some things about november

There is this chalkboard in my kitchen and for the longest time I would use it to hype my family up about the things ahead.  I would write the name of the month and then write all of the fun things we were going to do.


I liked it.


But then, exactly a year ago this past weekend, I wrote some things about November.  I wrote about Luke turning 30 (which was already over but a major event worth writing on there and crossing off, just because) and Thanksgiving and I remember writing the word "thankful" and cringing inside because I didn't feel it. Our kitchen drain was clogged and our dishwasher was broken and hours of frustration and telephone calls and desperation were going on, all around me, as I found a piece of chalk and threw those words up there. But we were just a few days off of Thanksgiving and I really wanted to be cheerful. So I wrote fakey cheerful stuff.  NOVEMBER!  THANKSGIVING!  THANKFUL! TURKEY TASTES GOOD!   I wrote it and looked at it and forced a smile at it.  It was my little bit of, okay, this week will be saved.  I can make this stuff come true. The plumber will come and my kitchen will not smell like this anymore and this fiasco will be a funny memory and nice-feeling things will happen.

But I didn't make it come true.
The drain was fixed and the dishwasher replaced and then -- my grandma died.
Unexpectedly.  Out of nowhere.
A year ago tomorrow, but it really feels like today because it was Monday.

So the turkey went into the deep freezer and all the other Thanksgiving stuff was pushed aside and away as we frantically packed suitcases with black clothes and sippy cups.  The framed photos of her as a little girl were grabbed off of the walls to display at the visitation.  It felt insane and hazy.

My grandma wasn't just a lady.  She was MY GRANDMA.  A beautiful wonderful lady who rocked me to sleep and sang to me and taught me things and made me breakfast (peanut butter toast cut into four pieces and a bowl of cereal and chocolate milk) and took me to school every single day of elementary school.  My mom and I lived with her until I was eight and after we moved out she would answer the phone in this particular cheerful voice asking, "How's our sweet girl?" every time I called.  She was the best.  She still is.  We just don't get to look at her and tell her so now.

Erasing that fakey cheerful stuff from the chalkboard last November was hard.  It's funny how your brain latches on to things and puts your sadness there. With each new month I would intend to write fun things but instead stand with the chalk in hesitation, mostly choosing generic words or drawings instead. A cat drawing stayed for many months, until yesterday when Alice brought it up.  "Why is that cat on there all the time?  It should be a turkey.  My school turkey needs a mommy and daddy."

Her school turkey was made out of her hand print, so at her insistence, we made a family out of handprints.

And then I went out to the garage and got last year's uneaten turkey out of the deep freeze and threw it in the garbage.

I am going to use my grandma's potato masher that now belongs to me and we are going to do this.  We will eat turkey and potatoes and dressing and I will hug my mom and kids and brothers and husband and be thankful, for real.



  1. The holidays are hard for me now too. My grandma passed away in February 2009. I miss her everyday. Her funeral was on my birthday. This year, it will be especially hard, because my aunt just lost her husband. It's funny how life keeps moving, even when your heart is in the past.

  2. I have a little wipe off calendar that lives on our refrigerator. It's a University of Florida calendar my mom bought me out of the discount bin at the grocery store when I was in high school. You can write in the date numbers each month and use it over and over again. The last time I filled it out was July/August of last year. It had a bunch of odds and ends and Violet's swim lessons and a trip my husband took out of town and a visit scheduled from a friend. It also had my husband's grandmother's birthday. It turned out to be her last birthday, and she died within the dates I wrote up there. I still can't bring myself to wipe it off. Fifteen months now I've seen it every time I open the refrigerator, and it puts me back in my head the day I filled it out. It's a silly thing, I know, but wiping it off seems like it will make her gone for real. I just want to keep pretending it's July 2010 before everything went crazy. I still haven't got back my footing.

    I'm sorry to have hijacked your comments, but this post really resonated with me. Maybe it's time I wipe that calendar off and fill it up with all the new hopes and things to come instead of being reminded of one of the worst months in our little family's recent history. I will be thinking of your family this week!

  3. you sweet girl, you made me cry. i wish i could take you out for something. a little latte and bin digging date would be nice. i bet our girls would have a total TIME together.

    i'm sending you a giant hug, and blowing some kisses up to heaven to your wonderful, beautiful grandmother.

    wishing you and your family a truly NICE thanksgiving.

    xoxoxo to you, erin.

  4. I know much of how you feel, of course not exactly, but my own variation.

    two years ago November 9th, which was my 31st birthday, additionally just a few days before I had Gage, my Grandma died. On my birthday.

    Since I was 39 weeks pregnant, I didn't get to go to her funeral in Michigan, I didn't get to fake celebrate Thanksgiving, we just skipped it.

    Sometimes, the calendar can just "go shove it" for telling me that I'm suppose to feel a particular way at a particular time.

