Ten things I’m thankful for
My family has a tradition at Thanksgiving that before we can gorge on the turkey and all the fixings, everyone at the table has to say one thing they’re thankful for. But this year I’m thankful for more than one thing, so consider this the expanded DVD version of what I said at the dinner table.
10. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Yes, I’m incredibly thankful there’s going to be an Indy 4. This may seem like a completely inane thing to be thankful for, but my childhood was pretty much defined by Indiana Jones, and just thinking about a new Indy makes me feel like a kid again. (For the record, I’m not at all concerned that Harrison Ford may have “lost it” since Last Crusade. I am a little concerned that George Lucas may have, though. )
9. My job. Sure, I’ve been known to grumble about it on occasion, but the people at Smarter Travel have really taken care of me over the years, and never moreso than this year as I’ve faced various medical hurdles. This includes my coworkers, many of whom I consider friends, who have reached out to me with cards, emails, gift baskets, enticing promises of pecan pies in my future… even offers to help out around the house. Smarter Travel may not have the same “close-knit family” atmosphere it did when I started there seven years ago (Seven years? WTF?!), but it’s still a pretty damn good place to work.
8. Comic books. (Nerd alert!) It’s only when I’m stuck in bed for days with nothing but a stack of Spider-Man comics to occupy my time that I appreciate just how much they’ve meant to my life. It’s not just about the escapism and entertainment value so much as it about the reminder they give me of who I used to be back when I wanted nothing more than to move to New York and go work for Marvel Comics. I may not be that guy anymore, but I’m thankful I got to be him for a while. It’s this time of the year, for some reason, that most reminds me of my year at Marvel. Looking back, that two-hour commute from Staten Island doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
7. The mountains. It doesn’t even matter which mountain. I just love climbing them, and I love reaching the top when I’m all hot and gross and sweat-soaked and then letting the wind cool me off. There’s almost nothing better in the world. God, I can’t wait to climb a mountain again. I hope I can.
6. Travel. It’s been too long since I’ve been able to really enjoy traveling. The last couple of years all of my trips have been marred by the fact that I’ve been in various stages of excruciating pain. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the idea of traveling the way I used to travel—with my steel-toed hiking books tied tightly, my walking stick at my side, and my backpack strapped to my shoulders… usually weighed down by Penny’s water bottles. (I kid!) Point is, what I love most about traveling is the chance to see the most stunning places in the world up close, to physically experience the landscape and connect to other cultures through the land they live on. I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to do that in some pretty amazing places.
5. My brother and sister. Probably because I’m the youngest (six years younger than my sister and *cough, cough* nine years younger than my brother), I’ve never really experienced that whole sibling rivalry thing. No, I’ve looked up to and adored my brother and sister for as long as I can rememer, and I’m thankful for both of them (and their kids) more than I’ve ever been able to tell them.
4. My in-laws. Rumor has it that lots of people don’t get along with their in-laws. Not me. I have probably the best father- and mother-in-law ever. Seriously. I’ve known them since I was a junior in high school and in many ways they’ve helped shape who I am today. They’ve been a warm, friendly, positive influence on my life, and I’m so glad they’ll be a big part of Ethan’s life, too.
3. My parents. I guess it’s true that you never fully appreciate just how much your parents love you until you become a parent yourself. Mom, dad, I finally get it. And I’m thankful not just for the bottomless love you gave me as a child but for the continued love and support you’re giving now. It’s indescribable how much comfort I’ve taken since my surgery just knowing my parents love me and are there to help whenever I need it. Who’d have guessed it?
2. My son. This week Ethan started crawling and he started to put noises together that sound like “ma-ma.” (I’m proud to say he already mastered the “da-da” sound a while ago.) Being a father is so different from anything I could have imagined. Doesn’t matter what anyone told me ahead of time, I never believed that just looking at my son could make me this happy. He’s such a good boy—so sweet, so friendly, so bright (gets that from his mom), and so full of enthusiasm for life (even his crying is enthusiastic… maybe a tad too much so). Everything he does is wonderful. I just hope I can be a good father to him. That’s my number one goal in life now.
1. My wife. Penny is the best friend I’ve ever had. She is the very definition of a true companion. She’s game for pretty much anything, whether it’s trekking across Iceland (in the freezing rain), watching thousands of innings of baseball a year (and only complaining a little), encouraging me in both my fiction writing and my travel writing (even when it means spending evenings or weekends on her own, and even when it means offering feedback that she knows I won’t want to hear), and helping me recover from surgery by doing literally everything around the house (including yard work!). Just about the only thing Penny won’t do for me is watch a horror movie. No one’s perfect.
But Penny is more than my best friend. She’s radiant, she’s kind, she’s funny, she’s smart, she’s interesting, she’s active, and she keeps me going even when I don’t think I’m up for it. Basically, she’s completely out of my league, so thank God I found her back in high school before she was wise enough to know she could do so much better.
And did I mention she’s also the very best mom our son could ever have? I love watching her with Ethan because it’s obvious how much she loves him, that she’s engaged in his life and his development, and that she takes such joy in being his mother. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful she and I found our way back to each other after a very rough time of it in 2003.
If there’s one thing in the world I’m most thankful for, it’s that Penny is my wife.