom we all call Dearie.

Dearie, 70, with her dark, mellow skin and silver-gray locks, came to the United States from Guyana on Nov. 20 to be with her elder daughter, Vanda Boucher; her grandchildren Laureni, 24, Lyn, 19, and Lawrence, 21; her brother Bertram and other relatives celebrating what for her was a new holiday.
And earlier in the day, the family enjoyed a triumphant payback.

A longtime family friend, Karen Farinha, 41, and also from Guyana, came to Maryland from New York City, unaware of Dearie’s arrival. On Thanksgiving morning, having arrived late on Thanksgiving eve, Karen got a shock when she saw Dearie step into the kitchen. Roars of laughter and screams filled the air, as Karen could not contain her excitement, yet at the same time resented being deceived. In Guyanese dialect, she yelled, “Why didn’t y’all tell me Dearie was coming—Dearie morning—wait I’m gonna text Penny now—why didn’t she tell me and I spoke to her yesterday.” (Penny, Dearie’s other daughter, lives in Guyana.)

Vanda responded, “Because you always going to Guyana to surprise Penny, so we decide to pay it back to you and surprise you.”

That evening everyone gathered around the table, laden not with traditional Thanksgiving dishes but with Guyanese foods, including creamy mac ‘n cheese, deviled eggs, Guyanese fried rice, potato salad, fried chicken, sweet golden corn, Jollof rice (a Nigerian red spiced rice, because Laureni’s boyfriend is Nigerian) and a juicy turkey stuffed and overflowing with grapes.

Many of her family members are ardent Redskins fans, so Dearie (as her family calls her) wore the team’s colors to dinner.

After a prayer, everyone loaded up their plates and settled in to watch the Cowboys and Redskins football game. As Dearie sat beaming on the couch, she said: “I’m enjoying my first Thanksgiving very much. When I see them eat, 2, 3, 6 plates of food, they eat plenty food. But I was expecting it. I heard about Thanksgiving, about all the fancy dishes, family coming over and all and I’m enjoying myself, my first Thanksgiving. I get to see my brother who I haven’t seen since 2009, and I get to meet my granddaughter’s boyfriend (of six years) for the first time.”

The day was not the easiest, because there was no running water.

A water pipeline in the neighborhood had broken, and families had to make do with cartons of bottled water distributed by the water company. The bottled water was used for cooking and in the bathroom. With 13 people in one house, it was a trying situation but did not dampen the day.

As night set in and everyone had eaten their fill, attention focused on the football game. Screams and shouts of “hold on to the ball” and “be careful R.G.” (the Redskins’ quarterback), filled the air. At commercial breaks, random conversations arose, from Laureni asking, “Water come back yet?” to Bertram saying, “In hockey from the time they leave the net they fighting.”

Dearie looked on with a smile on her face, snuggled next to her daughter Vanda.

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