Day 23: It’s Delicious

How do you write about Thanksgiving without rehashing all the clich├ęs that have come before? I’m not sure it’s possible. You’d have to avoid family recipes, family feuds, turkey disasters AND turkey triumphs. Thankfulness is out too of course, whether it’s an overabundance or lack thereof. And please please not another “what I’m thankful for” list.

But what about crowded grocery stores? Aha! There we go.

I do my best to avoid the Wednesday crush, but some of my nicest holiday moments have involved Thanksgiving Day supermarket dashes with my brother for forgotten butter or cinnamon or slivered almonds (he’s a fancy cook). I don’t recall the specific conversations we had in the car, or while waiting in line, just the feeling of spending time with him away from the rest of the family. I love them all dearly, but one-on-one time with a family member during a long weekend of group togetherness feels like a gift.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to Google “bacon maple brussels sprouts.”

Day 22: It’s Lucky

Years and years ago, I planned a spelunking (cave exploration) trip with a group of girlfriends. We figured out what clothing and gear we would need, and I recall sleeping bags, so I think camping was on the agenda.

We set off in someone’s car, probably stuffing our faces with questionable snacks, and then we hit traffic. Crazy traffic, a standstill. We ended up turning around because we had lost the light (I think it was fall) and in addition to being bummed out about not having time to go spelunking, nobody wanted to pitch a tent in the dark. I think we may have gone to a bar instead.

Later (this was in the dark ages before smartphones) we found out that the traffic had been caused by a horrific accident. And that it had happened shortly before we would have been traveling that stretch of highway. We talked about how lucky we were, how easily it could have been different.

A similar scenario played out again a few days ago, with a much narrower time margin and much more dire consequences had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, a traffic delay could have gotten me killed. And it’s made me think: if the difference between being fine and being in danger is just traffic and timing, is it possible to keep yourself safe? Or is safety just an illusion?

I do my best to be aware of my surroundings, take note of anything or anyone that seems weird, make sure I know where the nearest exit is if I’m in a large building. But that level of vigilance wears me out, frankly, and now I’m questioning how much my efforts matter. Also, I’m not interested in living in fear — my energy and time are limited, and I don’t want to waste either of those precious resources.

So I’ll just be over here, sharing a piece of cake with my kid, feeling lucky.

Day 21: It’s Academic


“Yes, ba?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, ba.”

This exchange happened about six times yesterday, and every time it was sincere and sweet. But after the sixth time, I decided to investigate.

“I noticed you’ve been telling me you love me a lot today. I love it, but I’m also wondering why.”

“Because I’m thankful for your love.”

They must be talking about thankfulness at school. Actually, I know they are because there was a worksheet on it in the weekly stack-o-paper that arrives on Fridays. And that’s one worksheet I may actually keep.

Yeah, shocker, I don’t keep every scrap of paper my kid brings through the door. I can’t. I’d have to rent a storage space by the time he hits second grade.

I go through The Stack with The Boo on Saturday mornings and talk to him about each sheet of paper, or try to. Sometimes he says, “You don’t need to worry about that,” in a dismissive tone I know he picked up from me. Sometimes he uses the phrase “dumb stupid” to describe a task, and I can’t say I blame him.

But sometimes, he tells me things about his work that shine a light on his experience at school. I learn what he likes doing (math) and what he doesn’t (most writing tasks). I find out what makes him proud (coming up with ideas on his own) and what gets him excited (finishing a math color-by-numbers page). It’s honestly nice to have a window into what he does for seven hours a day, because if I ask him point-blank about his day, I get a minimal reply.

So maybe, this Thursday, I should say I’m thankful for worksheets.

It’s complicated, like many tech things are these days.

In the beginning, I created a Facebook account on my desktop (!) computer and surreptitiously logged in at work to see what my friends were liking and not liking. Later, I put it on my phone, so it was super-easy to get that hit of what kinda-sorta sometimes felt like connection. Once I realized how much time and battery life it was sucking up, I deleted the app. I was off Facebook for nearly a year except for occasional peeks.

But I still had Twitter on there. And Instagram.

And then a friend became gravely ill, and Facebook was the conduit for updates. I put the app back on my phone until he got better, then deleted it. Then another friend went into the hospital and I put the app back on my phone. Once the crisis phase was past, I deleted it but still logged in on my laptop because there was a memorial service to plan.

I took Twitter off my phone long ago — too crazy-negative — but I still have Instagram because I like the tiny creative task of posting. Also, I follow Will Smith and Ellen Degeneres, and I NEED those hits of daily funniness. The Rock is pretty good for a laugh, too.

The other day, though, I logged into Facebook again because now there’s a memorial book in the works for my friend. While I was on there, I noticed that people were posting on the page for this blog (I had forgotten that set up auto-publish via Facebook years ago). It wasn’t easy to notice, either, since the notification icon is tiny and up in a corner.

I replied to the comments, some of which had been sitting there for a week. That’s probably not great social media management, but I did respond. So thanks, folks, for reading and commenting. I will answer your comments, but it might take a while.

And while I’m there, I may as well ask for guitar teacher recommendations for The Boo.

Day 19: Car Talk

There’s something about the car that prompts The Boo (not his real name) to tell me things. Not secrets, exactly, but the interesting things that lurk beyond “Can Kyle come over?” and “I had Spanish today.”

A few weeks ago, it was this: “Mama, did you know that Jesus was born on Christmas and died on Easter?”


