“When we exist without thought or thanksgiving we are not men, but beasts.” So said M.F.K. Fisher in How to Cook a Wolf. I quoted her words in this space six years ago, and they are as true now as they were then, or in 1942, when Fisher wrote them. Today Mrs. T and I are preparing to go to her sister’s house in Connecticut, there to sit at a groaning table and eat to our hearts’ content. We are lucky and we are grateful–for the meal, for those with whom we’ll share it, for one another. Spouses who come together in middle age don’t take their good fortune for granted.
I’ve been favored by fortune my whole life long, which isn’t to say that I haven’t stepped in my fair share of potholes. Six years ago I ate my Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, thinking dark thoughts as I dined, and a few short weeks later I was carried out of my apartment on a stretcher, wondering if I’d ever see it again. Not only did I make it back home in one piece, but I found my true love along the way. And even on the darkest of days I wasn’t alone: I’ve always been surrounded by friends, and they’ve never failed to come when I called.
Unlike many, perhaps most folk, I earn my living doing something that gives me pleasure, and I don’t take that for granted, either. I get paid to write about the plays of Shakespeare and Chekhov and Brian Friel and the music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. How lucky can you get? That I also have to write about significantly less worthy things from time to time is surely the smallest of prices to pay for such a privilege (though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it!).
As if all that bounty weren’t enough, I wrote my first play and saw it performed in the year just past, an experience so unforeseen that I still have trouble believing that it really happened. I hope to see Satchmo at the Waldorf performed again before too much time goes by, and I also hope that other plays of mine (I’ve written two more since finishing Satchmo at the Waldorf) will someday make it to the stage. But even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll still be farther ahead of the game than I ever dreamed.
Nobody’s luck holds forever, but when hard times come again–as they surely will–I hope I’ll be warmed by the memory of how I feel today.
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The finale of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, as performed in 2008 by Raul Esparza and the members of the original Broadway cast of John Doyle’s production: