Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Finds Holiday Translates; Georgians with Multiple Roots See American Day's Emphasis on Food and Family Transcend Culture

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Family Finds Holiday Translates; Georgians with Multiple Roots See American Day's Emphasis on Food and Family Transcend Culture

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID DECAMP, The Times-Union

KINGSLAND, Ga. -- Newlyweds Mila and Mathew Cason had their first family Thanksgiving on Thursday. It just took a couple countries, a blended family and a little faith in their daughters' green bean casserole.

Like families across America, their afternoon dinner took hours and had the works: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, salads and cranberry sauce. And that casserole, put together from an Internet download and one of four last-minute trips to the supermarket.

"They drive me crazy," Mila said, smiling after the two daughters dashed with Dad to the store.

But dinner said something more. It was the subtle way holidays reflect the facts of life -- funny, unexpected or mundane -- for modern families. Divorced people remarry. Children fall into place. Meantime, holiday dinners are passed from place to place, family to family, like stories.

This one starts in Russia.

Mila lived most of her life there, learning from her mother the family tradition of good, plentiful cooking and hospitality. Winter lasted six months, but her parents made a good home. Her previous marriage brought her to America, where she now has permanent residency.

Mathew was born in Canada when his father was in the Air Force, but mostly had lived in Jacksonville with his sister, Sherry McVay.

The divorced parents met through friends 13 months ago. They were married on St. Simons Island five months ago Thursday and settled into a home in Kingsland. It had been their meeting place when dating. Only made sense, he said.

"I quit my job," said Mila, 47, a teacher. "I am just, what, Mom?"

"Not just," said Mathew, 49, a database specialist for United Way of Northeast Florida.

This Thanksgiving celebrated an early anniversary for the newborn family, part of Mathew's blessing for the meal.

Mila had her Russian-born daughter, Julia, 19, and son, Sergey, 16. Mathew's daughter, Laura, 16, rounded it out with his sister, brother-in-law and a friend of Mila. They made for a mix of Southern and Russian accents as new family members got to know each other. …

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