Gratitude - FamilyEducation

Gratitude

November 26,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

DSCF6569 One of the teachers at T.'s school suffered a tragic loss a few weeks ago. Her story isn't mine to tell, so I won't, but a caring calendar was sent around via e-mail so parents could sign up to bring her family a meal, or gift cards to local restaurants. I signed up to bring a meal on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I cooked up a vegetarian shepherd's pie, along with a side of biscuits. Earlier that day I bought a slab of moist, dark gingerbread cake from Whole Foods, and T. and I tied a ribbon around the box. It seemed a good, simple, comforting sort of meal, and I hoped it would bring her a sort of comfort, simple and wordless, the night before a difficult holiday--difficult in that sharp and painful way holidays can be when you have lost a loved one. I timed the pie and the biscuits just right, so I could pull them out of the oven, let them cool about fifteen minutes, and then we could all load up in the van and drive them over in time in time for dinner at 6:00. In hindsight, it might have been easier if only one grown-up person had gone with T., but I wanted us all to go--it felt important that we all go. It was the witching hour for L. though, and as it turned out, for T., who dawdled and dawdled and made me impatient (kids will always surprise you and get out of the house in record time when there is no deadline of any sort, but then dawdle insanely when you're pushing deadline and have a pan of steaming biscuits in one hand). In the driveway T. made an innocent comment about L., and L. turned on her and wound back his fist ready to deliver a punch. Scott sprang between the punch and T. and held out his hand, to keep L. away, but he made contact a little too hard and L. fell back onto the driveway. It wasn't much of a fall, really, but I'll fast forward over the drama that ensued. In my own irritation and frustration at the whole scene I snapped, "be more careful," to Scott and stomped off to the van, where I waited, the pan of biscuits on my lap, warming my knees, while inside I felt cold, and angry and miserable over my family's messiness right there, at that moment, in the driveway, on the way to deliver warm food to a family that was really hurting, in ways I couldn't even imagine. On the way back home again, meal delivered, we all settled into our own quiet places in the van. My husband put his hand on my knee, and I looked at it, and felt a swell of gratitude for the gesture, his hand, the man behind it; for my kids in the back seats--L. having slipped back into his Star Wars encyclopedia, T. lost in her thoughts, her tiny face pointed to the window, where the lights from other people's worlds flashed past, in one long, unbroken pulse of yellow and white. ************ We had a quiet Thanksgiving Day, just the four of us. The artichoke stuffing was amazing yet again, and the sweet potatoes their tantalizing, sweet, caramelized orange selves yet again. The Tofurky roast was better then I remembered it, and the mushroom gravy the perfect complement to the meal. We had acorn squash stuffed with cranberries and pecans, and pumpkin pie and a beautiful mince pie for dessert. We toasted with sparkling cider, and L. ate his customary piece of pumpkin pie and half a square of crumbly cornbread. There was lots of this: DSCF6602 And this: DSCF6611 And this: DSCF6612 And even some of this: DSCF6559 See you next year, Thanksgiving. I'm grateful beyond words for all we have.