Thankful

The other day it was 80 degrees in Chicago…in April. We threw open all of our windows and slept without covers. It was glorious. Waking up the next morning, the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees. Snuggling a little closer to the cats and husband for extra warmth, I realized the smell of the morning air was somehow foreign. I mean that in the most literal sense. The air smelled like waking up somewhere else. I had visions of going to get a cup of coffee in Paris, being the first one up on a rainy morning in Ireland, and I could not get Loyola in Pais Vasco out of my head.

That started me thinking how thankful I am that I grew up when air travel was cheap(er), thankful that I had parents who encouraged my love of travel, and thankful for my own sense of adventure and desire for solitude. I am thankful that the two most horrific childhood diseases I had were chicken pox and self doubt.

I am thankful that my father was from another country, and that he came to this one. I am thankful that he taught me to burp and say ‘thank you’ afterward. I am thankful that he was an amazing story teller, and that he told me the most unique ghost stories as a child. I was frightened in the most exhilarating way–the way a child loves to be uncertain, when the line between fantasy and reality blurs. I am thankful that he worked very hard for many years at a grueling job, and I am thankful  that he cared nothing for money. That is why I could travel as a teenager and young adult. I am thankful he taught me that brusselsprouts are not the devil. I am thankful that when my mom was in the hospital, and I was three years old, he brought me home two Barbie dolls. I am thankful for the made up image in my head of him standing at KB Toy Store at Alton Square Mall, staring at a wall of glittery and scantily clad Barbie dolls, shaking his head in bewilderment and slight disgust. I can see his tattooed sailor’s hands reaching for the only two Barbie dolls he could stomach to buy for his daughter: Astronaut Barbie and Business Barbie. I am so thankful. I am thankful that my dad was delightfully not handy around the house, and refused to read assembly instructions for anything. I am thankful he was always pro-ice cream. I am thankful my father never truly disliked anyone, not even Margaret Thatcher, whose autobiography he kept on the kitchen table for years. I am thankful my father taught me that staring out at the rain for hours while sitting in a lawn chair with the garage door open was a kind of prayer. I am thankful my dad was so generous, regaling me with stories of his successes and failures. I am thankful he loved music, and blasted it very loudly at very inappropriate times. I am thankful he loved and respected his mother. I am thankful he loved good conversation, but was comfortable alone. I am thankful he loved to dance, and hated having his photo taken; the result being, I have less photos, but have danced more. I am thankful my dad refused to listen to racist talk, and was very vocal about not wanting me to hear it. I am thankful he loved to mow the lawn, and that he cried the one time he actually killed a deer while hunting. I am thankful I have his eyes, and can see that little bit of him every morning when I look in the mirror.

I am thankful to my mother for teaching me how to read. She opened up a world of imagination and knowledge that I still reach for every day. I am thankful that she let me eat cereal in bed. I am thankful that my mom took me to the zoo the day I “graduated” from preschool in her brand new 1984 Ford Escort, even though she was terrified to drive on St. Louis highways. I am thankful she taught me to throw trash into a trash can, and not on the street. I am thankful my mother showed me that the most fun anyone could ever have consisted of sitting at the kitchen table and playing endless games of gin rummy. I am thankful we shared a similar sense of humor and laughed together. I am thankful she thought ‘Legends of the Fall’ was the most ridiculous movie ever made, and that Harrison Ford was the only man besides my father to catch her eye. I am thankful she loved science fiction and Shakespeare. I am thankful she allowed me to play outside from sun up till sun down in the summertime. I am thankful she was not angry with me for so many things. I am thankful that my mother, without any hint of self pity, told me to ‘Go’ when I asked her if I should stay home from my planned year of studying abroad. I am thankful that she nicknamed me ‘Mongoose,’ and always called me on my birthday. I am thankful that she kept her promise to my grandmother to take me to Mass every Sunday, even though she was an outspoken Agnostic and staunchly against organized religion. I am thankful that she taught me that there is beauty in contradiction and the importance of giving your word. I am thankful that she thought I was funny, and too smart for my own good. I am thankful she allowed me to climb trees and come home muddy from head to foot without repercussion. I am thankful she taught me how to cook, even if it was a box of brownie mix. I am thankful she danced with my father. I am thankful my mother always put sunscreen on my face. I am thankful she wrote poetry, and believed me when I told her I saw a ghost. I am thankful she let me crawl into bed with her on nights my father was working. I am thankful that I still hear her laughter every time something absolutely ridiculous happens.

I was not always the best daughter, and they were not always the best parents. But we had our moments of greatness for each other and ourselves. And for that, I am thankful.

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