Transplanted and Transformed
by Pam R Selthun
Stu and I are Arizona transplants. We came out here as nearly newlyweds, following a job, and started our adult married lives separated from our family and friends “back home.” When the holidays rolled around, we immediately made plans to fly back “home,” to be with those we had left behind: his side of the family for one holiday, and mine for the other. Then, somewhere along the way, we made a bold decision not to go back home, but to make some new traditions of our own.
We had become close to two families through Stu’s work ties, and began spending Thanksgiving with one and Christmas with the other. We felt like we had been adopted. Our Thanksgiving family had outdoor potluck picnics that lasted all afternoon. Our Christmas family exchanged gifts with us, we watched their young children open toys, and we enjoyed Christmas brunch together at a nearby resort. They taught us how to be welcoming, a lesson we’re taking to heart as we welcome our refugee families through RAFT (Refugee Assistance and Friendship Teams) and help them understand American customs and holidays, like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Neither one of our adopted families was religious, but both were loving and giving.
To this day, we’re close to these families, though we don’t spend our holidays together anymore, and have experienced many changes over the years. Our Christmas family went through a divorce and a move, but we stayed in touch. Now, they’re back in Arizona, and I still consider the mom one of my best friends though our busy lives make it difficult to see each other more than a few times a year. She’s been transformed over the years, and now has a deep faith and is following a calling to go into Christian counseling. She was one of my first mom role models, and I was privileged to help mother her children during the weekends and holidays we spent together. We learned from each other. She taught me to never give up on having a family of our own, and that it was ok to let our children believe in Santa. I may have taught her that she didn’t have to stay married to someone who was abusive, and that she was worth more than she thought she was. In the end, family is more than flesh and blood; it’s those who are there when you need them, who support and love you, no matter what, and you do the same in return.