Thanksgiving is coming. It is a holiday that is universally celebrated throughout the United States. It is a time for reconnecting with family, celebrating new additions, mourning losses, and eating foods that we have enjoyed since we first appeared on the planet. And, of course, eating until we become comatose and appreciating our good fortune.
Like most people, I love it all. But always a bit of an iconoclast, this year I am going to be a contrarian and list the things that I am not grateful for. I hope my readers will join me and let me know of their ingratitude.
So here is a partial list.
Mosquitos. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on Earth. Historically, the one of the greatest killers of our species, it continues to menace us. Last year, 725,000 people died, and millions more were sickened by the diseases carried by this unpleasant pest. Mosquitoes have caused more human suffering than any other scourge, according to the World Health Organization. The general consensus among demographers is that that mosquito-borne diseases have killed close to half of the 108 billion human beings that have ever lived on this planet, the majority of them young children. Mosquitos have even changed our DNA.
And they serve no useful purpose. Scientists have concluded that if the mosquito were eradicated it would have little impact because all species that eat mosquitoes also dine on other insects.
So, mosquito, you are number one on the things that I am least grateful for.
I know that our local snakes are a good thing. There is a very, very, very large black snake that resides in our neighborhood. Occasionally, I see him lounging across my brick porch step. He is so long, that I cannot see either his head or his tail, just this scaly, black, shiny, tube. He has never bothered me; his unfortunate appearance is his only crime. Yet, for being such a creepy creature, he makes my list. Number 2.
Death of a loved one (including pets)
When a beloved spouse or child or animal dies, it is devastating. Most of us say “everything happens for a reason,” just because we don’t know how to explain such a tragic loss. But I refuse to believe in a supreme being who chooses to inflict insufferable pain upon us. So, these losses are the most impactful on my ingratitude list.
I am a relatively mild mannered person; the first to help someone cross the street, adding $5 to the round up donation at the local supermarket or pharmacy. But get me in traffic, and I become unrecognizable. Filled with expletives (fortunately, rarely voiced), looking for someone to blame, I can make any passenger wish they had never decided to ride with me. And sadly, it is hard for me to acknowledge that this person exists inside of me. Not a proud moment, so it belongs on my “not grateful” list.
I love them when they are attached to a tree. Especially when they first appear in the spring. But in the fall, they become my nemesis. Trying to rid my property of them is a futile task. Despite working for hours in the yard, overnight they reappear, mocking my hard work. They taunt me, as do the squirrels who try to drop acorns on my head while I am trying to do the impossible. (I know that it is deliberate, you guys, and that is just mean!) So autumn leaves, congrats, you have the made the list.
You might know this. It is the way occasional waiters look at you when you ask for your food, medium well or worse. I have had more than one chef leave the kitchen to tell me that he refuses to prepare the meal in this fashion. Although I don’t need to justify my choices, having suffered through salmonella and e-coli, I do not choose a repeat. So, sorry, not sorry.
When I was young, I could eat everything. Now I can eat nothing. Each bite includes the question, should I? I am reduced to rabbit status. I haven’t had a hot fudge sundae in decades, nor cotton candy, nor other delectable desserts. When I transgress, there is always a price to be paid.
Eating becomes an effort to talk myself into liking fewer desirable foods, while yearning for the others.
But, this holiday, we are freed from our diet jail. Thanksgiving is a time of caloric excess!
So, I guess that I am grateful after all.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.