The Daily 750

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Giving Thanks

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Because our relative families live far to the south and east of us, Josh and I have joined a small family of friends in the tradition of crossing the bridge to Washington and having Thanksgiving dinner at one of the best restaurants on the coast, the Shoalwater. This will be our fourth year together, and the only decision I have to make is what shoes to wear, and for that I am thankful.

We're an irreverent bunch and if there's been a prayer at the table I have missed it. Sometimes I try to steal a moment, long enough to think of the word "Thanks" with a smile, in between the first clanging of martini, wine, Sprite and water glasses and the first sip of vodka. It's the same way I pray on a plane during takeoff: silently, privately, pretending to be fully engaged in my surroundings while having a back-channel one-way conversation with Whoever or Whatever I think might be Up There at that moment.

There's a whole other world in my head. A movie. You're in it, and you, and you and you and you. Aunty Em and Toto too, from time to time. I once told my grandmother about that, and asked if she had a movie in her head. She said, "No, but I've always got a song in my heart" -- and she started singing "Cindy, oh Cindy/Cindy don't let me down/Write me a letter soon/And I'll be homeward bound." The Beach Boys did it in '62 or '63 (it shows up as a bonus track on the 1990 CD reissue that combines Surfin' USA and Surfin' Safari), but her version is from The Highwaymen's 1961 eponymous album.

this is an audio post - click to play

She probably saw them on Perry Como's show, or maybe Lawrence Welk's, and I was probably sitting on the old green couch between her and my granddaddy. For that I am thankful. And for being able to visit with her next week and sing again, I'm thankful.

My two sisters thrived in precarious conditions -- one lives in Key Largo, Florida; one is a single mother of a 13-year-old boy -- and for that I am grateful. The boy vacationed for a week in San Francisco with us this year and I didn't have to ask him 20 times to get up and get dressed, and for that I am grateful.

My dear father-in-law died earlier this year, of a Parkinson's that he did his best to outrun. The worst of it was short-lived, given the possibilities, and there's some hope my mother-in-law's heart may mend. For all that I am grateful.

I have a boss who doesn't pay me nearly enough and never likes anything I write, but but but but but . . . and his wife and his kid too . . . and for all that I am thankful.

I get to help run a public radio station! Thank you thank you.

This past year my mother has made it very clear she loves me oodles, as a mother can only love her firstborn, but says she doesn't like me much -- she wouldn't choose me as a best friend, if she had her druthers, and she does. For that I am thankful, because all those years of pretending were wearing on us both.

A couple weeks ago I watched C-SPAN's three-hour interview with the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose most recent book is about Abraham Lincoln. These interviews always feature a segment in which the author is interviewed in her home or study, and is asked how she spends her day. Doris said that she and her husband Richard, also a writer, are early risers. They enjoy breakfast and the newspaper together, then go to their separate studies to write. At lunch they rejoin and go into the village for lunch, after which they run errands or read or research, or maybe write some more. Every night they go to the same restaurant and join another 20 or 30 friends for dinner.

I turned to Josh and said, "I'm going to quit cooking dinner in 2006." He said, "Why wait? I'll take you to dinner tonight."

I am not worthy. I am very grateful.

I'll take your dressing leftovers, and be thankful for them too.