I Am Thankful

For the second year in a row, I find myself outside of the United States for the Thanksgiving holiday. Feeling that you should be celebrating something that doesn’t register to anyone around you is a strange experience. Here in Paris, today is just another Thursday. There is no scent of roasting turkey, nor aroma of cinnamonny pumpkin pie wafting through the halls of the building where I have rented a studio, and there is no run on cranberries at the grocer. I did not cook an elaborate meal. Apart from picking up my favorite food–potato chips–an extra large beer, and a dessert I have been eyeing for weeks at my corner patisserie, I hadn’t planned on marking the day in any special way. But, as I smoked a cigarette while gazing down at the busy Rue Bobillot last night, I realized I have a lot to be thankful for this year, and I wanted to take the time, absent a feast and holiday cocktails, to express that. Here goes.

With my parents at my PhD graduation this spring.

I am thankful that my parents, Lucille and Bruce Cole, have worked hard since the day I was born to provide a nice life for me and my sister, Amy. I am thankful that they took us to art, music, gymnastics, dance, and skiing classes while we were growing up, and for the all the hikes, camping trips, and bike rides in the beautiful woods of New Hampshire. I am thankful for all the times my dad took a day off of work to go on a school trip with me and my classmates, that he was considered the “cool” dad, and that he goaded me into skiing hills I was afraid to ski and jumping from on high into frigid mountain swimming holes. I am thankful that my mom instilled in me a deep appreciation for a day at the beach, taught me the superiority of home-made pop corn, and that she listened when I told her it was time for me to start the birth control pill.

I am thankful that my parents supported me when I chose to go to Pomona College, even though they thought that the University of New Hampshire was the smart choice, and that they never faltered when I needed help putting myself through seven years of graduate school. I am thankful that they have learned to be friends after weathering a painful divorce, and for all that they do to help my sister raise her daughter, even though they have already raised two kids of their own. I am thankful that they helped me throw a wonderful party to celebrate the completion of my doctorate this spring, and that they support my wacky decision to pursue public as opposed to academic sociology. I am thankful that despite all that they have already done for me, they just made the down payment on a rental in Claremont, California, so that I will have a place to live when I move there in a month.

Grace at age six.

I am thankful for my sister Amy Marie Cole, who has shared all but eighteen months of my life with me. I am thankful that despite how much I harassed her when we were kids, she still loves me. I am thankful that we have become adults together, and that she gave birth to Grace Annette Cole on January 26, 2005. I am thankful for all the love I have received from this wonderful child since that day, and for the wicked entertainment and intense joy she has brought to our family.

With my grandparents in New Hampshire. Photo by Lisa Dugan-Thiel.

I am thankful for every day that my grandparents, Arthur and Thérèse Lambert, are alive on this earth. I am thankful that they taught me how to play a litany of card games, most importantly, cribbage. I am thankful that my mémère “Minnie,” a champion bowler, humors my desire to play with her and is never embarrassed by my terrible performance, and that she sometimes take me as her date to the bingo hall. I am thankful that my pépère walked with me to Blake’s for bubble-gum ice cream cones, took me to the fishing derby when I was a kid, and that he is a great conversationalist on the telephone.

With Tonya Gil at my graduation party in Santa Barbara. Photo by Lisa Dugan-Thiel.

I am thankful that digital technology keeps me connected to all the members of my extended family, who I do not see nearly as much as I would like. I am thankful for Lisa Dugan-Thiel for giving me my middle name, and for accompanying my mom to Santa Barbara for my graduation. I am thankful for Tonya Gil for being a loving, generous, and fun neighbor, friend, cook, bartender, and surrogate West Coast mama.

I am thankful for seven years of tutelage under and friendship with Jon Cruz, who perhaps single-handedly kept me grounded and focused on my passions while in graduate school, and who showed me that an academic job is not equivalent to a life. I am thankful for the guidance and helpful criticism of Richard Appelbaum, William Robinson, and Fernando Lopez-Alves. They pushed me to make my dissertation the best it could be. I am thankful that though I was never his student, John Foran has emerged as an enthusiastic supporter of my post-grad school career, and an admirable mentor of public sociology.

Feliz Ventura and Andrew Chamberlain. Photo by author.

I am thankful that Feliz Ventura gets very upset when she believes I have suffered an injustice, and that Andrew Chamberlain would do anything in the world to guarantee her happiness, and that together, they are greater than the sum of their parts. I am thankful that Alison Crossley decided that we should be friends after we first met at a graduate student barbecue five years ago, that she introduced me to the wondrous urban hikes of the Santa Barbara Riviera, and that she kept me focused on enjoying life while in graduate school. I am thankful that Tim Kelso ensures her happiness, and thereby, mine.

Jonathan Cote in the park in Santa Barbara. Photo by author.

