by Agnes Krup | bio

I may be forgiven for not feeling particularly thankful this year. My daughter’s father, from whom I have been divorced for four years, has been out of work for the better part of a year and a half. Not a day goes by when I don’t worry about him or my daughter.

We have not eaten out in months, and since the summer I have cut back on some regular bills that turned out to be surprisingly expendable. I did away with Netflix after realizing how long we had those DVDs lying around the house without watching them. Instead, we pick up a movie from the nice guys at the local video store a couple of times a month.

Cable is gone, too, even the subscription to The New York Times; I check it online and read more books. I continue to pay my monthly NPR contributions and my disability insurance.

Still, we are down to the wire.

We have to pay rent and utilities, the babysitter who picks up my daughter from school a couple of afternoons, the afternoon classes outside of school. I wish I could spend more time with my daughter myself, but I am busier with work this fall than I have been in a long time. On top of that, I have to think of any skills I have that could be turned into income-generating freelance work.

Then there has been a bit of a health scare. I’ve always been healthy, but some weeks ago I detected a lump at my throat. I went through a battery of tests, including a biopsy that took all of two minutes and was the simplest little procedure, but sitting in the waiting room beforehand felt a bit scary and very lonely. Now I live with what appears to be a benign little bump. But benign or not, I carry a constant reminder of a new vulnerability.

In short, I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, pressured, threatened. I don’t mind a good challenge, but this is a struggle of a different dimension. What I worry about most are the things that are not in my control — and many of the current calamities aren’t.

A couple of weeks ago, old friends from graduate school e-mailed to let me know that they were coming to New York for a visit on Nov. 22 (not a holiday in Germany, where they live). We have not really been in touch for some years, other than sending annual family updates with the holiday cards, and I was looking forward to seeing them both very much.

She asked what they could bring from the old world and the only thing I could think of was a homeopathic cold remedy that works like a charm when my daughter gets the sniffles. Then her husband wrote back to assure me they were coming with empty suitcases to stock up on clothes for the kids, so they really could bring anything I could think of.

I couldn’t think of a thing in the world. I just reminded them that the date of their arrival was Thanksgiving and that I was looking forward to seeing them over the holiday weekend, sans my daughter, who’d be away. She wrote back and suggested she’d bring some good-as-new hand-me-downs from her 11-year-old. I was delighted and touched. Good quality hand-me-downs have always given me great pleasure, for my daughter as well as for myself. This year they are more welcome than ever.

Minutes later, her husband wrote again, asking if they could take me out for Thanksgiving dinner. By this time I was pretty choked up. The thoughtfulness of this, the fact that they were willing to drag themselves to a restaurant for an extended meal after a long flight (and jetlagged to boot), just to make sure that I wouldn’t be alone on Thanksgiving — well, that was almost a bit too much to take.

They are not the only thoughtful friends I have. Over the past weeks I have received no fewer than seven invitations for Thanksgiving, and this without actively prompting any of them by dropping hints about what I would and would not be doing. I have been invited into close-knit families and into informal gatherings of friends of friends. Some of them know a bit about my current worries, others more or nothing at all. They all just wanted to make sure I am not alone.

This is why I love Thanksgiving so much: It is the warmest and most generous of holidays. And more than any other holiday it makes me sit still for a moment. How wonderful that it comes along just now, when I need so much to put things in perspective. No, life is not easy right now, and it probably won’t be for some time. But how bad can it really be with so much to give thanks for.

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  • lilalia November 21, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Sometimes in life, we have the wonderful opportunity to learn a lesson about receiving with grace. In many societies it is considered virtuous to be generous, to give to those in need. Oddly, the act of receiving with open heart and with great appreciation is not considered as positively. Yet, we are all, on occasion and in crisis, in need of a helping hand. Thank heavens your friends made their gift so effortlessly. And, thank heavens, you have the grandness of being to write of their kind gesture. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your daughter.