I don’t mean to sound prissy or anything, but when you make gratitude an inherent part of your life, it’s almost hard to make a list of what you’re grateful for on this day that comes around once a year bearing the word “thanks.” I started writing, saying, living expressed gratitude several years ago – maybe initially from a tinge of conditioned guilt (“Think about those poor starving children in China” and “Who do you think you are, Missy?” – that kind of thing), then after a while the conditioning fell away and goodness took its place, and next thing I knew, I’m just sending thank you notes and not even remembering that I did. Oh, I remember the people and the acts and attributes I’m grateful for, I just don’t always remember sending the actual note. And I’m not sure how to take that, but I don’t fret so much about it any more, trusting that it’s enough knowing I send the notes from a sincere place of deep thanking and let it go without any strings.

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I miss my son today. Which is not to say that I’m not absolutely delighted to be with my husband, daughter, and mother – it’s not as simple as the glass being half-full or half-empty – it’s only to say that I miss my son. We’ve come to that point in our lives when I see him about once a year on every-other big holiday. Me, the Penultimate Queen of Preparedness, the only fourth grader in town to have built a full-equipped bomb shelter for her family . . . I never prepared for this. It’s not the turkey we eat, you understand, it’s the turkey in the stories we share that Kipp and I love about Thanksgiving. I miss him, and my brain can hiss all sorts of words at me about being unattached and letting go and how he’s not really my son, and in response I say simply I’ve never aspired to be Enlightened.

I miss my daddy, too. The last Thanksgiving we “had him” as we say around here, he was a bit removed from the hilarity, and I sensed on that day that he might be leaving us.

I miss my nephew, TJ, too, and his artful eye and surprising insightfulness. He usually travels with us, but he’s a college freshman now, and exams loom large so he can’t take the time away from study hall.

And I miss my dog Phoebe. She’s still alive, thank goodness, but I am not with her, and I miss those soulful eyes that peer deep into my soul and end every one one of those conversations-without-words with an unspoken “I love you anyway.”

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We’ve been hearing a lot of Christmas carols the past couple of days, and a few of them can pep me up, but most of them tap into my deep sorrow, and I don’t really know why, but this whole season is rather sad to me. (Sometimes I sense it has to do with what amounts to Great Big Lies we’re told before our critical thinking skills have taken hold.) (And when I say “lies” I’m not just talking about Santa, it’s bigger than that – like how if we’re good, we’ll get what we want and how happy is the only game in town – those kinds of lies.) Oh, if we happen to be together during this time of year, I won’t burden you with my sorrow – that’s what my journal is for – but it’s there, and this year I will not wag a finger at myself, spouting all the scoldings about how it’s the happ-happiest time of the year, the most wonderful season of all, and all that. Just so you know: I do wish I could be the posterchild for happiness and gaiety – I really do – because it makes it so much easier for everybody else, but it’s just time to lay down some of those I-do-this-for-you obligatory burdeny kinds of things.

I don’t know about what I just wrote. Seems I need a wee little bit of clarity here . . . I am not morose, not moping my way through the day with a sad face that begs folks to tell me to turn upside down. I simply choose to not muster the energy it takes to cover the sadness. I am sad AND I am not sad. All at once, all in the space of a day. On any given moment of any given day, I am polarities. Now I’ve muddied it more than ever, I suppose.

Well, Pfffft. I think I’ll go laugh and love that incredibly patient and loving husband of mine, who travels with three generations of Hewell women, never uttering the first complaint (I guess he carries that around in the same pocket I carry my sorrow in); with my Mother, who I’m enjoying like never before (perhaps because we’re both being honest like never before?); and my daughter, who is so much fun (we pretty much wrote a play on the way down last Tuesday, and laughed – oh my goodness, how we have laughed). I will go sit and let the unending sound, the unimaginable enormity, and the undemanding horizon of the ocean wrap itself around me. I’ll ask the waves to help me roll this into something presentable, then we’ll go fetch Nancy and take her for an early Thanksgiving dinner, and all along the way, I’ll honor and love and be grateful for those I love from afar as well as those I love from a chair away.