COVER PHOTO/ART DIRECTION BY KIRSTEN SORTON; TATTOO BY DAVIDE
Eve: What I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving is my hubby Patrick’s bawdy jokes and funky ’70s dance moves and the spontaneous renditions of “Nessun dorma” that burst forth from his soul. My son’s pure joy as he races across the soccer field and the smile as bright as the moon he shines up at me every day. And the way my daughter’s artistic sensibilities overlay everything in her life, from drawing to drama, piano to photography, right down to her graceful ballerina walk.
Bernice: I’m grateful for the 30 minutes I had to wait past my scheduled appointment time to see my newborn’s cardiac doctor at Children’s Hospital. I mean, I hate those little rooms they stick you into as much as the next patient’s mother, but for me, it was 30 minutes to bask in relief while gazing at my baby. I’d recently been to my pediatrician, who reported that she could no longer hear the heart murmur my little girl had displayed at birth. And I’d heard from the EKG tech that everything looked good. I just needed final confirmation from the doctor, who was hung up in the OR. I thought, “My kid’s not in the OR. She’s right here with me.” As I left the hospital, I looked up and saw a Life Flight helicopter touching down. My heart ached for whoever was inside. The whole experience was one of those things that helps you stop taking good health for granted — at least for a while.
Eve: Yes, health — a major blessing. As I sing in choir, next to me sings a blind chorister, her eyes blankly searching the air above her, her hand patting about as she makes any movement. But she is joyful — quick to laugh and always wearing a broad smile. She makes me ashamed of my own demeanor and ashamed of how much I take for granted. The what-if’s start hammering me. “What if I couldn’t see my son’s beaming face as he played sports, or my hubby’s funky dance moves? The sweet peas, the California sunsets, my father’s twinkling eyes just prior to his jokes; if these were all unknown to me, would I be as joyful?” It gives me pause.
Bernice: I took a plane to Wisconsin last weekend — off to visit family — and ended up sitting next to a young woman dressed in desert fatigues. She told me she was training for deployment to Afghanistan. She held my baby and told me how much she loved kids. As I was getting ready to deplane, she asked, “When I’m over there, will you email me and tell me how your baby is doing?” It was a powerful moment. I’m opposed to our presence over there, but I understood her intentions: she was going away for me and my baby, sacrificing to protect our way of life. I was grateful for her sacrifice.
Eve: I’m also giving thanks this year for visits from my nephew Tom, a new Marine who’s stationed in town. I can tell his example of service to country inspires my children, and that makes me proud of them and him. Just getting the kids to think beyond themselves, to think of sacrifice for others, is a beautiful thing.
Bernice: To say nothing of getting me beyond myself… My youngest girl is a challenge — she seems to have held on to the defiant stage longer than anybody. But even that has aspects I’m grateful for: she calls me to my better self. She stretches my sensibilities, makes me actively cultivate gentleness and patience, just so I can get through the day without a battle.
Eve: And of course the holidays always make me grateful and wistful for the family I come from. Not that my family’s perfect. It’s just that this is the time of year when we overlook imperfections and make it all about love, food, and family. I wish I could be with them for Thanksgiving dinner.
Bernice: Food is how I like to show love. Knocking myself out with Thanksgiving feast preparations is how I say thanks to Mom and Dad and everybody for all their love over the years.
Eve: When I was a child, Thanksgiving was the family gathered around the round dining table, glass-bottomed pewter steins filled with apple cider, Dad’s creamed onions and Mom’s burnt-marshmallow-covered yams. Why were those marshmallows always burnt? These years, the holiday is a potluck gathering with my husband’s extended family and friends, multiple tables with autumn leaves as name cards, long serving tables piled high with food, and hours on end of talk, live music, and rowdy kids’ games.
Bernice: Ha! And don’t forget the rowdy adults. My clan is smaller than yours, but it seems like every Thanksgiving, I lose another piece of my grandmother’s china — the set she left me when she died. Uncle Harry always insists on clearing, and he always stacks the plates too high, and so it’s not really a surprise when I survey the damage, but still... And once you get a couple of Jack and Cokes into Harry’s wife Aunt Phyllis, her bunions are liable to become the topic of conversation over dessert. Oh, and my husband always ends up on plunger detail at some point during the visit. But I try to accept it and stay humble — I can remember Thanksgivings at Uncle Henry and Aunt Phyllis’s house, back when I was a teenager. I was too busy worrying about myself to notice if we broke their china or stopped up their toilet, but we always got invited back.