It will be my 7th Thanksgiving in a row spent in this country that I have made my own. I know that many around me don’t consider me American, and they never will, and to be frank, that hurts. What do I have to do to make y’all accept me! My story of coming here to survive abuse helped by my American best friend and sometime soul mate, is a similar story to many who came to this country to escape tyranny and certain death. I feel as American as the next person, and so does the Boy. I would give almost anything to become a legal US citizen. This is my home. This is where I feel most at home. This is where me and the Boy belong. This is where I feel safe. I have a lot to offer and give back. I truly care. Sometimes I feel as if I do not have the right to an opinion because of my circumstances, and so shy away from voicing how I feel. This is a modern malady: nobody wants to be cancelled. People just want to live quietly without the mob coming with their pitchforks and their burning torches to fry the person with the ‘unpopular opinion’…..
Having travelled across from California, up the west coast through Oregon and Washington state, then over Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and then back again I have seen a lot of this beautiful and wild country. I can’t say I liked California the best, but I can’t say that I didn’t – the variety within one state is vast, let alone the immense differences within this forced conglomerate of a federation. It is the most survivable (at least for me and the Boy) of the places I travelled through, and San Francisco holds a dear dear place in my heart. This is my city, and I love it immensely. I don’t think it minds me being here too much. I have been across this wide world and can say, hand on heart, there is nowhere I would rather live than exactly here in San Francisco. I have no desire to even leave this neighborhood, it is vibrant enough not to be boring, safe enough to feel at home, and the people are a good mix. I would wither away of boredom down in the Marina. It is my sincere wish to help make things better for people who live around me. I am thankful that in this last year I have had a few opportunities to do so.
I am thankful that I knew Billy. I am thankful that I got to be the one to give him a few good years, and a bit of acceptance, and a little taste of mutually enjoyable conversation, there was indeed ‘something special that happened when we talked’ as he put it. That spark. I am thankful that he was my protector and drunken knight in dinged up armor. I couldn’t think of a better man to teach me how to play the guitar, or force feed me the MC5. Sometimes his company was bitter medicine, but he remains the single most creatively stunning force of nature I have ever had the pleasure (and the trouble) to meet. Any country that can grow a Billy, form him, and then let him down so thoroughly; make him both the archetypal hillbilly and simultaneously ashamed to be American has a schizophrenic streak to rival the one he struggled with. I am thankful I knew him for the good and bad of it all.
Each state has it’s charms. I am not fond of Oregon, but even then, driving through some Willamette Valley town, with the charming bubbling brooks, the green fertile lushness of it, the sun playing off the ranches and the cows grazing lazily, there is something infinitely charming and peaceful about it. I never thought I would get to live the “Little House On the Prairie” Arcadian dream, but in my mind I take myself back to sitting in a campground in the valley and watching the children play with water guns in the summer heat, with the horses swishing their tails in the field opposite, and feel such a sense of perfect peacefulness transmit across the time waves, that I feel I know that draw to the west that so many chased before me. Our covered wagon had white paint and a superduty ford engine, but it still got us over perilous mountain passes and provided shelter from the storm, from hostile people and the burning north American summer sun.
Idaho’s northern ‘chimney’ is the most disney-pretty stunning slither of a state, while the south is bare, sparse, dusty and flies an inordinate number of confederate flags. Montana’s Big Sky and ghost towns sent me spinning. Wyoming feels like it belongs in a western movie, teeming with wildlife and bursting with greenness. The badlands are cinematic and dramatic, the colored rocks hiding secrets and herds of wild horses. California goes from Los Angeles smog to gold rush town charm, from giant redwoods to the most European-feeling city on the west coast, San Francisco. Los Angeles is not the New York of the west, that is San Francisco. All of it vast and full of the best..and sometimes the worst of humanity and possibility. There is such openness, such danger, such beauty.
