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Life After Trauma

Conjuring hope and defiance a year after the fires

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The New Thanksgiving

One year after the Tubbs fire, it would be too easy for a lot of us in Sonoma County to feel sad this week. Everything from the newspapers to the Kaiser wellness groups I attend say that we're going to be blue. No one would blame us for frowning, crying or being short with others.

Instead, I think we in Sonoma County should make Oct. 9 a New Thanksgiving. If you think it's strange to feel thankful today, let me take you back to some of North America's first English settlers. No, they weren't the Pilgrims you learned about in elementary school, but the men and women who founded the Jamestown colony.

The Jamestown colonists arrived in present-day Virginia in 1607. The place they chose, though far away from Native American tribes, had unfarmable land, undrinkable water, lots of mosquitos and drought. To add insult to injury, a hurricane took out a resupply mission intended to arrive in 1609.

And you thought Matt Damon had it rough in The Martian.

The majority of the colonists died during the winter of 1609–10, a period known as the "Starving Time." It got so bad that a few of the deceased went on the menu. But more ships came, and the survivors rejoiced. Though no official record exists, I do not doubt that they had a feast to mark the occasion and give thanks.

So, Thanksgiving has as much to do about overcoming hardship as it does about being thankful. Even the Pilgrims who celebrated the official first Thanksgiving had plenty of obstacles to overcome before they sat down at the dinner table in 1621.

So today, on the first anniversary of the Tubbs fire, I want to give thanks for what I have.

In no particular order, I am thankful for the roof over my head; my warm bed; the first sip of coffee in the morning; my laptop; my supportive parents; my growing freelance writing business; my latest short story to appear in a literary journal; going to Russia earlier this year and getting paid to drink beer there; Temptation on tap and chicken wings at the Russian River Brewing Co.; my extended family; getting out on my own again early next year (anyone have an open granny unit?); the beautiful weather; the ocean; the golden hills; In-N-Out; getting up when I want to every morning; the fact that today I'm hanging out with my best friend, whom I haven't seen in four years; getting a check in the mail; Dillon Beach; Tomales Bay; Bodega Bay; Ramen Gaijin; Hana Sushi; caring for a family friend with Alzheimer's; scratch-off Lotto tickets; cobalt-blue skies; the winter rain; the 3pm Petaluma wind; my health; knowing how to cook; tax deductions; Obamacare; Treehorn Books; Point Reyes Books; taking power walks every morning; studying abroad in college; teaching at-risk teenagers for four years; earning my master's degree; doing what I love for a living; and still having the wonderful memories of the things the Tubbs fire stole from me.

To honor my list, I resolve to imbue this and all future Oct. 9ths with a spirit of Thanksgiving. As you break bread with friends and family this week, it is my sincerest hope that this sentiment fills your heart as well.

Happy New Thanksgiving, Sonoma County.

—Thomas Broderick

Thomas Broderick lost his Coffey Park home to the inferno.


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