I am thankful that Brooke Neely and I found ourselves in the same cohort of incoming sociology graduate students, and that her friendship came with that of Nicholas Dupuis. I am thankful that Jonathan Cote and I were placed in the same Home Room in seventh grade, and that nearly twenty years later, he has made sure that I will not spend Christmas alone by booking a trip to Belgium. I am thankful that Jamila Jamison Sinlao consistently pushes my fashion limits with her daring and creative choices, and that she was there for me when I really needed a friend this year. I am thankful to be able to call Darwin Bond-Graham a friend, and that he has pushed me since the day we met to be my most radically questioning self. I am thankful for the friendship and mentorship of Mary Ingram-Waters, and for how she challenges traditional notions of wife and mother everyday.

Anne Gibson and Tina Warinner visiting me in Wadenswil, Switzerland. Photo by author.

I am thankful that Lauren Alfrey and J.R. Atwood, Chandra Russo and Andy Pattison, and Sarah Rios made the effort to become friends to me, even though they knew I was scheduled to leave Santa Barbara within a few months’ time. I am thankful that Monika Moore is looking after my beloved bicycle while I live a nomadic lifestyle, and that I can count on her to help me set up a home when I return to California. I am thankful for the friendship, hospitality, and companionship of Anne Gibson and Tina Warinner, and that Saskia Lourens and Alex Van Venrooij once again welcomed me into their home in Amsterdam, and showed me a really lovely time. I am thankful to have so many wonderful and caring friends, that there is no “best” among them.

I am thankful for Sophie Loire, who assumed care of my beloved feline friend, Bandit, when I left Santa Barbara, and for the meals, drinks, conversations and laughs shared with all the inhabitants of 1415 de la Vina street. I am thankful that Hung Thai did not give up on twisting my arm until I agreed to teach at Pomona College this spring, and that in a month, I will return to a place where I came of age, and for which I have nothing but fondness and appreciation.

I am thankful that people are taking the time to read this blog, and care enough about the ideas expressed to join the conversation, and to share it with others. I am thankful for the opportunity to write given to me by Conducive Magazine and Imagined Magazine, to Nita Mathur for giving a chapter of the book she is editing to me and my research, and that Chad Morton sees the value of a sociological perspective on the work of the Direct Trade Coffee Club. I am thankful for the people who are brave and selfless enough to rent space in their homes to a stranger, and for the people who have traded me lodging for pet-sitting in Switzerland and Belgium. I am thankful for Vanessa and Natalie Kettner, Sabine Bognon, and Nadia Bouhdili for taking the time the make an American in Paris feel welcome, and for their newfound friendship.

Veterans protect protesters from police at Occupy Oakland. Photo from Google Images.

I am thankful for those who have occupied spaces across the United States and the world, risking their safety and their jobs, to defend human rights and civil liberties. I am thankful for members and veterans of the armed forces who have joined the movement, and at times protected protesters from threat of police violence. I am thankful for the government officials who resigned their posts in protest of state abuse of citizens, and for politicians who value the good of the people over election funding. I am thankful for the governors who have halted the death penalty in their states, and for the people who are pressing for prison reform across the nation.

I am thankful that I have benefited from a bounty of public resources this year–education, libraries, transport, bathrooms, parks, beaches, oceans, mountains, museums, radio, television, and the internet–and I am thankful that there are many people who are not going to let them be quietly privatized. I am thankful for the staff of Democracy Now for bringing the people’s news to the global airwaves everyday.

I am thankful that despite all the abuses of power and greed, and the pain and suffering in the world, that I still believe that I, in concert with others, have the power to change it. I am thankful that there is so much for which to be thankful. What are you thankful for this year?

4 thoughts on “I Am Thankful”

  1. wow. this is one of the most thoughtful, personal “i am thankful” messages i have read. it has been a great reminder to me to not only look on the macro level, as i have a tendency to do, but to reminisce on the micro level and enjoy all the memories.

    maybe this is what the ancients were referring to when they told of being “born again”. that flash of an instant when a memory of a loved one appears, and for a brief moment, they are resurrected in our minds. or even in the movements of our everyday actions where we use the learning that has been passed down from previous generations…the way i shake a hand was taught to me by my mothers father, probably passed down from his uncle, who took care of him after his father died when he was young. the way i curiously raise one eyebrow while lowering the other and tilting my chin down when questioning my children was given to me by my father, whos father did it before him, and passed this tradition down to my father and his brothers and sisters. the inside joke i continue to use in every day conversations that only my best friend from growing up would understand. the question i continually ask myself, “and how does this matter?” was given to me by a professor that taught me to question my actions.

    nicki, i am thankful for you too, for helping me understand my world, my history, and how i can be better at becoming a better me. i appreciate your divine-ness that continually resurrects itself within me when i need to push myself to pursue my passions and think deeper and bigger.

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