Hollie Grimaldi Flores: A grateful heart
Of course, what is on my mind today is gratitude. During a time in history that is brimming with challenge and discourse, it might be easier to focus on all that is going wrong in the world, but I have found that focusing on the negative tends to bring more negative. Conversely, when I focus on all that is good, more good comes my way. I practice gratitude daily. And I say practice, because I have come to understand that is what it is — a skill that requires regular repetition in order to improve — one that gets easier the longer I do the work.
This holiday is meant to give focus on our many blessings, a ritual of gathering and feasting, but the world changed a smidge in 2020, forcing many of us to develop new traditions and new appreciation for what once was and for what is still ahead.
For over a decade, Thanksgiving would begin with a trip to the local high school to meet up with friends before walking or running (OK, I tried running it once) our community Turkey Trot – a sanctioned 5K and 10K race that included both the serious runner and casual walker. When the lady with the stroller passed me on the trail, I realized my dream of serious running was over and was grateful to find myself back with my people — the slow, the sedentary — talking while walking is so much more my speed. The nice thing about the occasion was no matter how you did it, you were outside, exercising, communing, really kicking off the day with meaning! The pandemic put a kibosh on that event, at least for these last couple of years. I miss the camaraderie, the idea that I had already burned enough calories for a second helping of stuffing or pie, and the embrace from the guy who stood in the roundabout wearing a turkey hat and a sign that said, “Free hugs.” I am grateful for the dozen long sleeve T-shirts with various iterations of the cartooned turkey in his number 18 emblazoned on the front that I collected as a result of that participation. I am grateful for the social media memories that pop up to remind me of those many years when the holiday was met with sunny skies more times than downpours and dry pavement more times than muddy fields. I am grateful for a community that came together to raise awareness and funds in the fight against suicide, for which the event was founded.
Like many, this holiday also often meant traveling to the home of one of my in-laws. My husband’s family is spread around Northern California from the Bay Area to the Sierra Foothills. The siblings would take turns claiming the major holidays for gathering, generally Easter, Christmas and of course, Thanksgiving. When it was not “our turn,” we would pile into a vehicle and drive a minimum three hours to reach our destination. I would force everyone to listen to “Alice’s Restaurant,” a 20-minute story/song performed by Arlo Guthrie faithfully aired on a regional radio station at noon each year. “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant, except for Alice.” The kids would half listen until iPods became a thing and they were otherwise entertained.
The actual get-togethers were warm and engaging, but often crowded and uncomfortable as we ate our dinner on folding tables set up in a garage or found ourselves in separate rooms making space for one another. There are many happy memories but also discourse and the dreaded drive home. I will never forget one tortuous year heading back from the South Bay when inclement weather and heavy traffic doubled our travel time, and seven restless children turned counting blessings into imagining escape routes (if I jump out now, they’ll never find me). I was never more thankful than the moment we pulled into our driveway.
While in theory, we could have tried to gather this year, not one sibling called to see who would be claiming the day. (Let’s let this whole COVID thing have another year to settle down.) While I am missing time with extended family today, I am grateful to be home, still in my pajamas, drinking coffee, pondering my future.
Through two decades of marriage, our not so little family has grown. Our babies are coupling up and having babies (well, so far, baby) of their own. And, because two were traveling out of the area to be with their partners families, we actually had our Thanksgiving gathering over the weekend. Ten of us gathered around the table. For the first time there were almost as many women as men (my daughter and I have been outnumbered three to one for over 20 years)! It is becoming more difficult to get everyone in one room, so we were feeling fairly blessed to have the majority under our roof. As is our tradition, as we filled our stomachs with too much of everything, we went around the table and each shared that for which we are most thankful. My husband was last to share, and he gave a heartfelt, emotional, patriarchal speech. He described the pride and pleasure of being witness to these humans who have grown into adults and created their own lives. We watch as they explore careers, navigate relationships, and plan their futures. What an honor it is to be part of what is, essentially, the future.
As parents, we feel their pain when things go bad and celebrate their wins when things are going well. We grow our hearts a little bigger to welcome partners, and new life. We are excited to see how it will all unfold. And, through it all — the good, the bad, the ugly — we are grateful.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We can live a month or two without food … a couple of days without water … but just a few minutes without oxygen … like a fire, we die without oxygen.