Gratitude: the Ever-Evasive Superpower

On the two-year anniversary of this Facebook post, I share it with you here; every word of it rings as true today as ever:


On Thanksgiving when I was volunteering with the homeless, I was handed a baby to walk for a while, so his single mother could finish dinner and go to the bathroom by herself. What mother doesn’t need that some days? It was even her birthday. I was more than happy to.

He was wearing pajamas. That was all he had. He’d outgrown all of his clothes and was down to pajamas because they were stretchy. Moms, think about how quickly your kids were in and out of clothes that first year. To not have what you need next week? Startling to think about. I could only respond that I thought we should all wear our pajamas, and he looked so sweet in his (both of which I meant honestly).

He had a scratch on his forehead. Sort of a gash, actually. He was learning to pull up, and it isn’t very baby-proof where they are staying. My own kid was busy playing with the bigger kids and didn’t pay much attention to me getting my “baby fix,” but he did giggle and comment that “This baby has a REAL Harry Potter scar.” He had insisted on wearing his Harry Potter robe from Halloween and a drawn-on scar to Thanksgiving. Two signs that we are among the fortunate ones. Something to wear just for fun, and a pretend scar. It struck me.

By chance, that baby shared a name with the child I lost three years ago this week. We had anxiously watched the calendar and waited until Thanksgiving to announce to friends and family, in the safety of the second trimester. But some things are not to be, and a few weeks later we were in the emergency room instead, leaving every Thanksgiving afterward to be a little bit hollow, and a day of remembrance. This year, the angel on my shoulder grabbed my attention on that day he knew I would recognize.

Three years ago, I never would have believed that it would all be okay, ever. Not two years ago, trying to make sense of why the holiday cheer wasn’t showing up, and not last year when losing one of my jobs was adding insult to injury in this emotional time.

But this week, my fan club has been out in full force. I don’t have a glamorous life, but I have a million tiny successes to celebrate and confirmation around every corner that being present and giving love to a project makes a difference to people. I am supported by my family (sometimes unexpectedly), friends (though too often at a distance), fabulous colleagues (and I do mean fabulous), and wonderful kids and their families that I get to see every day. And I was given, by teachers and mentors, the passion and tools to do what I do.

I am among the fortunate ones, indeed. I wanted a bigger family; yet here I have a blend of nature and nurture that shaped me, a support system, and so many beautiful kids, even if they don’t all belong to me. They skip their semi-formals for my rehearsals and bring me cookies the next day. They text me at midnight. They clean the studio and thank me when they are finished. They make me presents. They give sweaty hugs and sing their choreography. I am so fortunate to share them.

As with all grief, the empty space never completely goes away. The place where the bottom dropped out won’t ever look like smooth surface. It’s more like a weird mosaic made from blown out glass. But it’s my own lightning-bolt scar. It gave me these awesome super powers, and I can only make good of the loss by using them. The most important and sometimes difficult one is gratitude.

Yet I am thankful for these two boys with the same name, both of whom I knew so very briefly, and for all of my other kids who teach me daily to dress for fun and embrace my scars. Because now, it is hard to imagine the path going any other way.


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