This is our major holiday here at the gratitudeathon, (like you didn’t know that). But here’s what’s exciting about it, you know, besides the turkey and mashed potatoes. MASHED. POTATOES (please sing those words in the tune of the Hallelujah chorus), is that there are people that might actually recognize the good juju of starting a gratitude practice today. Yeah, they might see the light, in between the infernal green bean casserole and those tasteless turnips. They might feel the total awesomeness of being in the moment long enough to latch onto all they have. Gives me chills, or is that just the gross weather today.
I will be spending the day with my best people, my family. I will be cooking and there will be football and maybe a game and maybe a movie and we’ll all remember who isn’t with us anymore and tell some funny stories about them and we’ll all be on the same side of politics, so the only thing we’ll be fighting over is who has to take the dog for a walk in the rain and amen for that.
The older I get, the more I recognize that simply being with the people I love is it. It’s as it as it gets. And I feel gratitude for that finally dawning on me. Things change, people move, get sick, pass on and all you can do is love them the very best you know how while they are here. Sounds very simple, and maybe a little boring, but I have found it’s actually all of it.
I hope your Thanksgiving is chock full of the people and the foods you love. And I hope, I really hope that maybe this year you find gratitude is something you can take with you from the table in a doggy bag. And if you have any leftover mashed potatoes, send ’em my way, wouldja.
And today’s gratitude goes out to cancer. Specifically, not having it. Not me, not having it, although, I have not had it a more times than Trump has misspelled words on Twitter, but my cousin not having it. Sing hallelujah, with a chorus of NO CANCER.
My cousin Bobby is one of the most solid, nicest and best people I know. He has been an attorney to our entire whack-a-doodle family over the years, civic-minded, spiritual, a volunteer to many good causes, a stellar son, brother, husband and dad, a voice of reason and both generous and wonderful, with an infectious laugh I could mimic for you, except you’re not here and you can’t hear me (Are you? If you are, please disregard my hair, I’m having it dyed today, but until then I look like Barbara Bush before she died, may she rest in peace).
Anywho, the rest of the story is longer, but let’s just leave it at this: we thought he had pancreatic cancer. He is 75. He had a very involved surgery to remove the “pancreatic cancer,” only a funny thing happened, which is that there wasn’t any! But on the way there, my cousins and sister and I, were all FREAKING OUT LIKE WHEN THAT ORANGE-HAIRED, NO BRAIN BLOB BEAT HILLARY. Uh huh, it was that bad. So, for several very tense days, we waited and pondered the idea that this superhuman guy could be quite sick. It was hellish.
But, he is not! No, he beat the pants off of the big C. As I would expect him to do. And I’m telling you, gratitude parade coming to a town near you. Oh yeah, this is grateful on a big dose of steroids. Long live, Bobby T.!
2) There is no gift shopping, and while I love to shop, when I am forced to, I find it less alluring than, say, having an internal exam at the gynecologist while having a few teeth pulled and vacuuming at the same time.
3) This is a holiday that’s all about what you’re thankful for. Boom, you know how I feel about that, here at the gratitude-a-thon.
4) I have had some of my most fun and best times on this holiday at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, with big crowds some years and intimate crowds, others. Thanksgiving is about family, and family is anybody you are related to, or wish you were related to, who you love madly, or can’t stand.
5) Did I already mention the mashed potatoes?
Wherever you’ll be, whoever you are going to be with, be grateful for what you have and fuck whatever you don’t have. I’m telling you, this is the miracle you need in your life–gratitude.
There are (NOT EVEN KIDDING) about 18 pairs of shoes in the hallway. My kids are both home. And while I love that they are here, their shoes, not so much. I have raised shoe whores. They are the Imelda Marcos of young adults.
My son cooked last night after grocery shopping with me, and insisting on buying a cast iron pan. He has been extolling its virtues for days, not hearing me when I tell him that my parents only cooked with cast iron, multiple frying pans hanging on a large butcher’s meat hook next to the stove. He seemed to turn a deaf ear to my knowledge, wanting to teach me, and although I have not used one since I was in high school, the taste of the meat last night was the same as if I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen. I missed that deep, intense flavor those pans can bring. I had to give it to him.
