Last night was Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's, and we were the smallest group we've ever been. My three siblings and their partners don't live here anymore, so it was just mom, dad, Love of My Life and me. Because we were such a small group, mom eschewed the traditional meal for something a little more practical, leftover-wise: cedar planked salmon (done on the barbecue despite sub-zero temperatures, for we are Winnipeggers), squash and green beans, and garlic mashed potatoes. LoML built a fire. It was wonderful.
My mom was in good spirits but definitely wistful at times, and I could tell that she was missing the larger gatherings of years gone by. I am one of four children, so the smallest group she (and me, and dad) cooked for for years was six, and she comes from an enormous French-Canadian family where Sunday dinners were typically extended family gatherings ranged from anywhere from 10 to 40+. (Last time we had a reunion of that side of the family, we rented a hotel ballroom.)
Things have changed.
It was a lovely evening, and somehow having the traditional gathering in a non-traditional way somehow made me appreciate the spirit of the holiday in a way that I don't think I have in a number of years. So in that renewed spirit, I am thinking about the things I am grateful for this morning.
1. The country I live in. My job, though fascinating and rewarding, has the occupational hazard that I have become a bit of a news junkie, and therefore almost always aware of the circumstances that so many people have to face every day just because of where they happen to have been born. I have never known war or famine. I do not have to risk my life to be able to vote. I can travel freely. I can say whatever I want about my elected leaders. I can have a job, ride a bike, play in a band, love who I love and wear what I want despite the fact that I am a woman.
2. The internet. Ravelry, Audible and the blogosphere connect me to ideas and people which I've come to treasure as part of my daily life. The podcasts of Brenda Dayne, Lime & Violet, Stuart MacLean and David Reidy keep me company, open my eyes to different parts of the world, and make me laugh (sometimes with stare-provoking consequences) on my daily commute. I am so grateful to these people for sharing their lives with me.
3. My friend Kevin, who taught me how to knit on a tour bus full of ballet dancers. He thought that he was just giving me something to distract me on that one seemingly-endless tour in 2001. He ended up changing my daily life in a way that - hopefully - will be with me until my dying day.
4. My teacher. Mr. Melnyk was my piano teacher through 10 of my formative years. I was during these years geeky, chubby, bookish, awkward and deeply insecure. Despite that, through the incredible power of music, he instilled in me a sense that I had beauty of the highest order inside of me, and that I had the capability and therefore the responsibility to share that beauty with the world. He changed me, fundamentally and forever. He had a profound impact on not just the musician I am but the sort of person I turned out to be.
Most importantly, I am grateful for the people in my life today.
My sister Ann, living in Ottawa, who sees the world with a constant air of wonder, and who has the incredible gift of being able to share that vision in words and music and her very presence.
My brother Chris, currently playing music on a ship somewhere in the Meditterannean, who has the oldest soul of anyone I've ever met and a diabolical, twisted sense of humour, meted out at just the right time and in just the right way. He is a constant source of fascination.
My brother Michael, a lighting designer living in Stratford, whose thoughtful approach to his life and extraordinary openness to the lives of others has made him a safe harbour for me on more than one occasion, and has more than anyone else in my life made me laugh until I feared some sort of permanent physical damage.
My mom and dad, who committed before we were even born that we would be exposed to and allowed to participate in whatever we were passionate about, and stuck to this commitment when the things that we were passionate about turned out to be noisy, expensive and ultimately unprofitable (i.e. read 4 kids and 14 or 15 musical instruments, and in the case of the lighting designer, an impressive collection of high-end flashlights). When my dad and a colleague were catching up at a conference years ago and my dad told him about all of us working in the performing arts, his friend said "Couldn't even save one of them, eh, John?" Mom and Dad never saw it this way. Never, when we wanted to go off to music school or theatre school or record an album or *ahem* switch to the accordion, asked us what we were going to fall back on. They truly believed in us and in our dreams, and we are all better people - and, incidentally, successful artists - for it.
And for the Love of My Life. We found each other late in life by traditional standards, yet at exactly the right time. As difficult as the road was at times, I wouldn't trade my life for anyone's: it led me to him, and the destination was worth the journey, every single step of it. And now that our paths finally converged, I can't wait to see what's next.
I suppose one more thing to be grateful for is that this list is by no means exhaustive. I am privileged beyond measure in so many areas of my life that to list them all would mean being here still typing long after tonight's turkey dinner with LoML's family had been relegated to the margarine tubs for tomorrow's leftovers.
I am a lucky woman indeed, and I am deeply grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.