Maureen Mackey lives in the New York City area with her husband and two sons, 17 and 15. An editor and writer, she is currently managing editor of The Fiscal Times, a dynamic website covering business, economy, politics and more (http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/).
To My Boys,
Grateful is an interesting word. What are most people grateful for? A roof over their heads. Food in their bellies. Good health. Money to pay the bills. A job.Push it, and you could be talking about a car, a lawn, a deck, an iPhone, a laptop, a vacation to a warm and stunning place with clear blue water, and so much more. But grateful for you, my kids? ‘Grateful,’ move the heck over. Waaaayyyy over. Let’s talk about love — a love so life-changing you couldn’t grasp that it existed before, and once you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how you ever walked the face of the earth without it. Maybe you were half a person back then. Maybe you were a shadow of yourself, an inkling of what you were to become, a speck, a fleck. Maybe it was just, you know — inhale, exhale. Not that you didn’t get some good things done. You did. You think you did. But it was different. Let’s talk about pride — pride when you, my children, achieve new milestones in your lives, when I see you flourish in school or on the field or on the stage, when I see you show toughness when you need to, kindness when it’s called for, consideration to complete strangers, or thoughtfulness when it’s least expected but most appreciated. Let’s talk about happiness — at the way your smiles cheer my heart, or your joy makes me laugh, or your presence in the room makes me feel the world is a better place just because you’re standing there, occupying that space. “Are you good?” I text one of you at night when you’re at a friend’s house, using our shorthand for how are things, how is the night going, are you in a safe place and is all well in your world at this moment in time. You’re driving now. “I’m good, Ma,” you text back a minute or so later. And because you get what I’m asking, sense the depth of how I need to know, my heart is warmed. “Tell me about your Earth Science test,” I say to you, my other teenaged son, one night after dinner. You say you did well — in the 90s, and as you share the details, talk about how hard the test was, how much you worked through some of the answers, I can see your sense of accomplishment. I tell you I’m proud you tried so hard, that you hung in there, and we hang together for awhile, enjoying the moment, lingering, not letting it go. Water children and they’ll grow, and change, and charge through the world — moving up and away and then circling back, God willing. But as long as you want me there I’ll never leave your sides. I know that about my two stepsons — my first children but young men now, gorgeous and strong and smart — and you, my sons, know that too. This Thanksgiving, life is richer, happier, more serene and more complete because of you. That poor word ‘grateful’ … it just tries so hard! It’s a word inadequate to describe how I feel toward you all. Love and pride and happiness trump gratitude any day of the week.