What are you thankful for only in retrospect?

Courtesy of http://www.tundracomics.com!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone. In honor of this annual day of gratitude, when we remember the first Thanksgiving and murmur our appreciation to Squanto for sharing his corn (as our kindergarten teachers taught us), here’s a little reflective piece on my lonely childhood in a Michigan suburb…

Thanksgiving–the tradition–has never been a really important part of my family. I still don’t know the aroma of turkey bubbling in its own herbed sweat. When I still lived in my parents’ home it was salmon or pork ribs or chicken legs among other dishes that never quite seemed American enough. The excuse from my mom was that she didn’t know any turkey recipes.

Last year was the first year that I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. Of course, it was also the first year my mom made a turkey. Last year, on Thanksgiving itself, I felt like I had little to be thankful for; the only place to eat that was open was Subway, and I had a turkey sandwich alone in my dorm room and there were so few people that when I left my room to throw out the trash the lights in the hallway had automatically dimmed because, well, there was no one there.

This year I’m living in my own apartment and I can cook my own food. In writing this post, I can’t help but think about the things I’m thankful for, especially the things I’m only thankful for in retrospect. When I lived in Michigan my family moved from an apartment in Ann Arbor to a house in Plymouth, about half an hour away. I have memories of playdates in Ann Arbor, but I have no memories of that in Plymouth. Plymouth was lonely. In my neighborhood I could see, through the arched window at the top of the stairs, a flock of retired women in neon tracksuits going on their morning rounds. When I rode my bike I was only allowed to stay in the cul-de-sac. It was boring, cycling around Northview every day. There were no other kids my age.

My parents, for complicated reasons they’ve since let me in on, didn’t let me spend much time hanging out. In high school, when I finally learned that friends hung out with each other regularly outside of school, I felt as if I’d been missing out on childhood. I blamed my social gauche on my parents’ sheltering me. By my senior year I took action and rebelled–to call it such reflects just how deprived I was–by sneaking out at night and ignoring phone calls and texts from my parents. Once they left a voicemail saying they’d call the police because it was getting dark and I hadn’t filled them in on where I was. I couldn’t wait to leave.

In retrospect, however, I’m thankful for my loneliness in Plymouth. Now that I’ve come to college I spend so much time with my friends that a long weekend like this one, during which I have the whole apartment to myself, is relieving. Now I want to be alone. In Michigan, with no friends to kill time with on weekends, I turned to books and origami for entertainment. I started writing short stories, continuations of the fantasy novels I read at the time. As someone who now identifies as a writer–or, at least, an aspiring writer–and who is the co-founder and co-president of the Bruin Origami Society, I look back at those childhood days and can say, unequivocally, that the sheer amount of time I spent on those activities during those formative years shaped me indelibly.

What are you thankful for only in retrospect?

Posted by James

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