  5. I am so sorry. I totally get it. My grandma died four years ago and it still feels like yesterday. Holidays are tough because there doesn't seem to be room for the sad or even regular feelings. I got your back! Hugs to you and your family!

  6. I love your family of Gobblers on the chalkboard. I've been thinking of you and your Mom a lot lately.

    Hopefully you have a couple (or perhaps a few) sweet little chefs to help you prepare your meal, to help with the season. I imagine they could go wild with that potato masher...

  7. We lost my grandpap last month. We went to my sister in law's baby shower, and when we came back, my dad had found him in the woods- dead. He had a bad heart- but we never did expect it. One minute so happy- the next minute- it can't be...

    So I guess what I'm saying is I know what you mean. And I hope in her memory you have an AWESOME Thanksgiving.

  8. I remember when you tweeted that your Grandma died last year. I remember because I knew how much she meant to you, what a beautiful lady she must have been, and my heart broke for you so much that it was like I knew her, too. It still breaks for you.

  9. did you know my grandma died a year ago today? it felt like yesterday because it was sunday. i still have lots of bad thanksgiving moments that need replacing now...

    i love you. <3

  10. I am so very sorry for your loss. I just lost my beloved grandmother not quite three weeks ago, and this Thanksgiving is going to feel not quite right. I'll be thinking of you.

  11. Oh that's unfortunate. I don't know why autocorrect made my name Afro.

    My sentiments are the same, tho. Hugs to you.


  12. I also cried while reading this post. my grandma is living with us right now. she is 94, so obviously it's not like we expect her to live forever, but still. she's sick, and it's hard. she's the only grandparent I ever really knew, and I can't imagine not having her around. but soon, she won't be and I feel like I want to prepare for it, but don't think that's really possible. so yeah.

    I hope you guys have a lovely, genuine, thanksgiving.

    hugs to you Erin!

  13. thinking of you this season ... i know she is watching over you and so proud of what you have accomplished in this year. xoxo

  14. i hadn't seen your new banner & pretty things. i like.

    this made me bawl, bawl, bawl. especially the picture of lovely sue.

    happy thanksgiving. enjoy.

  15. Big, big hugs to you. Wishing you an incredibly beautiful Thanksgiving.

  16. holidays.
    they are happy things.
    sometimes they are fake happy things because we think they aren't supposed to be only happy.
    but in reality, holidays are just that- real. It's gotta be a time when you can mourn those that have left us and you can be truly happy for those still around.

    So be truly happy, and be sad too. It's legal. Encouraged even.

    don't know you personally, but I love you just the same.

  17. typo- meant to say we think they ARE only supposed to be happy.

  18. Your grandma loved you so much and I am so sorry that's she is gone. It doesn't seem to make sense but as I'm learning, it's the things that don't make sense that force us to go to that next level of real.

  19. beautiful. what a sweet, precious post.
    thank you (so glad i found your blog!)

    hugs to you.

  20. This is so real. I hope Thanksgiving was wonderful, even though you miss her.

  21. Oh, honey. This made me cry. I'm sorry I've been absent. I'm still sorry about your grandma, one year later. You are a beautiful person, Erin. Miss you and our banter.


  22. Aw, honey.

    This is probably going to sound totally bizarre, but every year I get this anxiety that I'm going to lose somebody important to me around the holiday, and then I'll never be able to enjoy it again.

    Which I know is one of those crazy superstitious things that makes no logical sense. And, I'm sure the truth is that one day I WOULD be able to enjoy it again, but the idea of losing not only a loved one but also the enjoyment of the season surrounding their death just feels like such a double whammy. An imaginary one, for now.

    SO sorry about your grandma.

  23. Hello, I'm relatively new to your blog. Several posts drew me to your work, but in general, your voice is what keeps me here.

    Thank you for bringing so much of your authentic self to the surface in your writing. I hope that it serves as a catharsis for you because it certainly helps me to know that there are people like me (at least one) and that you are tipping your hand to give me just a little more confidence from shared experience.

    I am a retired journalist. My beloved mentor and father figure died the night/early morning after Easter dinner one year, leaving me his business to run in his absence with no warning.

    I won't begin to describe how his inexplicable death pulled out the rug — and the floor and the dirt and the earth — from under me and from under everyone around him. But I will share with you a great quote we kept above one of the workstations we shared during our years together.

    "Writing is easy,” said Red Smith. “You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Thank you for your selfless, honest bloodletting, Erin. Keep up the good work.

  24. Oh Erin. I am so terribly sorry for your loss. I know this feeling all too well as loss has been something that has sadly become expected for me. Your grandma sounds absolutely wonderful, amazing, perfect and like a peach. Everything a grandma should be. You are an amazingly strong woman, you really are. Bravo on your amazing Thanksgiving meal. You are a super mom. xoxo