On this 28th day of November, 2019 AD, in Ringoes, New Jersey, United States, Planet Earth, there’s a lot to be worried about.
There’s a lot to be angry about.
There’s a lot to be weepy about.
But there is so much more more more to be grateful for.
The sickly-icky-sweet honey drips off my fingers even as I type that. I’m tempted to lean on the “backspace” key, to avoid all appearance of cliche and cold comfort. I don’t want to tell you, as you ache for our world and your family and your own heart, that you just need to practice gratitude.
You may be watching your 19-year-old cat slip beyond the veil; you may be missing beloveds with a grief that will never recover on this earth; you may have to face the face of pain itself (or even pass him the cranberry sauce); you surely bear a million million wounds that are entirely your own, no smaller or less searing for their secrecy. Far be it from me to say “look at the cats and be happy! Write in your gratitude journal! This is the best of all possible worlds!”
It’s not, by a long shot (exhibit A: death; exhibit B: onion ring mints).
But in between and long before and infinitely after all that aches, there is a love that reigns.
Even in this world, even here, even now, I believe it with every click of my keyboard: there is always, always more to be grateful for.
I don’t mean just the little serendipities, although they count. The teenytiny baby cows on the hillside on my drive to work, inexplicably born in November and frolicking Junelike with their mamas. The legion of white-light angels covering my church’s lawn, arriving overnight to herald good tidings. The Hostess Honey Bun-flavored coffee, surely sent from heaven to make us laugh.*
I mean the magna-molto-mondo blessings, less lit than plastic angels but brighter and more brilliant. Sleep a day or a decade and you’ll miss them.
I mean the volunteers, ranging in age from 12-90, who scrape unmentionable substances off litter pans and listen to each other’s stories and carry each other and the cats and all of us, day after day.
The visitors whose starry, splendorous eyes jolt us back to the wonder of this Tabby’s Place, the ridiculous relentless kindness that no one can account for, because no ledger yet exists on this earth for its lavishness.
The Lobby full of “misfit toys” adored precisely in their imperfection, lifted high in all that they lack, humble and happy and irrevocably adored as they are.
The cats, sentinels of a love that will not let us go, unconditional and unflinching and “unwise” by earthly standards.
The furious, self-giving, self-emptying, self-risking love that is jumping out behind every corner, a wise child who never grows old or grows tired of trying to get us to gasp.
If your Thanksgiving is hard, squeeze someone’s hand, warm and strong, under the table. If your Thanksgiving is boring, shut yourself in the bathroom and close your eyes and picture Liam, Toby and Oscar holding a special holiday rehearsal of their band Tha Chonky Bois in Suite FIV. If your Thanksgiving is cold, hunker down with the host’s cat or dog or naked mole rat and give the love you need.** Infinity bonus points if you do the same with your surly nephew or 98% hateful great-great-aunt.
Even the 98% hateful ones have their own better angels. Let’s try to love them into flight. (At the very least, your relentless love, like that of a cat, will confuse the crankpots. Subversive kindness: always victorious.)
If only for a moment, give thanks. Thank the cat you love most. Thank the family member you have the hardest time loving. Thank the One who gave you every spark of wonder in your bones and your spirit, every dram of deliciousness on and beyond the table. There is a place at the table for you — the table that counts — even if you’re eating dry Lucky Charms from a paper bowl alone tonight.
On this complicated day and every day, sorrow is real. But believe me: mercy is truer. Love is overtaking you wherever this merry muddled mess of a season takes you.
From all of us at Tabby’s Place, Happy Thanksgiving, kittens. From our saddest to our most soaring days, we give thanks for you.
*I regret to inform you that it’s awful. Of course it is. But I am still so very, very glad that it exists, one of a thousand sillinesses that keep us sweet and sane.
**And if the host of your Thanksgiving gathering literally has a pet naked mole rat, you have nothing to complain about and I want photos.