Grateful as if I’m Running Out of Time

In a cramped, Soviet block apartment circa 1990, in a kitchen so small you could touch both walls in either direction by extending your arms, I spilled piping hot tea in my lap. My male host—whom I barely knew— asked me to disrobe, and, standing side by side in a bathroom the size of a broom closet, broom next to mop, he rubbed deer fat—or was it Himalayan mountain goat, I don’t remember—on my thigh.

I tend to conflate memories, but I also believe it was in this kitchen that my American friends and I mentioned the high divorce rate in the U.S. and he replied, “How can you get divorced when everyone has a refrigerator?”


Gratitude is always relative.

I consider myself a grateful person, despite being plagued by a reliably intermittent black crush of depression —which, contrary to popular belief, is not a lack of gratitude but an inablity to connect with it, as if the umbilical cord detaches, cutting off supply.

So when I’m not depressed, nearly everything stuns me speechless, like a person with limited time— the sunlight through the window falling flat and white across the kitchen table, the hot pink tongues of a Christmas cactus by the stove. I am moved to tears reading a book recommended by a Facebook friend from college I never remember meeting; I fall in love with elderly New York men who play tennis in the same outfits they wore circa 1982, especially the one who thunders in a deep baritone, “Cocktail hour!” whenever the score is 5-30.

Yesterday I found an acorn on the front porch, little brown ambiguity as we don’t have oak trees on our land. Acorns are too heavy for wind dispersal, so it was brought here with intent.  I read “acorn is related to the Gothic akran, which had the sense of ‘fruit of the unenclosed land.'” A creature ventured out from the forest behind us, probably a squirrel, and placed his bounty by our door. I am grateful for all of that: acorns, word etymology, unenclosed land, the industry of squirrels and the oak trees we don’t have.

And despite my perpetual crushes on old men, my husband and I have been married over 20 years—some of them even happy—but then, we’ve always had a refrigerator.

A refrigerator  loosening its belt in the next room, overstuffed with vegan dressing and a tofurkey testifying to my Tao of Parenting attempts at flexibility and acceptance, and an actual 15 lb. turkey because I am no martyr and homemade cranberries in wine.  And despite having decided 25 years ago in Russia that I really don’t like Germans (a long story) Germans who live down the road are coming to Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m so very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving. Or glücklicher Erntedank. Thank you for reading.