As my older brother once said: “All families are dysfunctional — some are dysfunctional ‘ha ha,’ some dysfunctional scary.” Mine is certainly of the former variety.
Coraline and her Uncle Seth are thankful for each other... and impromptu naps
Photograph by Shannon Gallagher
This year was the first in five that my whole family was present at the table for Thanksgiving. My little brother made it East from L.A. My older brother (and his new dog) drove up from Virginia. My Nana was there, and Coraline’s daddy. And of course, our special guest Coraline (though she slept through most of dinner). My family has always been a small one — though what we lack in members we make up for in personality. As my older brother once said: “All families are dysfunctional — some are dysfunctional ‘ha ha,’ some dysfunctional scary.” Mine is certainly of the former variety.
Family is certainly the theme of the year for me. I can’t remember being as excited for the holidays as I am now since I was a kid (and then it was, of course, because of “Santa”). Now as a mother, having family around — and being happy — is more important to me then it ever was before. The familial obligations that irked me as a child and teen (like Sunday dinner at Nana and Papa’s) are now wholly understood. Who wouldn’t want their child surrounded, cushioned, by as much unconditional love as possible? And ultimately, that’s what family provides, though at times it may be obscured by sibling rivalry or parental discord. So this year, sitting around the table, I felt overwhelmed by gratitude. And while my family isn’t the “go around the table and say what you’re thankful for” sort, I was silently thankful for the whole nutty lot of them.
Actually, I suppose my own personal “gratitude is the attitude” movement began a few months ago. A few weeks after Coraline was born I started to re-read Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of her yearlong spiritual journey through Italy, Indonesia, and India. Gratitude (at the most unlikely moments) is a huge theme of this book. I took a cue and started a gratitude journal — every day I’d write down a few things that had come up during the day that I was grateful for, whether it was five quiet minutes in the car, a good cup of coffee, or a paycheck. I found that, within the course of just a few days, my attitude was more positive, more hopeful, and I felt more content. While I no longer do the exercise every day, I still try to be conscious of my gratitude on days when I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or scared. I’m not ready to join the ranks of the eternal optimist quite yet, but I’m grateful to have things to be grateful for: a wacky family, a healthy daughter, and the likelihood that I’ll once again see at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep sometime in the next ten years.
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