Gratitude

I felt nervous about Thanksgiving. The Old Voice was yelling, How can I celebrate when Ferguson, Missouri is in so much pain? How dare I? The reality is, though, how can I be anything but grateful?

My brother and I drove through a snowstorm Wednesday night to our aunt & uncle’s house. They had thick lentil soup, pasta, and eggplant tomato sauce waiting for us. We ate together and then sat in front of the wood stove, watching the cat chase himself into a paper bag. When I was tired, I was able to fall asleep soundly in a spare bedroom, with extra layers and blankets because it was so cold. When I woke up, my aunt told me that in the middle of the night a tree fell on the power lines over the driveway and ripped the transformer box off of the house. The electricity surged and fried some outlets in the kitchen. The power was out. We shoveled. We cranked the wood stove. We lit the gas stove by match and boiled water for tea. We connected a small generator and brewed coffee; my aunt made us pancakes. We shoveled some more. My brother and uncle tried to fix the circuit breakers in the basement. We carried in buckets of snow to melt so that we could flush the toilets. We shoveled some more. My parents arrived, bringing extra candles, paper plates, and blankets. We brought the turkey to a neighbor’s house and ate dinner there. We had plenty of food. We laughed. We came back home and an emergency power crew had arrived and we had a lot of the power back on. We relaxed in the living room in front of the wood stove and watched the cat chase himself into a paper bag. When I was tired, I was able to fall asleep in a spare bedroom and slept soundly. In the morning we ate breakfast together in front of the wood stove.

I spent the rest of the weekend at my parents’ house. We played cards and board games. We all solved the murder mystery of Clue at exactly the same time because we all take obsessively analytical notes. We went on a winter hike with neighbors. The beauty was endless. We had hot water, power, heat, and plenty of food. We shared new music together. I told my dad about some of the traumatic things I’ve experienced in the last few years; he responded in a highly validating and supportive way. I teared up a bit after hugging my mom goodbye and getting on the bus this afternoon. I love my family so much. How can I be anything but grateful?

Many years and many visits have been tense, challenging, and have sent me running away at the end. Years of screaming at each other and avoiding each other have piled up that I hardly recognize that we’re the same family. I played some Ani for my dad and reflected that I don’t remember listening to a lot of music in high school. He agreed; we didn’t listen to much music in those days. We were all too busy, too stressed, too ill, too scared, too angry. We played music together this weekend.

I’m not saying our family dynamics are perfect, because they’re not. I’m not saying that we have everything figured out, because we don’t. I’m also not saying this Thanksgiving family visit wasn’t stressful at times, or triggering in odd ways, because it was stressful and some interactions did have me reacting in peculiar ways at first.

I’m saying I am grateful for the time we had together. I am grateful for the winter storm and wonderful neighbors. I am grateful that we had more than enough food, heat, and shelter. I am grateful that I felt safe and loved. I am grateful that more often than not I find home, and my family, to be healing these days. On our winter hike, a family friend said I was radiating positivity and it was so nice to see. I am humbled that those sentiments are what I feel inside: I am grateful because I feel loved and I am grateful that I feel love.

It is love that give me hope.

“Growing up it was just me and my mom against the world
and all my sympathies were with her when I was a little girl
and I’ve seen both my parents play out the hand that they were dealt
and as each year goes by I learn more and more about how my father must have felt
I just want you to understand that I know what all the fighting
was for, and I just want you to understand that I’m not angry anymore
no, I’m not angry anymore…”

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