“Well, um, that’s part of the story, honey. Where did you learn that?”

“Penelope (not her real name) told me. She’s in PSR.”

For the uninitiated, PSR stands for Parish School of Religion. Penelope is learning about Catholicism — and sharing her newfound knowledge with her friends. Which is fine — I’m all for kids learning about religion, and I’d been planning to introduce our kid to the major religions. Just not this soon.

No time like the present, right? I addressed the inaccuracies in The Boo’s understanding of the life of Jesus as best I could (I’m agnostic, but I have basic knowledge of the major religions). I also made a short speech on freedom of worship for good measure. Then I made a mental note to research comparative religion books for kids.

I got a recommendation from a friend, and looked at the library next time we were there. When we asked for kids’ books on religion, we were guided to a shelf of titles about Christian faiths, with a few books on Judaism and Islam sprinkled in. Not exactly what I was looking for. So I reserved a few online; the one above is the winner so far, for the simplicity, clarity, and inclusion of six major faiths.

Doesn’t cover how Wiccans or First Peoples worship, though. Guess that’s in the sequel.

Day 18: Snow Day

A few days ago it snowed enough that all of the schools were closed; ours called it the night before. The Boo woke up in a winter wonderland, free of obligations. He was outside by 6:30, clearing off the patio furniture (I’m as mystified as you are) and hauling a sled around (we don’t have much of a hill).

He kept asking me to come out and have a snowball fight with him, but there were two issues with that. We were having new windows put in (snow is not a problem; rain would have been), and I’m nursing a foot tendon injury back to full functionality. Traipsing about in the snow is not what the physical therapist ordered.

I told The Boo that I was working (true) and needed to stay inside to be available for the installation crew (less true), but would play with him after they left. He split his time evenly between being outside and playing Mario Kart in the basement, and was reasonably patient. We sat down for lunch and made plans for our big battle, and the window crew finished up shortly after that.

The snow was wet and heavy — perfect for snowmen and snowballs, as long as they weren’t packed too hard or thrown too forcefully. We hurled globs of snow at each other, laughed a lot, played a bit of snow baseball, and went in.

All in all, a perfect day.

Day 17: And in Conclusion


Minnie was the kind of person who liked to yell at the TV when she watched costume dramas. Often she had a glass of wine by her side, but not always, because having wine every night would mean she was a drunk. And she was many things — middle-aged, paunchy, prone to outbursts — but she was definitely not a drunk, at least not in her own book. And if someone did think she was a drunk, well, that was their problem, not hers, right? Fuck ’em.

Vinnie considered it a sort of manly honor to rake the leaves, but he drew the line at picking up the 12 million gumballs that goddamn tree dropped every year. Some of them naturally came up with the leaves, but many were left behind, and that’s where his son came in. Not that he was happy about helping — but he did, and with only minor prodding from his father. And without mentioning The Event, which was actually very kind of him. Because there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t think about what happened at the quarry.

Timmy wondered when he’d ever be able to reach the light switch. Everything would be so much better if only he could get up there. But how? Stack the blocks, or drag the chair over, or… no. The singing stepstool!

Fluffy pushed herself up from her fleece-lined perch, stretched, yawned, and lay back down again. “So many mice, so little time,” she drawled. She was only trying to impress the new cat, though — she had never so much as chased a mouse. No, why waste her time on mice when she much preferred dragons? Delightfully crunchy dragons.

Buffy looked around the room, scanning the mostly unfriendly faces, and then the question entered her mind, unbidden: “What would Don Draper do?” Not that he would ever have been faced with a roomful of vampires, but still, it was interesting to think about. Also: handsome to think about, no harm no foul. But anyway, back to the question: what would that Mad Man do? Other than drink himself into a suave stupor, duh.

The mice considered their options carefully, knowing their next move could cost them everything. Was it worth the risk? Only one way to find out. Pick a path, move forward. “But how are we supposed to pick,” whispered Jasper, “when they all look exactly the same?”

The table felt neglected. It had been days since the family had used it for a meal, and it was heaped with papers, toys, electronics, you name it. The way they were treating it, it felt more like a closet, or one of those awful plastic bins. Nobody even knew what was in those anymore until they went digging for something they only needed once a year. Holiday things, or perhaps a baby toy for a visiting tot.

Out in the shed, the empty flowerpots were stacked neatly, waiting for spring. Inside, Mathilde settled down with a mug of Darjeeling and a stack of seed and plant catalogs. It was her favorite time of year, the sitting and plotting season. She picked up the stack and flipped through, scanning the titles — Burpee of course, and a couple of heirloom seed companies, but also the one she liked best: Gifted Gardener. She didn’t know how they did it, but they always had the most cunningly unique specimens.

Every so often, the thought entered her mind, but she usually shoved it away and went back to whichever of the thousand daily tasks she was in the middle of. It just didn’t seem wise to dwell on it, and she was pretty sure it was illegal anyway. And it wasn’t like she knew the right sort of person to ask. Not anymore. She was a full-on housewife now, or hausfrau, as her wife sometimes jokingly called her.

“Can I ask you something, Ron?” Hermione called from the kitchen. “It’ll only take a minute.”

“It better,” he said, shuffling in with a vacant yet annoyed expression, “Quidditch is on.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, even though she knew Ron could see. “Just look.”

She held up one finger, paused until she knew Ron was following along, and pointed out the window.

“Honestly! Why on earth do you let Myrtle play with that broom when you know very well she never remembers to put it out of sight when she’s done?”

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