We can’t have nice things

Everything is broken. My favorite plate, my favorite pair of heels, my favorite suede boots, my favorite holiday…

In the midst of modern-day Thanksgiving is this: “I’m so thankful that Bobby got a 100% on his being a super-perfect kid test that no one else was taking. Thank you, baby in a manger.”

And I roll my eyes to such great lengths that my eye whites catch a random gathering of twigs in my un-raked lawn on fire.

“30 days of thankful” is all the shit I hate the absolute most about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the subtlest of the holidays and that is why I’ve always loved it the most with its drunk uncles and quiet dignity.

Thanksgiving was about stretching your food dollars to make a meal you could barely afford while all of your dysfunctional relatives gathered around to vow to be better. And, no matter how intense the depravity, at some point, we would all look around and be thankful for what we had. The good, the bad and the ugly.

It made no sense. It was not braggy. It was real. The gratitude would move from your stomach to your throat and your Grandpa, who never spoke except through rum and war stories, would say something: “I’m just happy to be here with all of you.” Everyone would cry because integrity was strong on the lips of those who meant it.

Now, we all go through some defined motion of thankfulness that looks like well-dressed children and partially attained perfection. It’s a lie and we’ve lost our way.

Sitting at the kids’ table, we had “fake wine” (Martinelli’s) and watched the big people try to love each other as much as we loved them in the name of gratitude. My mother pushed aside her father’s desire that she be a son and they broke bread. They held hands. We said we were grateful. We meant it.

Gratitude is not publicly rejoicing in the best of the best. It’s the timid celebration of the worst of the worst. It’s finding the joy in the seemingly joyless. It’s the quiet sonnet buried under a floor board. It’s beautiful because you feel it in a dark corner of something lost and something sad. It’s lovely because it blooms against stark cold.

My holy day is the sharing of a meal – the making of the best of things. Warmth and full bellies and a quiet acknowledgment of the worst making us even better. Our biggest accomplishment; we were all still sitting at the same table – loving each other in spite of our shortcomings.

I’m thankful that my husband still loves me fully and is faithful while I struggle with my non-existent sex drive. I’m thankful that my son has a teacher who is helping me understand the help he needs as he struggles daily. I’m thankful for a mother who lives silently in my son’s room and for every sour that has led to a well-learned sweet. I’m thankful for life – though it be harshly lived. I’m thankful for the disbelief in perfection – mine or yours.

Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. This is the best piece I’ve ever read on the real meaning of Thanksgiving – and much better then my own piece on Thanksgiving “Our Forgotten Pilgrim Sisters,” which I wrote sincerely in my 18th year and have tried to read each year since without success. Damn family.

  2. Well u would like your writing, I think. If I could read the whole thing but on mobile there is this stupid side bar telling me to repost it before I can even read it!

  3. Bethany, Speaks to my heart. Thank you.

  4. That was perfection. I’m thankful for your friendship– sending pecan pie and virtual ass grabs from Texas to Vermont! xo

  5. Beautiful!

  6. You seriously can string words together like no other. I want to know how your mind does it. Can we sit together and just write and I will watch you and try not to be stalkerish? I’m trying really hard not to post a status in which I state my thankfulness for this post. LOVE you.

  7. Kristine Gunderson says:

    Because I know so much of this is so very deep in my memory. This hit hard and true. You are a talented writer. Weaving memories and dreams. Love to all.

  8. You sure can turn a phrase and capture the meaning of a holiday. May your turkey be well stuffed and your wine glass be brimming. Happy Thanksgiving. Ellen

  9. Courtney Bosch says:

    I had no problem reading it on my mobile and it was awesome!!!

  10. You have that uncanny ability to beautifully say the things that are bone deep. This makes me nostalgic and sad and tired and it’s almost painful to see my childhood Thanksgivings that way, but it’s so very true, and there’s beauty in truth the way you tell it. This is the best description of Thanksgiving I’ve ever read.

  11. Could not be more perfectly said. I love this hard. Thanksgiving was also my favorite holiday growing up. It was all about the crazy people coming to our house and how my mother’s family drove my father crazy. It was about my mother all stressed out about making all the food and keeping her house clean so she yelled at us to leave her alone already. It was my grandfather peeling potatoes at the kitchen table and my grandmother playing cards with me, and cheating. (Her cheating, that is.) It was arguments over football vs. parade on the one television in our house. And then, magically, it all came together in platters and aromas and peacemaking over pecan pie. These days our stuffing must be the latest from some gourmet magazine. Noisy children irritate dinner guests who would prefer them to eat separately from the rest of us. Dinner is served late, so late that kids are kept starving far past the point of being able to behave, and then are kept up far past bedtime. Just proving that kids are insufferable and that they ruin family holidays. Something is very wrong when perfection comes before children in family holidays.

