While I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of “love and peace between Pilgrims and Native Americans,” (slaughter of Native people, taking of their land by early Pilgrims, current discrimination of Native people, etc), I do celebrate the opportunity that 4-days off to see friends and family is given to us. With many of my family members living all over the country, this is a day when we know that people will be around for a good 4 days or so. Thanksgiving is a special day for my family because we certainly have so much to be thankful for our in lives: cancer survival of so many in my family, births, reunions, etc.
But, there was one Thanksgiving recently that irked me. As many do during this time, I had the opportunity to connect with a few peole who I hadn’t seen in about 15 years. Long time. In this gathering of folks, looks have changed, boyfriends/girlfriends/marriages have changed, children have been added, new countries have been visited. And, as racially diverse as this group was (which is very rare for the town in which I was raised), we were also incredible diverse in our life experiences. Three of us were married. One of the group was recently divorced. Two of us had children. Three of us were homeowners. But, of our gathering, there was one in our group who had very different experiences: single, wealthy, jet-setter, no commitments, no responsibility other than to herself.
I have always been very thankful for the way my life has turned out. During the time of this gathering, in fact, my daughter had just finished chemotherapy, I had just delivered my second child, and had been recently promoted at work. My favorite things to do then are still the same things I love to do now: spend time with my family, snuggling on the couch with my kids, and being in bed by 10pm so that I can do it all again the next day. Unlike this single acquaintance, I don’t make a lot of money, but I love going to work every single day. I love my life. I have chosen this life. I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
That was, until this single friend turned to me that night and said, “Wow. Our lives are so different.”
“I feel so bad for you,” while nodding her head pitifully at me and then sipping her cosmopolitan martini.
WIth a desire not to make a scene, I basically just chalked it up to her inebriation and my annoyance. But, with the arrival of each Thanksgiving, I can’t seem to shake her “pity” for me. I convince myself that it’s actually she who is missing out being surrounded by unconditional love. I convince myself that having cared for a child with cancer has made my life more meaningful, more rich, and more thankful. I convince myself that I would much rather sit at home and watch “Entourage” than have it be my life. And, I believe all of it. Yet, each Thanksgiving, her face arrives back into my consciousness and her words, “I feel so bad for you” ring through my ears.
So, while there are so many things to be thankful for, it’s hard not to wonder, “What If?”. What if my child was never diagnosed with cancer? What if I didn’t have to pray every night that she would wake up the next morning? What if I didn’t have a house with an inflated mortgage, a job that I need to pay the bills, and a group of children who I had to tuck in at night? What if I didn’t have to change diapers, worry about car seats, schedule my day around nap times, or work 50 hours a week for the same amount of money that this woman makes in a day? Would she feel less bad for me? Would i feel a yearning for a life of family, house, stability if I lived the single, jet setting, no commitment lifestyle?
I’m sure after a round of turkey and a few helpings of cranberry sauce, this woman’s words will leave me – until next year. I feel like, in my case, the grass isn’t greener on her side – at least not for me. I feel Blessed, thankful, and enriched for being able to give life, protect life, and create life; and, in return, my children, family, husband has given life to me.