My daughter got herself a job! She is working for a landscaper, and on Friday, she got a terrible stomachache and had to come home before she was done with her work. She has felt horribly guilty about not finishing the day off. That’s a good sign–that she wanted to finish her work. I hate that she was so sick and was in the bathroom half the night, but I like that she felt responsible to her job.
Cooking and working. There is some real progress happening with those people my husband and I made. They are undeniably becoming adults. They are even teaching me stuff now. My mom used to say, “If you live long enough, you see everything.” It’s funny how I could never have imagined when my kids were toddling around in diapers that one day they’d really be people walking around wth jobs and pan obsessions. But here we are. Grateful.
Ever notice how sometimes, if you are looking, you see things that feel like a message?
Take my bulletin board (I don’t know what you even call it, anymore. It’s a chalkboard that’s magnetic, when I was a kid I called it a bulletin board, so I still call it that, even though it doesn’t have cork, or push pins, but let’s just go with that, or like, you can sue me for mislabeling).
ANYWAY, I decided, with the kids leaving, I should probably clean it. There were a million papers and report cards and postcards and business cards and addresses, and tests and menus and announcements on that thing, all jammed one on top of another.
I ripped everything down and put it in a big pile. And look what was left (NOT EVEN KIDDING, THIS IS WHAT I FOUND):
There in the corner of the bulletin board/chalkboard/magnetic junk collector board was my family. Jake made these figures in some grade I’ve now forgotten, and I thought they were so darn cute that I always kept them. During all the emotional turmoil of having the kids leave, it felt like the simplest message in the world to see. Underneath it all (the mess, and layers of family stuff) was the four of us with a message above that said “today matters.”
And it does. Everyday matters. And the four of us, imperfect and crazy, matter to each other. No matter what.
All is bright (the sun hasn’t been out in five days, with the exception of Tuesday from 9-9:15).
And it’s Christmas eve!
I’ll do a few last minute errands today, but this santa is in pretty good shape (actually, I’m in dreadful shape, but guess what my de-bunionized foot and I have at the top of our New Year’s resolutions).
This holiday means different stuff to different people, but to me it means forcing my two older sisters up at un-Godly hours, my sister Joni going downstairs first to plug in the lights and then calling for us. It means seeing that tree with those big fat colored lights, covered in mass amounts of that silver icicle stuff, which you’d find all over the house for the rest of the year, surrounded by a vast array of every single thing on my list. I know materialism should take a back burner on such a religious holiday, but damn, how can you not like a veritable pile of gifts when you’re a kid? Gifts you asked Santa for?
So, hard as I might try not to, Peter and I go a little overboard with our kids, too. In the same way I loved getting all those years ago, I love giving. I enjoy the choosing the exact right thing, the surprised look on the get-tee’s face, the wrapping.
I hope you get what you want for Christmas or Hannukah, or whatever holiday you celebrate. For me, this year, having my family together is as stellar as that pile of gifts my mom and dad so lovingly put under those Charlie Brown tree’s we always seemed to snag. Ho, ho, ho, may it be merry and bright.
The boy is home. He’s in his bed. He’s sporting a full on mustache that I don’t like, but I like him, so I’ll take it. The house is so much fuller when Jake is home. Instead of feeling like there’s one more person here, I feel like there are many. (Ally’s having a sleepover, is it that?) Nah, it’s the original fab four. It’s the core family. It’s the the primal rightness of being together as a unit. Important note: I’m not painting a Norman Rockwell, here; we’re just like every family, who argues, and annoys one another, but damn if we don’t love each other madly.
This year, I felt such an urgent need for Jake to be here, under this roof. I don’t know whether it’s the instability in the world, the fragility of life that’s so garishly loud right now, or just because I love him. But I couldn’t wait to feel the feeling I have sitting on the couch right now, smothered in polartec, while everybody is upstairs still sleeping, the good feeling of having your whole family in one place, knowing in this moment, that they’re safe, and they’re yours.
