Grateful: The dictionaries I’ve always argued with tell me this means to be thankful, to be appreciative. Beholden. But I haven’t been able to genuinely take to those words. Part of why I keep writing is to sort out my confusions, to get to the bottom of things: Why can’t I be grateful?
That my ex-husband would pack up our two now-adult kids and continue our tradition of cutting down our own trees (four of them now) each Thanksgiving, well . . . that is a giving thing—yes. That there is no room for me in the cab, well . . . that is one of my struggles. To want what I want when I want it. It’s not a pretty thing.
Thanksgiving Eve Eve friends who have seen me through the past thirty years drove in from Wyoming and met my kids and me for our annual holiday dinner at our favorite Mexican cafe. They were the first to babysit my son way back in the day, the first to share snowmobile and cross-country skiing with my then-husband and me back in our married days. They were the first to come back to me when I walked out on my husband way back in yet another day. Their actions tell me so, but I am doubtful that I am: worthy.
And before we leave, the cafe’s owner approaches. Josie remembers how I love banana cream pie. The crust she makes is a cross between shortbread and a grandmother’s pie crust and although she owns up to a dab of cream cheese in the dough, she’s not about to tell us how she makes her whipped cream or pudding. She smiles that smile I can’t say no to and asks to make me a pie for Thanksgiving. I can come back tomorrow and pick it up. It’ll be in her own deep, glass pan and cake holder. This is a sign of her trust.
Through a friend of a friend of a cousin, a new customer emails a request for a particular pendant. One that would serve as remembrance of having loved and lost. We exchange emails. Copper over antique bronze? Rusted red over ocean-blue? How do you hold onto a love no longer living beside you? Gratitude turns what we have into enough, she replies as if I already knew this.
They didn’t take photos of their Christmas tree excursion this year—too caught in the moment of being the only tracks in the forest. No one else was there. Every year the trip is memorable for some new reason. Remember the year Dad locked the keys in the truck and had to hitchhike to the nearest town for a lock doctor? And how Mom played in the forest with us for five hours, waiting for his return? Remember the year Beth mistook the moose for a horse? Remember when the spring froze over and we slid down the mountainside as if we had ice skates? Remember the year we forged the icy creek on foot for the tree that didn’t look too big to carry back across? Remember the year four of us didn’t fit in the cab anymore?
But next year I’ll say- remember last year? Will and Beth will say—Oh yeah, that was the year we were the fresh tracks. But I’ll remember it was the year my wants didn’t overextend. This year I enjoyed staying home and making pies (yes, more!) and fresh rolls, basting the turkey every hour. Thanks to friends and strangers and a banana cream pie baker, I have finally come to feel grateful. Enough is more than enough. Apparently I am worthy. And next week, I’ll remember to return Josie’s special pie pan. Filled with pine cones from this year’s Christmas tree. Pine cones—did you know?— are known to bring good luck.