Mean Mom’s Thank-You Time: What I’m Grateful for This Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving table from a couple of years ago

For some reason I’m feeling more squishy-sentimental than usual (I have this crazy dual-personality thing, which I claim to have inherited from my mom — hard-shell mean-mom exterior surrounding a gooey, nougat-y, cries-at-sappy-ads center.) So I figured it was time, it being just days shy of Thanksgiving, to make a little list. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, second only to Christmas, which I’m a total baby about because I love it with the same purity and intensity that I did as a kid. Well, a kid with big Visa bills in January, but anyway, I love it, so there.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, I’m thankful for:

  • My big boy. Specifically, since I’m feeling not just extra squishy lately, but weirdly specific, too, his big head. No, seriously. I love his head. I love it from the outside because it’s so, well, big, and so loaded with crazy hair — dark, thick, and completely uncontrollable. I am thankful for his open, expressive face. He has his father’s high forehead and triangular eyebrows, and watching the emotions scudding across that face is like lying on your back and watching clouds do their thing across the sky. I am also grateful for what’s inside that giant head — which works in mysterious ways. Sometimes stunning, sometimes heartbreaking. He once said his brain is made up of 30,000 other brains. I do not doubt him. I don’t envy him his exquisite vulnerability to hurt, but when I see his emotions leap to the surface and turn to red the parchment-pale skin around his round, greeny-brown eyes (which he got from me, though the rest of his face is pure Daddy), I hope those quicksilver reactions serve him well as he grows up, even though they’re destined to wound him, too. He is not always the child I thought I wanted, but I’m grateful for the he-ness of him nonetheless, or maybe moreso because of that.
  • I’m grateful for my sweet-and-sour little boy. The second son of a second son. It may sound smug or narcissistic to say so, but you know what I am grateful for, in my gorgeous, tough as nails youngest? That he’s my Mini-Me. I didn’t get the daughter I wanted, but my younger son child no sloppy second. When I delve into my dusty old dreams about my not-to-be daughter, I realize I imagined her to be a version of me to send out into the world. So yes, it’s selfish, but I hope in a good way, that I am grateful that I can see a genetic thread of me-ness, in looks, personality, in soul — and even short temper — still spooling out from a genetic past into a genetic future. I’m grateful that he’s a swift reader and a good friend. I’m grateful for his goofy nature that’s in such contrast to his intense shyness. (Though, seriously, would it kill him to accept kisses from me? I am not allowed to smooch this one, though of course I indulge when he’s sleeping. The crumb.)

Boys, big and little, sleeping. Easy to feel grateful at this sight...

  • And yes, of course of course of course I’m grateful for my husband. I’m not even going into that one. Just read this post, if you feel like it. Or this one. And know this: My relationship with my husband has always been about the grateful. I’m grateful I found him. Grateful he was still around when I was looking. Grateful he stepped up at a time in his life he was not necessarily ready for the same things I was. I once wrote in a card to him that I thought I had enough grateful to last our whole lives. I’ve not run out yet.

My mom's pilgrim-couple salt-and-pepper shakers

  • I’m grateful that I have the kind of family that makes holidays fun. Even the crazy parts are fun. Even the parts that others grumble mightily about as this time of year bears down on us — the shopping, the cooking, the buying, the planning. The holidays themselves: eating too much, drinking too much, saying the wrong things, hearing the wrong things, watching kids tear through one house or another and pass out on couches as their party dresses and handsome-boy corduroys get mangled and ripped and covered in powdered sugar.
  • I’m grateful for my parents, of course, who are wonderful. My sister with her sweet, sweet soul and her children who are turning into adults before our eyes, and amazingly. My baby brother who turned out pretty dang well (I, perhaps imperiously but also seriously, as his doting older sister, take at least some credit) and also turned out, with his crazy-smart wife, a gorgeous baby boy to add to the mix. I’m grateful for my aunts and uncles, my cousins who are bundled-together extra sisters and best friends, for their generosity and kindness and it-takes-a-village parenting.
  • I’m grateful for my friends, my oldest friends (who share my oldest, sweetest and saddest memories), my newest ones (who help make daily life more bearable), my writer friends (who get it).
  • I’m grateful for community, in all its forms.
  • I’m grateful that I can still feel gratitude, that I can still, on the worst days, still see my bucket as at least a little bit full, even if so much of its contents keep sloshing out. There have been times in the last several years when I’ve felt my gratitude twist into something sour, to turn to envy and smallness. I’m grateful to have examples around me that prove the sourness, the jealousy, the dark, small habits of mind, are not worth it, not in the long haul.

Happy Thanksgiving!