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Three Things I am Grateful for this Thanksgiving and Probably the Only Post When I say “Thanks” to Three, Older White Dudes

Beach picture

Sunrise Cocoa Beach 11/9/16

Before I get to gratitude this Thanksgiving, grief and fear ask that I say a couple of words on their behalf. They didn’t expect to visit this year, but since the election and its aftermath dripped toxic chemicals all over my body, stripping away a protective coat that I didn’t even know I was wearing, leaving me raw and rashy in my all too human skin, here they are. Gut-wrenching, can’t eat, can’t sleep fear has been ricocheting all over the house, a most unwelcome house guest.

Yet, I’m adjusting. The damn days keep showing up and that damn sun keeps lighting up the sky with pinks and grays and blues and yellows, and a fiery red-orange straight off Edvard Munch’s palette, and I keep admiring the sky despite my own pain. Gradually fear has been yielding to sorrow, and while profound grief is no picnic on the beach, I prefer it to fear. I know my broken heart can heal.

This Thanksgiving I honor the whole messy emotional experience. Who knew that gratitude and grief can co-exist, and maybe even be good friends? Gregarious gratitude makes the first move and slings an arm around gloomy grief’s shoulders. It takes a few minutes for grief to drop her initial reticence, but then she leans into gratitude’s warm embrace and whispers, “Tell me three things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving.” Gratitude replies, “Only three? That’s easy. Here goes.”

Number one: Thank you, Billy Collins. Thank you for returning to The Winter Park Institute on a clear, crisp Wednesday night to regale a rapt audience sorely in need of a belly laugh and doses of shared humanity. Funny, clever and big-hearted – you and your poems. Here’s one short favorite you read:

Cheerios by Billy Collins

One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
the way they used to say

Why that’s as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.


The YouTube clip is from O, Miami Poetry Festival 2012

Number Two: This one is hard, but here goes. Thank you, President-elect. Thank you for deepening my connections to my friends, my family, my community, and my spirituality as I struggle to find meaning in a world under your administration. Thank you for shattering my complacency and my limited, myopic vision and for strengthening my resolve to participate more actively in the world and protect those who are threatened. Thank you for the sign that keeps flashing on my mind screen in bright, red letters, “Democracy,” “Democracy,” a flawed system for sure, but one worth fighting for, and where you are a president, not a king, not a tsar, not a supreme ruler, just a president. Thank you for reminding me that we, the people, not you, have the ultimate power and that we are the ones we have been waiting for.

bethandjim2Number Three: This one is easy. Thank you, Jim. My husband, a modest, humble guy steadies my rocking boat when it’s bobbing all around on these rough seas with his even, good humor. Like FDR, he possesses a first-class temperament. Here’s a perfect example that captures why this man lives permanently in my heart: A few months ago, I expressed concerns about exposing some part of my past in my writing. Jim said, “Dear, there’s nothing in your past that I am ashamed of.” Enough said.

So, on this Thanksgiving in a world that is broken and beautiful and horrible and wonderful (I snapped the sunrises on this site and in this post the morning after the election), I give thanks and would love to hear from you. I invite you to share at least three things you are grateful for this holiday season.

16 thoughts on “Three Things I am Grateful for this Thanksgiving and Probably the Only Post When I say “Thanks” to Three, Older White Dudes”

  1. First you ! I loved reading this as your writing is so alive and powerful. I mean to those reading this- Isn’t this New Yorker material?

    Second – my great family of husband and son. Who would have guessed that that young girl of 10 would find such a great and loving family many years in the future

    Third- that I live in the USA . When trump got elected I felt for first time what it might feel like to live in a totilitarian state. I am putting my trust in John and Thomas and Ben and those other founding fathers to ensure we don’t go there

    1. Hey Nedra, Your first comment makes me laugh. Thanks for this. Hello, David Remnick, are you listening? Amazing isn’t it how this election has brought what’s most precious into sharp relief? I appreciate too how strongly and for how long you have stood in my corner with me.

    1. Thanks, Claudia. And, Happy Birthday! Glad that we could share this across the many miles and many states that separate us on your special day. You have been so supportive of my writing; I appreciate it.

  2. Hi Beth!

    I enjoyed your post;). Keep writing! I am thankful for God and my church, for Kyle who is so supportive and kind, and for my boys!

    1. Hi Sarah! Delighted to hear from you. Thanks so much for your kind words and encouragement. Thanks too for sharing your gratitude list: it warms my heart to read it.

  3. Love your writing Beth! And I love that Billy Collins poem. It’s my son’s fave. We went to hear Billy Collins speak a couple of years ago. He excused my kiddos from ever going to another poetry reading ever… now that they had been to his, they were all good! ; ) He made us all laugh!
    Landon also likes this one ” Looking for a Friend in a Crowd of Arriving Passengers: A Sonnet”

    1. Thanks, Anna! Thanks for reading this and sharing your own Billy Collins’s experiences. I’ll be sure to check out “Looking for a Friend in a Crowd of Arriving Passengers. Love that your son likes him too. I saw BC couple of years ago too and he was on stage with a group of high school poets – it was quite moving. Thanks too for being so supportive. It means a lot to me.

    1. Well, this makes my heart sing. Thanks so much! It’s been a process for sure – ultimately, think I just had to embrace that it wasn’t going to be perfect and that it could evolve (just like me). Appreciate your support (and love).

  4. My dear cousin. Congrats and admiration for your endeavors. I always enjoy your verbage if that is correct lol. Happy holidays. Love you.

    1. Thanks, Debbie. Thanks too for reading my piece and writing a comment. I appreciate it – and you. Hope all is well.

  5. Susan Elizabeth House

    Congrats on getting blog going. Thanks for sharing your words and photos. I am thankful for my wonderful family, living in the wonderful little town of Carrboro, NC and the four seasons I have just experienced after over 45 years living in Florida.

    1. Hi Susan, Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. Your support has been invaluable! While I miss you I am so glad you made the move and get to spend so much time with your family – Ivan is one lucky, little dude! And, Carrboro sounds marvelous – I miss the four distinct seasons, that’s for sure.

  6. Dearest Beth,
    Always love your writing! So very Beth, so very thought provoking, and always so funny, co-existing with heart wrenching. Love the Billy Collins poem, and dear Jim! Definitely New Yorker material. So proud of your contribution:)

    1. Hey Patti, Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. Your support has been so meaningful to me over the years. I am so grateful for you and your encouragement and your discerning sensitivity.

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