10 Gratitudes

Thanksgiving Day 34 years ago, my family made our way to America. My younger brother and our parents arrived in a snowy, dead-looking country. Like in the best of novels, we knew not how our worlds would expand or contract nor what our end papers would look like. As a child of war on this anniversary day, I amaze that I am still here, and I am grateful for the mercies the Sisters of Fate have granted me. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, following are 10 things I’m grateful for. It is by no means exhaustive—I could add scores more.

  1. I’m thankful for the Vietnam War. Though I detest war and violence of all kinds, I know my life would have been drastically different if the VW hadn’t pushed me out of my homeland. Who knows what that alternate reality might have been? A Westerner’s romantic view of simple farming; a childhood in prostitution; an adulthood in a sweatshop—who knows? It doesn’t matter now.
  2. I’m grateful for the American Dream. It is democratic in scope, romantic in nature, and empowering in its message. Its allure gave our family something to strive towards. Its assumption of self-will drove me to cut my own path through darkness.
  3. I’m thankful for poverty—the poverty of economics, of imagination, and the absence of love. For having been there, I truly understand that a drop in the bucket is abundance manifesting.
  4. I’m thankful for having been laid off. 2003 or so. I gave up then on the working life. I gave up on being whole and committed to the world. I dedicated myself to writing and forging the ore that so many others saw within me. I glowed.
  5. I am a grateful mother and bereaved parent. No parent wants their child to die, but death continues to be my greatest lesson.  In letting go, in accepting the world, in turning towards love at all times, I am acting on those teachings.
  6. I am thankful for “the talk”. My uncle, in a car ride home several years ago. A former monk, he felt obliged to remind me not to forget the Dharma. He confided to me that during his times of hardship, he took refuge there, and he urged me to do the same.
  7. I am grateful for libraries. My first library card was to the children’s library of the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. I have read through an entire series of true life science books, as well as discovered many young adult novels that helped me to imagine and understand the American lifestyle, especially in the times before TV. In San Francisco, James Baldwin nursed my grief, and I discovered Kerouac’s echo of influence, even in my own writing. I had no idea everyone wanted to write like him. The SF library was my college for the year I lived there. Waiting in line once, I overheard a young African American woman telling her coworker how happy she was to work there—it was much more enjoyable and paid better than working at Wal-Mart. Thank you libraries, for providing good jobs.
  8. I’m grateful that movies exist. The conversation between images and sound orchestrated with technical mastery in order to haunt my imagination and wedge apart my heart. I have lived many lives in dark movie houses across America.
  9. I’m thankful for dreams—not the aspirational kind, but the life of the mind let loose. My dreams scare me, they let me fall in love, and say important things. They tell me secrets.
  10. I’m thankful for the Internet—I am continually reminded that the world is bigger than me. There I find humor, wisdom, gratitude, and faith in humanity.

    Last year's Thanksgiving plate.

    Last year’s Thanksgiving plate.

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