If a gun was put to my head (even if it wasn’t), I would say that Thanksgiving is easily my favorite holiday. When I was living abroad, this was the day that I missed the most, mostly because of all the traditions that have been passed down through my very small family. I remember being a little girl in grandma’s basement with my mom and grandma making cranberry orange relish. We’d wash the cranberries, quarter the oranges and I would crank them through an antique grinder that we mounted on an old table. It would take hours, but we’d turn an old TV on or talk or sometimes just work in quiet. These days my grandma is confined to a nursing home with advancing dementia and her house is sold, but my mom and I still make the relish using the modern combination of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the grinder attachment. What used to take us all day now takes us just about an hour.
Those traditions are things that I look forward to: making the relish, spending the day in the kitchen with my mom, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, napping when it feels right, waiting to hear whether or not my step-dad got a deer during his morning hunt. It’s quiet, but it’s a perfect day to reflect on the people and the things that I take for granted too much of the time.
- Mom – When she was diagnosed with cancer the second time, her doctor told her that if it recurred again that the cancer would be stage IV and there would be nothing that they could do. I hear those words echo in my head more often than I care to admit and I hate that because I can’t imagine a world without her. We definitely have contentious moments and we frustrate each other, probably because we’re so alike, but she’s my best friend and I’m lucky that I’ve had as much time with her as I’ve had because there are so many women my age who haven’t been blessed with the gift of time. She has been so helpful and supportive over the past three months while I’ve recovered surgery, and probably more accommodating than some would’ve been. I don’t know what I’d do without her, we’ve been through so much (too much) together, and I am so grateful for the relationship that we’ve forged that now goes beyond simply mother and daughter.There’s no way for me to every tell her the depths of my gratitude, but I hope she understands.
- Step-Dad – Selfless and hardworking, it’s not uncommon for him to work 60 hour weeks, more when he’s on the road. He’s a wizard with engineering and builds storages for farmers all over the Northeast, even into Ohio. Most people probably never think about the fact that their produce has very specific harvest times and once it’s out of the ground, it has to be maintained in a very controlled space to keep it fresh. His farmers include the largest onion grower in the Northeast and the gentleman who grows all the pumpkins that you buy at your Northeast Wal-Marts (that’s a lot of pumpkins). When something goes wrong on a weekend, he never hesitates to make the trip out to figure out what’s happened. I admire that about him, that his work never stops and even though he’s in his 60s, retirement isn’t even on the horizon. He just got home yesterday from a week-long hunting trip in Montana. He went for elk but came home with a mule deer instead and I’m so proud of him for doing it, taking a chance to experience something like that and letting himself have a good time.
- Beavers – I have this group of friends and they are amazing, they have kept me company and kept my spirits up when I’ve felt the absolute worst. When I came into my Step-Dad’s family, it was hard not to feel like an outsider because, duh, new girl, and it was their big Christmas celebration – awkward. But! There was this other girl there, Kate, who had this very approachable demeanor that some of the others didn’t have, and I think we had this immediate rapport that I can’t explain. It was like she just got me, and we got each other. The family can be difficult (which is putting it lightly) but even when tensions are at their worst, I can go to family events and know she’ll be there. We’ve developed a relationship outside of family gatherings, probably one of the most important relationships in my life, she’s like the sister that I never had (and we’ve heard we look like sisters on more than a few occasions), and I can’t imagine a life without her in it. Through her I met the incredible Sarah and Jen. These three women are truly amazing and I desperately look forward to every time we can make busy schedules mesh so that we can spend time together because I have never laughed so hard with another group of people. We have done unspeakable things together, things that we will take to the grave, and I wouldn’t trade that trauma for the world. A few months ago, during the sunset of summer, we decided to give a stand up paddleboard yoga class a try. The class was being taught at the same place a man was attacked by a rogue beaver, hence calling this wonderful group of women the Beavers. And there are no better beavers that a girl could ask for.
- #305 – My last year living on campus was unreal. I lived with my best friends and it felt like a slumber party every night. How cliché is that? It was my junior year but my roommates were seniors and we only got a semester together before 2 of us left for our study abroad. That year brought hockey games (both in person and by radio when our satellite would go out), Miracle and Mystery, Alaska drinking games, some terrible mixed drink called a Skippy, cooking corn on the cob in a metal punch bowl on our electric range (bad idea), one night stands, a car that lost its side view mirror to a house, the same car lost its muffler in a terrible Buffalo neighborhood, and the suburban soccer mom car got broken into while downtown one night and the only casualty was a broken window and a bag of stolen make up. The best part is, 8 years later, I still call these girls some of my best friends and I just got the privilege to see one get married.
- Doctors – My amazing and supportive team that has deconstructed and is now reconstructing me, their amazing nurses and PAs. They have done a beautiful job and have been so committed to taking care of me. I know in a perfect world, that’s how every doctor would be but it’s not a perfect world and I am lucky to have found the team that I did.
- Belgium & France – Where I spent almost 2 years of my life and met wonderful people, had experiences that will never be replicated and traveled almost all of Western Europe. In Belgium, I met Aaron ,who is easily (with Kate) of my nearest and dearest friends, and Meghan, Courtney, Oliver and Alex. Almost 7 years later and we’re still in touch regularly and I still manage to see most of them semi-regularly. France, I got the experience of being a Stagiaire (intern) in the European Parliament for a very divisive woman who wasn’t afraid of causing a bit of controversy and I’m glad for it because the skills I learned, the things I got to do? Once in a lifetime chance. And, working for her, I acquired my incredible group of Irish ladies. We spent so much of our time together outside of classes and parliament sessions watching crappy TV (mostly Neighbours), trying to cook, drinking, and just walking through the city. Five years later, I still cherish all the memories we made together.
- The Sisterhood – The amazing mutants I have met on this journey, some who have had their surgeries, some who are still thinking about having them. Every single of one of them is bold and courageous and a hero in my book. They are also some of the kindest, most caring women I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting”, even though we’ve never met. One woman I befriended while helping her write an appeal to her insurance is a former nurse who regularly checked in on me after I got sick and gave me direction when I didn’t know what do. These women rally together to support each other during the brightest moments and the darkest days, and I am grateful to be apart of it.
- Puppy – Not really a puppy, more of an oversized lap dog, my St. Bernard. Very simple. I love him and his unconditional love.
- Job – It isn’t perfect but I am lucky to work with a wonderful well-meaning, dedicated group. They have been understanding and supportive when other organizations may not have and they took a chance on me to hire me permanently from a temp position, and for that, I will always be grateful. And I got to meet my work bestie, who is no longer with the company but even before she left, we were real friends, not just work friends.
- There are so many other people I could list but I’ve already hit over 1600 words, but those people know they are in my heart always.
I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for this year!