I am thankful for the last seven years of freedom from being beaten up gifted to me by this beautiful country and the compassionate people within it. I am so thankful that we are no longer homeless, and am spending this Thanksgiving in an apartment in San Francisco with my Boy. I am thankful we have the possibility that I can make a future. I am thankful for this subsidy and for the time we get to spend inside, even if I can’t stay here after the subsidy, I am so grateful for this year’s break in being homeless.
I am thankful for Ruth – without her none of this would have been possible. She kept me going emotionally, she helped out in every single way. She cared and let me care for her. She understood and tried to understand. I would have given up a thousand times over if it wasn’t for her. She is my Angel and my best friend, and all this gratitude will be way, way too American for her kind sweet Welsh heart, but that is ok. She is the best sister and Auntie that me and the Boy could ever hope for. I feel like I have family. She even puts up with me….Way above and beyond anything I could ever hope for. Three cheers and a thankful hug for RUTH.
I am grateful for the 10 months in the homeless shelter and the SIP hotel program that saved our lives. I am grateful that me and the Boy survived so far, and I hope I can be grateful for the same this time next year.
I am grateful for this blog and the people who read it – THANK YOU! I am grateful that sometimes the universe destroys things which would have only caused pain, and razes it all to the ground so that better things can grow. I am grateful, so grateful that I feel like me and the Boy are relatively safe and secure here in San Francisco, even without Billy or anyone else supporting us in person on a daily basis. That felt like an impossibility. I am grateful I loved, even if I lost, because to never know that love is worse than the agony of losing it. I am grateful for the memories, and hopeful for some new ones.
I am sad it is just me and the Boy this year, but grateful for the Thanksgivings I got to spend with my oldest friend, Billy, even if we only got one turkey dinner, and many of them were spent on the road in the wet and cold. I am grateful for those years when we huddled in the RV and were simply thankful for each other. I am grateful for the music. I am grateful for my hands that can still play it and ears that can hear it. I am grateful for life.
I am so thankful for the Boy. He is my reason for living, for carrying on, for fighting. I am thankful he is healthy, thankful he is kind, thankful he is funny and sweet and the best sidekick a mom could ever wish for. I am thankful he loves cooking, and is making lunch, and that I can sit and read books and work on my writing career because he takes that pressure off me by being such an easy human being to look after, love and care for. Thank you, Son.
I am thankful we are safe and warm and dry, and fed. For many years I could only afford to eat a few times a week. I could not afford to eat every day. That was my normality. My children always ate every day, but I simply could not do that through lack of money to buy food I could eat with celiac disease and serious food allergies. For the last year I have had something to eat every single day. I am grateful. I feel like I might survive.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And I’m thankful to have you and your dear boy in my life sister. Thank you for the (not ever necessary but still appreciated) thanks. xxx
You are one of the most gifted writers that I have ever discovered. Your vivid descriptions of this country, of your emotions and the people in your life bring your stories to life. When you mentioned the MC5 I was stunned. I honestly didn’t know that anyone ever remembered them. It brings back memories of California and your words sometimes bring tears to my eyes.
Thank you for this beautiful piece.
Hello Donna, I have to say I really appreciate you sending me that note. I had a really upsetting loss of my publisher, and have felt very down about the writing. Your kind note came at just the right time. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write such lovely things to me, I am very thankful you are reading. I will do an MC5 piece just for us fans of Fred “Sonic” Smith and the boys, and dedicate it to you! Happy Thanksgiving, Donna.
I am thankful to have known you virtually and can call you friend. I agree with Donna that you are a great writer. My wish for you is that you finish your book and look for another publisher that will stay with you and recognize talent. Happy Thanksgiving Granddaughter and Grandson.
Happy Thanksgiving, sweetie. I hope you have a wonderful family day, Gramma. Much love from me and Chris. I will do my best!
Very thankful to call you a friend xx
Had a wonderful day, Sun visiting and face time with dawta and Grandchild.
We had a lovely day too! Vegetarian thanksgiving lunch, crustless homemade pumpkin pie and cinder toffee! I collapsed in front of the tv and watched movies. Glorious.