Transforming Tradition : The Valley's Varied Perspectives Refine Meaning of Thanksgiving : Mothers and Daughter

Hearth and home, turkey with all the trimmings, family members reunited from afar.

These are the usual images of Thanksgiving, a holiday outdone only by Christmas in its sense of tradition and fireside warmth. But tradition does not reflect all of today's reality, as definitions of home, family and even food are evolving in our society.

Throughout the San Fernando Valley, residents gathered in their own unique ways to observe a national holiday that has deep roots in American history. From a Chatsworth home for boys to houses where turkey is taboo, from a group of Filipino exchange students dining at a Mexican restaurant to a new kind of family in Van Nuys, celebrations and celebrants brought new perspectives to the meaning of Thanksgiving.

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For little Elyse Saragossi, Thanksgiving is definitely a family affair at her Van Nuys house.

"We get to invite people here," the energetic 5-year-old said between bites of cranberry sauce. "Like my two grandpas and two grandmas."

Never mind that Elyse also has two mothers. The three generations of Saragossis and Moores who gathered to celebrate Thursday formed the picture of a typical American family at Thanksgiving, with turkey and stuffing piled high on their plates and with grown-ups seated at one table, the kids at another.

"We're just like any other family, except Elyse has two moms," said one of those moms, Bonnie Moore, who with partner Carol Saragossi adopted Elyse when the girl was born. "We were thinking about going away for the holiday, but we felt it was important that we stay home and celebrate it with our families."

On hand Thursday were parents and siblings from both sides, who shared laughs and drinks as Saragossi and Moore put the finishing touches on dinner. They played with Elyse and her young cousin. And as at many family gatherings, they engaged in a touch of good-natured political debate at the table before Moore put a cap on it.

Saragossi and Moore have been together for 12 years, and for all of that time have been open with their family, friends and colleagues about their relationship. Saragossi is a counselor at San Fernando Middle School, and Moore is a social worker.

Over the years, the pair have worked at creating a sense of extended family and getting their parents to better accept their sexual orientation.

Elyse, said Moore, turned out to be of great help in that effort.

"I think giving them a granddaughter kind of made up for the loss they felt by having a lesbian daughter," Moore said. "And they really love it that we are raising her Jewish."

Her parents and Saragossi's mother and father are now good friends, becoming "in-laws" who enjoy each other's presence in a way that seemed unlikely a decade ago.

"Ten years ago it would have probably been a little strained to have both families together," said Saragossi. "But now, both families do a lot of things together. In fact, my parents weren't going to come, but then Bonnie's parents called them and persuaded them to come."

Added Moore: "My parents couldn't have asked for a better daughter-in-law."

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