  12. I really needed to read this. Thank you.

  13. My husband’s love for Thanksgiving has no bounds. A holiday completely focused on food can only be ruined, in his opinion, by discussions of thankfulness, too many decorations, or a plate too flat to properly hold his trough of gravy.

  14. Your words are beautiful. Thank you.

  15. “with its drunk uncles and quiet dignity” <—- Favorite line. Yes, yes, this! I've been trying to put my finger on what it is about this meme or whatever it is, and it's this. Everything you so perfectly said . . .again. Me love you long time.

  16. I’m so glad you chose to be a writer. It suits you better than most. What a beautiful gift of prose and I bet after this creation, your sh*t stopped stinking. It’s that good. I luff you!!! MWAHH!!

  17. “Gratitude is not publicly rejoicing in the best of the best. It’s the timid celebration of the worst of the worst.” YES, YES ,YES! Thank you for this beautiful post. You are spot on with every bit of it. Happy Thanksgiving.

  18. Thank you, for putting into words so beautifully pretty much everything I feel about Thanksgiving. I love your honesty. It makes me feel like the world isn’t such a bad place after all. Or like I’m not so alone. Hard to explain, but I know you know what I mean!

  19. This is perfection. Wistful and sad and sweet and just amazing. I read it this morning and it stuck with me all day. I suspect it will linger in my head far longer. However you do this, it’s a gift.

  20. YES! This is so spot-on and so gorgeously written. You slay me with your words. Sharing.

  21. You complete me. This is SO on point.

  22. This is the most inspiring thing I’ve read in a long, long time. I absolutely love it. “It’s the quiet sonnet buried under the floor board.” My absolute favorite line.

    Beautiful!!! Love and hugs to you, my friend!

  23. This is the first time I have ever cried at a blog post that wasn’t about a tragedy. I don’t know whose family this isn’t.

  24. Teary-eyed, I am so happy we are sisters, and so thankful to you all for being there. This is so beautiful.

  25. This made me LOL and then cry. That’s the sign of a talented writer. I come from one of those oddball families where it wasn’t a holiday until someone cried. We loved each other in spite of all of the bad things that happen and that is what being thankful is all about.


  26. Well said. My favorite line was also drunk uncles and quiet dignity. You have a skill for the funny sad and the sadly funny which I really enjoy. Thanks for the read.

  27. This is true, beautiful and perfect

  28. Great read! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. At our Thanksgiving we have 29 people! Our “family” has a blast. Some of us are blood-related, but most of my “uncles” and “aunts” are family friend who would do anything for you. We all bring way too much food, play games, talk and just enjoy each other’s company. The hardest part of Thanksgiving is trying to convince someone it is their turn to peel 20 pounds of potatoes and hack apart eight squash. We celebrate how thankful we are in each other’s lives.
    P.S. The only “thankful” I posted on Facebook during November was: “I am thankful for lounge pants.” Because, I am.

  29. Wishing I could be thankful like you. Especially wish I could be thankful for a good Kindergarten teacher for my son who has learning delays.

  30. Amazing!!!!

  31. Andrea Miller says:

    I’m Canadian so I don’t get your Thanksgiving. To me it’s always felt that Americans put more into Thanksgiving than Christmas, especially with the holidays coming only a month a part but this post is beyond amazing. WOW. I am blown away. May you have a wonderful holiday with the ones that you truly love and care about, and to everyone else oh well. All the best this holiday season.

  32. The best Thanksgiving post I’ve read. Hands down. “Loving each other in spite of our shortcomings” – yes, that is what Thanksgiving is about. Not Pinterest-perfect side dishes. Love.

  33. This post is beautiful. Thank you so much for your honesty and sincerity. It means more than you know.

  34. Our family dysfunction didn’t really stretch and flap its wings until I was almost an adult, but there are sentiments here that I quite appreciate. It’s a fine line between wallowing in hard things and sincerely acknowledging them, but it’s totally worth walking that tight-rope to get to something positive at the end, even if it means falling off from time to time and having to get back on again.

Speak Your Mind