Haitian families gather in gratitude for good fortune

Carole Paul-Donna got a hug from grandson Joshua Calixte, 3.
Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Carole Paul-Donna got a hug from grandson Joshua Calixte, 3.

Three families and three generations of Haitian-Americans gathered Thursday in Carole Paul-Donna’s festive Roslindale home, where Christmas music was playing and poinsettias decorated the dining room.

Paul-Donna said she was grateful to spend Thanksgiving with two daughters and her grandchildren, though another daughter and two sons live too far away to attend.

“We see each other all the time,” she said, but it is rare to be “together as a big family.”


Her sweltering kitchen was fragrant with aromas of meats and spices from the home she left in Haiti 18 years ago, seeking opportunity.

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Amid the heat, Paul-Donna and longtime friend Nancy Louissaint heaped a table with collard green salad, yellow yams, baked macaroni and cheese, shepherd’s pie, roasted potatoes, plaintains, baked ham, and, of course, turkey — one they bought live and killed themselves.

At a mention of the temperature, a smile broke across Louissaint’s glistening face. “I absolutely love heat, believe me,” she said with a laugh, and returned to stirring a pot.

Amid the whirlwind of food preparation, Paul-Donna’s daughters discussed family bonds. Soraya Présumé-Calixte, the eldest, said Haitian mothers pin many hopes on firstborn children. “A lot that I do or that I am came from my mom,” she said. “She’s a go-getter, and I think I’ve learned that from her.”

Présumé-Calixte said she feels responsible to set an example for her siblings, prompting younger sister Aisha Donna to embrace her.


“You’re the best role model. You’re my inspiration,” said the smiling 17-year-old.

Paul-Donna said her family is fortunate, contrasting their experience with that of Syrian refugees currently seeking asylum.

“There’s a lot of people . . . who don’t even have a place to stay,” she said. “I’m thankful because I can have some food to eat and family with me.”

Jeremy C. Fox