As many of you know, on Thanksgiving Day 1997 my then-husband decided that a festive family holiday would be the best time to share the news that he no longer loved me and was going to leave me as soon as I gave birth to our twins. He was only waiting, frankly, because in the state of Tennessee it's not legal to divorce when you are pregnant.
I was pretty sure then, and for a few years after, that I would hate Thanksgiving forever.
I don't though. It's actually my favorite holiday now. I look forward to it all year.
Partly because of the pecan pie, but mostly because I get two days off work to spend with my kids. We decorate our house and watch Christmas movies and drink hot cocoa (even if the temperature is in the 70's).
We don't travel, usually. Sometimes (not often enough) people come and share our meal. Mostly though, it's just the four of us (and our little dog who looks at us pleadingly until we share our turkey scraps).
I have a lot to be thankful for.
I've been having a lot of trouble recognizing this lately.
I've made a lot of excuses for this, of course. This year really has not met my expectations. I had a lot of hope that this year would change my life. That everything would all come together. I have no desire or expectation to be famous, but being offered more and more writing gigs would have been fabulous.Reconciliation would have been fantastic too.
For the most part, none of this happened.
Still, I've been thankful. Even though my work is sometimes fraught with douchebaggery, I'm still so ridiculously grateful to have a job. Sometimes, like yesterday for example, I repeat this over and over and over. Out loud. With increasing volume. Much to the chagrin of the co-workers who have the misfortune of sharing workspace with me.
Today I didn't think about this though. Mostly I thought about turkey and my pecans and a some about the cornbread dressing I was making. I thought a little bit about how I need Diet Pepsi and how I'd like a walk tomorrow. I wondered if it would snow tonight and I thought, once, about how I need gas in my car.
And while I was thinking, I looked out the window.
And in the street? Was a little girl.
I admit my first reaction was annoyance. There are certain children in my neighborhood who seem to always be in the street, save the rare occasions they actually show up at school. They ride their bikes directly into our lawn, our trash cans, our cars. Jason, who at times is the epitome of a grumpy old man, stands on the porch and shouts, "What are you kids doing?!?!" and they all run away. It's kind of hilarious.
Today, the girl had on a sleeveless dress. She wasn't wearing shoes.
It was about 45 degrees.
Not frigid of course, but cold. So cold that a little girl had absolutely no business being outside without shoes on. With no sleeves and no jacket covering her.
I don't know where her mom is. I never know where her mom is and I don't think she knows most of the time either.
My thoughts are interrupted by my little boy, all lanky and lean and handsome. Ridiculously thin, but not for lack of eating. The boy eats like a trucker. Okay, like three truckers. Who haven't seen a decent meal in quite some time.
"I just want to give you a hug," he tells me, grinning widely.
I embrace him and hold him and think.
I was hopeless twelve years ago. I could have easily, so easily, slipped onto the other side. Incapable of caring for my own children, desperate and depressed. For I cannot begin to explain to you how it feels to be twenty-two years old and pregnant and abandonded. To feel like you're not good enough, that you'll never be good enough. That no matter what you do, no one will ever love you again and no one, not any one in this world, feels like this travesty that is your life is anything but completely your fault.
My little boy could have been outside. In the freezing cold. With no shoes on. No coat. A sad, hopeless expression on his little face. Older than his years with worries that no little child should have.
And I am thankful. So very thankful for whatever reason it was that made me take another road.