Yesterday we spent like 100 hours in the car trying to get to Connecticut. First Al had a doctor’s appointment, so we packed and went to that, but I had to stay in the car with the dog, or he would freeze his paws off. Then Peter had a conference call presentation to Germany for an hour, while I drove. I don’t like to drive on the highway unless I can sing really loudly with my really bad voice. But you can’t do that if there is a work call to Germany going on. But I made some good time and things were moving along. Then we went to our favorite diner in the world, which is a family tradition for maybe 30 years, Rein’s Deli. There’s always a line and you do not want to miss the pickles (shout out to Lee!), which are maybe Ally’s favorite food on the planet, and beyond, or the rye bread, which is maybe one of my favorite foods in the beyond the beyond, or the cheesecake, which we all LOVE. When we got back into the car, it was raining, well actually pouring. The visibility was like having a thin veil of white sheeting over your eyes. And the sides of the road were flooding, so every once in a while we’d get splashed by another car that would render us totally blind. Then there were the small lakes we’d run into and do a little hydroplane dance. I was starting to get a headache, a little car sickness. THEN, the traffic stopped, just like that. Our trusty GPS had those nasty red diamonds for miles. We stopped, we started, we stopped, we started. I began to get insanely car sick and felt like I might throw up on myself. I opened the windows. The car continued to jerk a few inches at a time. At this point, I thought that I would like to go and dip my head into one of the larger ice puddles for some relief. This went on for over an hour, before we began to move past a three car accident, where one of the cars was crumpled up into a tiny square of metal. The traffic disappeared, and we flew the rest of the way to the hotel. Ah, if only my head felt better. But by then the damage was done and I was into a full on migraine of hell. I laid down and napped, sort of, but I still felt like a drunken dreidal when I got up. But we were only to be in Connecticut for one night because of schedules, and so I was going to go out to dinner with my favorite aunt and my cousins, (my uncle Louie, who is my mom’s remaining brother can no longer come to dinner and this fact is a story unto itself, the pain of, I shall not discuss today) come hell or hellish migraine. We had missed our traditional Thanksgiving this year, which I have been doing since I was a kid, because we were in Barcelona, and this was our only free moment to see them and so I was going to, whether I had to vomit on them, or not.
What I usually do when I have a migraine (after a distinctive period of getting them four times a week and being treated by a specialist, and finally ridding myself of them through diet and acupuncture after three years) is take Compazine, which is a drug for nausea, and I usually always have them with me, but of course, I didn’t, so I did the next best thing and went to CVS for Bonine, which is a similar sort of thing, used for sea sickness.
We met at a great restaurant in Danbury, Della Francesca, where we have been many times and where the food is stunningly delish. I had the bolognese and honestly I almost licked the plate (I think I might have, what with the Bonine and glass of Pinot). We had a bunch of laughs and discussed a million things as our usual A.D.D. selves.
Anyway, headache, traffic, no singing, it was still worth it to see people who mean EVERYTHING, AND I MEAN EVERYTHING to me, and who I do not get to see enough of. Grateful. (And happy to say headache-less.)
With my son leaving for college in September, everybody is a little off kilter this summer. I think the separation has begun. Having crossed a line on the Vineyard, Jake has been grounded for three weeks. He gets out of lockdown this Friday, so watch out. This has put him in a mood. Ally, in preparation for Jake’s departure, has begun to push him away in every way she can, covering up the total trauma she feels about him leaving. Peter and I are trying to do our work, keep things moving, trying not to project into a Jake-less house. And of course, the heat has had all of us wanting to go postal at any given moment. No, this has not been one of our better summers.
What I’m grateful for, however, is that I know we all love each other, and that the very reason we’re all so fun-house mirror is because of that. Ah, life. It just keeps morphing and changing. Figuring out a way to accept it is a full time job. I am the first to admit this is not my best thing. I have to work hard not to let big changes, natural changes, throw me. I am always seeking the balance.
On Peter’s birthday, we had a really nice walk on Moshup Beach in Aquinnah. I’ve been going there for 25 years. It’s a stunning beach with magnificent clay cliffs. The cliffs are eroding at a rapid pace. But even as it’s changing, there’s plenty of beauty to be had. I guess that’s why I think it’s a perfect back drop for pictures of our family right now. We’re in the process of shedding a layer, but there’s a new and different kind of lovely underneath. Yup, I guess it’s all about accepting the changes. Riding the waves. Being grateful for what’s what on any given day.