Thanksgiving week. It means so much to me. Two years ago, my labor pains came just as my husband Matt and I sat down to eat the turkey, stuffing, candied sweet potatoes with bourbon sauce and green been casserole I’d just cooked. During dinner, we timed my contractions. My husband, the mathematician, insisted that the pains were coming at odd intervals so they were “not regular enough” to be labor. They hurt like a mother, though, so I insisted they were indeed labor pains. We called the doctor. I was just about to take a post-dinner nap (they tell you to do that because you have hours before you give birth) when she called back. Go to the hospital, she said. Damn, no nap.
So my husband and I hurried to pack the leftovers and put them in the fridge. (I did not make that meal to have it go to waste. It was a lot of work for an extremely pregnant woman.) We got the bags and drove over the deserted West Seattle Bridge to the hospital. We got there and a nurse had me lie on a table with a monitor on my chest. She couldn’t detect the contractions, she said. (Really? What does all this doubling over and grimacing tell you?) She sent us to walk around the hospital and come back in 90 minutes. I wanted to stay away from the germy floors so we walked all of the sky bridges for an hour and a half and when we got back up there, she put the monitor lower, on my belly and discovered that yes, I was in labor. Now I could go upstairs to have my baby.
They offered the epidural right away and it felt so good not to have the pain, it was like I was high. During labor I’d instructed Matt to make me laugh but for some reason he wouldn’t do his John Madden impression. Instead I had him get out my palm pilot so I could dictate notes for the pregnancy diary essay I’d planned to write. They say you forget labor so I wanted to capture everything before the memory disappeared. When the doctor got there, she noticed our music selection and said, “Buffett! This is going to be a great delivery.” Four hours later, during “We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,” Rose was born. It was 15 minutes into Black Friday. She missed being born on Thanksgiving but she will always be our Thanksgiving Turkey, as Matt calls her.
Now I’ll always think of Thanksgiving as the day Rose decided to be born and I’m always grateful for her. But gratitude to me encompasses much more than that. I remember one Thanksgiving we had dinner at my friends’ house in Florida and I asked what people were thankful for. Most of them groaned. I guess quantifying thanks was cheesy when we were in our twenties, but now it seems necessary. So many people don’t have jobs or homes or hope right now. Those of us who do have jobs are worried about layoffs. We have two wars going on. Our soldiers are coming back dead or maimed from Afghanistan and Iraq. Now’s the time for all of us to be thankful for what we do have.
If your list is difficult to conjure, maybe this will help. Think about what you will miss when you die. I did it as a writing exercise the other day and when I finished it, I realized it was really a gratitude list. Here it is:
I think that when I die, I will miss food the most. Smelling it, tasting it, feeling it on my tongue–the satisfaction of a basic need becoming an exquisite pleasure. I’ll miss the feel of bare feet on cool sheets; snuggling up in bed when it’s cold or finally laying down when I’m tired. I’ll miss laughing, the sweet release it gives me. I’ll miss making people laugh, the validation it brings. I’ll miss seeing places for the first time. I’ll miss the view when you crest the hill on Main Street in Edmonds — the sky, the mountains, the island, the Sound. I’ll miss hugging – my husband, my little girl, my friends – that gesture of intimacy that comforts us and lets people know we appreciate them. I’ll miss being with Rose as she grows up. I’ll miss Matt. I’ll miss friends. I mean, I guess some of them will be up (or down) there with me, but I’ll miss the ones I’ve left behind.
I’ll miss summer – the joy of the warmth of the sun on my face and legs. I’ll miss cooking – the pleasure providing enjoyment and the sense of accomplishment when my dish tastes as I intended. I’ll miss email – the excitement of new messages and the process of correspondence. I’ll miss all writing, I mean, I guess I could still write but I couldn’t share my work anymore. I’ll miss getting lost in a book. I’ll miss shopping – the excitement of bringing home new things to enjoy. I’ll miss the smell of salt water, and how an ocean breeze makes my skin and soul feel. I’ll miss drinking, laughing and enjoying the buzz with friends, the way it makes the bad stuff seem less important. I’ll miss drinking wine the most. I’ll miss the nose, that first sip and how every wine is a new adventure. Speaking of drinking, I’ll miss slaking a thirst with a cool drink of water, the pleasure and the relief. I’ll miss watching the leaves on the trees dance in the wind, and the serenity it invokes in me.
While I am alive I will make an effort to maintain my gratitude for all of those things. And I’m sure I’ll add to the list. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to prioritize gratitude in our lives; to become more aware of what we appreciate. What are you grateful for? This week, enjoy your turkey but please, think about what giving thanks means to you.