Gratitude #1. There is a little boy (Leo? My son? I may have mentioned him here before…) who, upon seeing that his parents are sleeping late, says, “YESYESYESYESYES!” Then, after rubbing his hands together, takes two quick steps, then a flying leap, then landing between my husband and I with a soft thud. He squirms under the covers and buries himself between this parent and that parent, feeling for that moment as though he was the luckiest boy that had ever lived, and that ever would live. “There is nothing better,” he says as he links his arms with my arms, his legs with his Dad’s legs, “than snuggling. Nothing in the world.”
Gratitude #2. There are two bags of arugula in my refrigerator and a large, bright squash, and I intend to use them for a dish both savory and sweet, a dish both roasted and fresh, both caramel and herbaceous. A dish that begins with hello and ends with goodbye. And it shall be a triumph.
Gratitude #3. One of the perks of Catholicism is that we are gifted with very large families. I can hardly go around a corner without running into a second cousin or fourth aunt or that kid who dated my cousin or whatever. We are so large now that we can’t have Thanksgiving meals all together – we don’t fit – but I’m meeting a bunch of my cousins and second cousins (and aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles) for a hike.
Gratitude #4. I am grateful for the warm day. And the low sun. And the muted shades of brown and green rimming the pale blue sky.
Gratitude #5. The weirdest thing I’m grateful for is the fact that my husband and I had a fight last night. And it was a doozy. There is something cathartic about hashing it out over an issue that builds and builds. In fact, it’s not the fight that is hard or the fight that hurts. It’s before. The hurt had been building for days. Sometimes I feel that we put on extra skins to keep ourselves from facing issues that might be difficult or unpleasant. We put on these skins to buffer our points of tenderness, to hide our vulnerability. But they don’t last. They become hard and inflexible, scaly and brittle. And so we put on skin after skin after skin until we are thick, lumpy, ugly things. We are the color of old sawdust and beef jerky and rancid socks. When we finally break, when we finally hash it out, we peel back our layers. One, then two, then three or four at a time. We slice, peel, pull and kick. We are like snakes wriggling free again and again, until, by the end, we are supple and soft and vulnerable as babies.We are new. Last night I had a fight with my husband. And now we are new. And I am grateful for it.
Gratitude #6. My oldest daughter. She is hard, and brilliant, and shining. She is the jewel in the fallow field, the treasure that saves the dying farm. That child is so ruddy smart that I’m astonished that she sprang, twelve years ago, from the dark depths of my body. How does she come from me? It makes no sense. If it weren’t for the fact that she looks exactly like me, I wouldn’t be surprised if, one day, her real parents showed up from Fairyland or the Alien Mothership or Harvard or whatever and said, “Yeah. Sorry about that.”
Gratitude #7. My middle child. She is kindness personified. There is no soul more gentle, more patient, or more singular. She requires little, gives much. She is good at math, good at drawing, good in general, and I am wild for her. She also has me wrapped securely around her finger, so despite her singularity, despite her self-assuredness, (or perhaps because of it) I am absolutely unable to say no to this child. I can’t even bring her shopping anymore, because of my inability to deny her things. She is persuasive. She is the worst kind of bossy, because she convinces you that it was your idea in the first place. Which means that she will make an excellent politician someday. Or Queen of Everything.
Gratitude #8. Milk and eggs. I have this recurring nightmare – maybe two or three times a month – in which the children come bounding into my room, shaking me out of sleep, and saying, “Oh, mom! Can you believe it’s Christmas already?” And I’m all WHAT? It’s Christmas? I haven’t bought presents! We don’t have a tree! I haven’t bought milk! We’re out of eggs! And I panic and wake up in tears. And the thing is – it’s the milk and eggs that scares me the most. If I have milk and eggs in the fridge, I can make pretty much anything. I can make the morning special. I can give the kids something to remember forever. Milk and eggs. Okay fine – and sugar and flour. I’d need those too. Milk and eggs and sugar and flour is all I need for…..right. And butter. Milk and eggs and – did I mention marmalade? Okay, this is all I’ll need: Milk and eggs and butter and flour and sugar and marmalade. And tea. With milk.
I think I just gave myself a new anxiety dream. Goddamnit.
Gratitude #9. Pie. Nine kinds of pie. If I were Harold on his picnic with his nine kinds of pie, I don’t even know what pies I would draw. But I am grateful that I live in a world so plentiful with pie that nine kinds of pie (all my favorite!) is a possibility. Indeed, my mouth waters just thinking about it. When I was growing up, we learned a lot of prayers in Religion class at Catholic School. A prayer for orphans. A prayer for forgiveness. A prayer for peace in the world. Litanies upon litanies of saints. But never a prayer for pie.
I think I will compose a prayer for pie. I think I will tattoo it on my heart. I think I will sing it in the secret depths of my soul forever and ever and ever.
But really, I am grateful for this work, and for the people who labor in the same fields that I do – hot, bright, brilliant writers all – who work every day to make the world new again. And I am grateful for you, oh Internets, that great, wide, shining ocean, in which I throw my little messages in bottles – my heart in colored glass – again and again and again. To remind myself that I exist. That the work matters. That we are all alive.