Welcome to Malu & You, a weekly newsletter where I share my unfiltered and intimate ways of living life on the front lines as a journalist, mom, and compañera.
*Every commercial American holiday is an opportunity to critique the history of this country and the way it’s been taught. Thanksgiving is rooted in genocide and colonialism. As best said by Courtney YellowWolf Wilson (@courtyellowwolf on IG): “Non-Native communities must acknowledge that their ways of celebrating Thanksgiving have often been a distortion of history and the erasure of trauma.”
I hope you are all having a relaxing, loving, and thought filled week. I wanted to give you a few snippets of what I’m thinking about during this time off before I truly disconnect to be with my fam. I encourage you all to do the same 💞!
WHAT I’M GRATEFUL FOR
I am so grateful to be alive and healthy. After surviving Covid, I give thanks everyday for my breath and for the health of my family. I think we all have different relationships with the word and the profound concept of gratitude after surviving the last five years.
Gratitude is one of the principal reasons I meditate. In the silence, I am able to sit and be thankful. Sometimes that silence leads to tears for what I have lost. And I let them come, but also move forward with gratitude in their memory.
WHAT I'M MISSING
I miss my big ol’ Mexican Thanksgiving feasts: our extended family and close friends used to gather every year for Thanksgiving at my parents’ apartment in Chicago. That apartment was my home. It’s where my siblings and I grew up and where my parents lived for a total of 40 years. At the height of these gatherings over the decades, up to 20 to 30 people would show up! Mom made all the preparations look easy, even after spending two full days in the kitchen. We always started the night with her homemade margaritas.
But since 2015 when my dad passed away from Alzheimer's, mom has been spending more time in Mexico each fall. She’ll protest: “Who wants to fly back to freezing Chicago in November?” We have found time together with summer family reunions and taquizas on the South Side, but there will always be something different about these holiday gatherings now that mom isn’t at the center of it all. I miss that.
WHAT I COOK AND WHY
My family likes to poke fun at me by claiming I don’t like to cook, or that I don’t know how to cook. Only one of those statements is true. I do know how to cook, but it's true that I don’t like to cook. I actually dislike being in the kitchen unless I am making a special meal, like seafood lasagna for my husband on his birthday.
But against all odds, I really do love cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving. It probably has to do with becoming more like my mom as I get older. I am more competitive with myself every year: How can I make this year’s feast better? How close can I get my meals to taste like mom’s? And each passing year I’ve gotten better at meeting the match. My turkey is delicious even if it’s just for me and my son to enjoy (my husband is a pescatarian and my daughter is vegan). So at the grocery store, you’ll find me buying the smallest turkey there jajaja 😂
MARIA THE LUMBERJACK
I love to play with wood and fire. As you may know from Once I Was You, we have a teeny cottage in Connecticut and it has a fireplace. If you asked me what a cord of wood was a few years back, I’d probably stare at you blankly. Fast forward to today, I know a hell of a lot about how to stock chopped wood, the best times to get it, and who to buy it from.
I love filling our wheelbarrow, rolling it down to our door, flipping it over, and watching as the logs tumble out. I love feeling like I can handle the heavy weight. I love wearing the leather gloves and feeling like a lumberjack. I love making the fire and readjusting the logs to keep it alive. It’s my happy place.
A NEW TRADITION
My daughter and I go hiking as much as we can, and we’ve slowly started bringing along my son and husband. But this year, like last, we will make an effort to walk in the woods as much as we can. It’s called “forest bathing”. It feels liberating to focus on one thing, like one step at a time, or hearing the call of a woodpecker and trying to find where the sound is coming from.
I remember when I saw a powerful santero babalawo (an initiated priest) in Havana in the early 1990’s. He told me, “You have to open your eyes.” While I didn’t understand him at the time, what he was trying to tell me was to learn to trust myself, and my voice. In the silence of the woods I’ve learned to act on this, trusting myself to know my path. In the woods, there’s no other option but to have my eyes wide open.
My loved ones laugh at me for the way I find spiritual meaning in the most mundane occurrences. A hawk soaring overhead. A specific song coming on the radio. A certain book finding its way back into my life. How a walk in the woods is much more than just that. A fire crackling on wooden logs speaks to us. The food we share means more because we are together.
And gratitude is a way of life.
**As many of you celebrate this week, I hope you take the time to find out which Indingenous land you are on and their treaty rights: https://native-land.ca