For some of you out there, you are getting ready to celebrate a holiday known as Thanksgiving. A uniquely American holiday, it commemorates the teamwork and camaraderie that allowed the pilgrims (does anyone else think it’s more appropriate to call them ‘expatriates?’ Because ‘pilgrim’ is too religious for my blood…) to survive the harsh conditions they found in the New World. Working together with native Americans, these people learned how to use what they found here and not only survive, but thrive.
(That whole ‘oops we totally brought a bunch of foreign germs and you’re all going to get really sick, so sorry’ thing shall remain un-expounded upon.)
However, at the same time, I can’t help feeling a little bit conflicted about the whole damn thing.
It’s always felt a little weird for me to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tracing my ancestors as far back as we were able to in the year 1999, I learned of the first (black) member of the family. A slave woman from coastal Africa, she escaped with some slick tricks—step one, make herself useful on trips. Step two, make herself useful on a trip heading to the free North. And step three, BOUNCE. Bingbangboomfreedom!
Tracing my mother’s side of the lineage was more difficult. I learned her mother’s name, but never had the chance to meet Ms. Maria Argupitha Garcia Martinez (Unchanged for unfindability!) For the record, if anyone knows this generously nomenclatured woman, please dish. I’ve googled, bing’d, dogpile’d and even Alibaba’d her name and found nothing.) And as difficult as Grandmother was to find, Grandfather was even more so. See, he went by one name, and kept to himself near the border (no fence, no problem).
I never had the chance to meet either of them. But I’ll never forget what my mother and my uncle Saul* told me: Grandfather was a medicine man. A real live (oh, shush. You know how I mean) shaman. My uncle, on telling me this, then gave me a box of unset rough turquoise. I would later ask my father if my uncle was being facetious—and as it would turn out, he was not. But he was loath to talk about that side of the family, and it would be all I could find out: the records stop fairly quickly in the whole legibility department.
*Name changed at request!
.Here’s where I start feeling a little weird about it: neither ancestral side of my family came over in that quest for freedom from the Anglican Church. One side had been here long before, and the other side came long after, against her will. One side had no real reason to celebrate, and the other—well, being dragged from her homeland and then bought and sold like a horse really has no merits to celebrate.
It wasn’t for a while that I began to think of it a little bit differently. After finding out that I was a little blue preemie that very nearly kicked her mother off this mortal coil, I started feeling kind of lucky. Blessed, even.
This year, a whole lot of bad happened. I got out of a destructive relationship. (Not entirely willingly. Stockholm Syndrome, what what) I got deep into a barrel. Climbed out of said barrel when the taste of alcohol became more unpleasant than the flashbacks and voices I was trying to shut up. Had a huge mental break when the flashbacks got stronger, and was sent to the loony bin when I admitted I wasn’t sure if I was going to be waking up the next morning. Formally diagnosed with PTSD that had been allowed to slowly fester over the last three years. Went on more meds than anyone I’ve met.
It wasn’t easy.
So very often, I caught myself saying, “Fuck this. I’m gone,” but the little part of my mind that was sane still went, “Really? You haven’t done anything you thought you would. You’d be ditching friends—and all because you hurt? Suck it up, you selfish little bitch” and I didn’t go through with it. Whenever I was about to do something profoundly stupid, they’d stop me. I stuck it out because they stuck their necks out to help me.
And I’ve yet to thank them all properly.
So here it is.
I am thankful for all of you for not letting me quit this life.
I am thankful for the motivation you all give me.
I am thankful for the people who would forcibly stop me when I started to do something stupid.
I am thankful that I am still alive to have people to thank for keeping me that way.
And now that I know it’s going to be just fine, I sign off and say:
Itadakimasu. (Thank you for the food.)