Gratitude was easy to find the year Thanksgiving was held in our big drafty Victorian on Prospect Street. We couldn't afford to furnish the place, so we used folding tables covered in French tablecloths along with that white farmhouse table. That year we had over thirty people--tables in the dining room, the hallway, and one of the double parlors. Sam was three by then, and Grace a two month old in a Snugglie strapped to my chest while I cooked. Just a few weeks earlier, my father had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and I was leaving for Chimayo NM with Grace and my friend Matt to find him a miracle cure in a few days. (Matt was at this Thanksgiving too, beginning the tradition of flying east from LA and making Thanksgiving cocktails) (my memoir, DO NOT GO GENTLE: MY SEARCH FOR MIRACLES IN A CYNICAL TIME, documents that journey to New Mexico). Even with that prognosis hanging over all of us, that Thanksgiving remains one of the best: people dancing in our empty parlor, my father's glazed carrots, Sam helping to cook for the first time, Grace nestled against me, the guest who danced the tango alone, Matt's Manhattans, my aunt and uncle sweeping the kitchen together, my handsome husband smiling at me across that white farmhouse table, bounty.
Other years, it was hard if not impossible, to be thankful. The year Grace died I had to run out of dinner in my 1792 red Colonial house and into the street, mad with grief. I pulled at my hair and screamed at the sky, comforted by my mother who wrapped me in her arms and gently led me back inside.
There was the Thanksgiving eight or nine years ago when just days earlier I realized this thing I treasured most, my family, was in danger of splitting apart and rather than gratitude at that table I felt sadness and fear and fragility.
This year could be one of those Thanksgivings. But it is perhaps a sign of maturity or age or years of living and losing and loving that instead I wake up this morning, this Thanksgiving, filled with gratitude. A divorce doesn't have to destroy a family, not when there is so much love still. Leaving that home i I made for my family has only led me here, to a new home, already filled with kids and friends and kittens and food and sunshine. I am grateful that my 85 year old mom is coming with the mashed potatoes and her mother's stuffing. Grateful that I've earned my living myself, as a writer! The thing I dreamed of being since I was a little girl. That I bought this loft and this food and wine--and this table, made by hand from NY state trees by my friend Steve of Fabulous Furniture in Woodstock, with my stories. And friends! Such gratitude for the friends who lifted me into their arms after Grace died, who set up my kitchen here and traveled across many states to flatten my boxes and eat take out and sleep beside me on a small bed as I awaited my furniture. Friends who cook me dinner in Miami and listen to me as I unravel and then mend my broken heart. Friends who find me in Maine and Vermont, NYC and California, MA and anywhere I land, who laugh and cry with me as years tumble by and life keeps getting more and more interesting. Gratitude for the person who called my name at Breadloaf long long ago, and kept calling it until I finally listened. Gratitude for finding happiness despite this year's hardness. For picking myself up again and letting that sun shine in every morning when I open my shades to the big beautiful messy world.
And gratitude too for my beloved father for whom even a daughter's love could not find a miracle. For my daughter Grace, here for only five short years and gone now for over fourteen. When I close my eyes I can still hear her throaty voice, still feel her sticky hands and tangled blond hair. Oh! I can still taste my father's glazed carrots! So sweet, they were. So beautifully sweet.
Sending love and gratitude this thanksgiving to all of you from my cherry and metal table in my loft to all of your tables and hearts.