Love, Thanksgiving and Dungeons

In case any of you are suffering from a touch of post-Thanksgiving blues, why don’t you come and join me here – in thought and memory at least, if not in person.

I remember a very special Thursday in November, all of twenty-one years ago. My Philosopher-lover and I had been invited to an American friend’s Thanksgiving dinner. I was pregnant at the time, and madly in love with said Philosopher – soon to become Hubby Nr. 2. I was quite simply over-brimming with gratitude. Know the feeling, when you’re in love and you want the whole wide world to know it? To share in your joy? In my case it was even more pronounced, with the product of my love growing inside my belly. Correction. The product of our love growing inside my belly. I mean it takes two to tango, right? (Clichés  are cooler than you think.)

So there we were, loverboy and I, together with six or seven other guests, all of us cramped round the candlelit dining table in the rickety attic abode of some ancient Krakowian tenement building, chatting away ten to the dozen and chomping at succulent turkey and slurping cheap Bull’s Blood wine (not me – I was being a good pregnant girlfriend and putting up with herbal tea, YUK!) and laughing in great decibels, our veins warm with convivial spirits. Except that I wasn’t allowed the spirits either, when they were served later in the evening, together with the pecan pie in maple syrup.

And then, quite out of the blue, our young American hostess suddenly stood up and announced: “What I’d like now is for each of you to say a few words of thanks about something in your life that you’re grateful for. C’mon, guys, don’t be shy!”


Now everyone knows what the Brits are like. And, as the real moi resembles more of a restrained Brit than a vociferous Pole, I … well … to be honest, I just cringed. Sorry if that’s being anally retentive. But come on, it’s one thing pouring out your heart to an anonymous blogging audience, and quite another doing it face to face, right? But okay, whatever. I was the guest, she was the hostess, so she got to give the orders.

So we took our turns giving thanks for this and that, and the weird thing is, by the time it came round to my turn I was actually getting in the mood, believe it or not! Yes, I found myself wanting to voice aloud the two things in my life that I was most thankful for: namely, being with a man I was crazily in love with, and having his baby growing inside me. I had so much to be grateful for, truly – especially after the gruelling beginnings of our relationship, when the Philosopher almost split up with me. But then I won him back, and he ended up loving me in return (it transpired that apparently he had loved me all the way along, but as I’m not in the habit of carrying a microscope around with me, I never noticed), and … and yeah.

So I gave thanks, openly and wholeheartedly. And I smiled at the sexy Philosopher sitting opposite, and he winked at me, and everyone round the table went ahhhhh … and it was all so perfect. One of those special moments that Life occasionally throws at you, know what I mean? Pity I’ve always been such a butterfingers – last one to get picked in the team during PE lessons.

Okay. Now fast-forward twenty years – to this same time last year, to be specific – and another Thanksgiving was upon me. And boy, this time round did I struggle to give thanks! Luckily there was no dinner party in sight, just my daughter and me, watching TV with our suppers on our knees. (On plates, obviously.) Yes, I’m talking about that very same daughter who had been in my belly twenty years earlier, and was now a beautiful young adult, providing words of comfort in the aftermath of her dad’s sudden departure, alias the Errant and Very Absent Philosopher who her mum had once been crazy about.

All that love, all that desire, all that happiness and faith in the future … and here I was again, bereft of my man.

What IS it about me?’ I found myself silently bemoaning while chomping the roast chicken that my daughter had thoughtfully prepared. ‘I’m a nice enough person, aren’t I? I’m not bad-looking, I play the piano well, I laugh and giggle a lot (except during marital crises), I’m polite (most of the time), I’m kind to animals, I’ve never had a shortage of male admirers … so why can’t I remain married, for f—k’s sake?’

But still. Thanksgiving an’ all, so I gave thanks. For my family, my home, my children, my health, etc. etc. After all, worse things could befall me. I could have been born in Rwanda and hacked to death in the genocide of 1994. (Except then I wouldn’t be here to write this post.) Or I could be in another war-torn part of the world, or in a place where natural disasters are a constant underlying threat, or I could have a terminal disease, or be the victim of an appalling crime …

Ah, yes. Elisabeth Fritzl comes to mind here. Remember her? The eighteen-year-old girl from a quaint little town in Austria, whose father incarcerated her in the fortified cellar-dungeon of their house for twenty-four years and continually raped her, resulting in the birth of seven babies, one of whom died and three of whom he snatched away from her? What would she have to be grateful for? Well, I suppose once her babies started being born she could at least have been grateful for them. But what about those first few months, when she was chained in the soundproofed dungeon of their home, with no distractions whatsoever other than dailiy visits from her psychopathic dad?

Must stop being morbid. This is not going to help anyone with post-Thanksgiving blues.

Right. So here we are again, at this time of year, with yet another Thanksgiving Day just behind us. It’s fourteen months now since Hubby Nr. 2 moved out. The wounds are a lot less raw than they were last autumn, thanks to the palliative healing process of Time, together with one or two other significant factors. I’ve moved on from those dark days, and really am grateful for the journey. I’m sure anyone else out there who is equally keen to push forward rather than dwell in the mud will understand. I only wish we could feel this level of gratitude every day, and not just one day of the year.

Isn’t there a song that echoes that sentiment? Wish it could be Thanksgiving every day …

But of course it can’t be, because now it’s Christmas’ turn. Ho-hum, here we go …




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