YearHere-Thomson-v4c copy

“You’re different,” said Anat Baniel, the guru behind San Rafael, California’s Anat Baniel Method, when we visited yesterday. We’ve been coming here for therapy for years now, on the suggestion of multiple friends in San Francisco, all of whom have run across Liz Preuitt (of Tartine fame) and her family, who also have also used the method with their daughter.

“When you first came, you were more stressed out,” she continued, looking straight at me in her unnerving way. “Now, it’s like you’re calm. Like you got something out of your system.”

“I did, I guess,” I said hesitantly. Going to Graham’s therapy was his realm, not mine, and I wasn’t sure whether I should mention the book. But I did. “I wrote a book about it. That helped.” She wanted to know everything.

“Anyway, it’s good to see,” she said, stopping the infinitesimally small movements she was performing on Graham’s spine. Keep going, I thought. I’m not paying you hundreds of dollars to look at me. “Things change, you know. I see it all the time. Parents change.”

I was quiet, willing her to continue working on Graham’s back. As she moved again, her words sunk in. Things do change. And sometimes, it takes an outsider to notice them.

I am, in a word, Jew-ish. I have a good Jewish nose and I can pick the skin off a chicken with the best of them, but I am not religious. There are, however, parts of Jewish traditions that resonate deeply with me. Every Passover, that means matzo ball soup, and the concept of dayenu. The first you know. The second is technically a thousands-of-years-old song—one whose Hebrew words and tune are completely unfamiliar to me—whose words translate roughly to “it would have been enough.” Literally, in a nutshell, it thanks God for all he’s done for the Jews. But the spirit of it, in my atheist mind—the part I take with me each year—is simply being thankful for what you have. And this year, I have a lot to be thankful for.

It would have been enough, I think, if A Year Right Here had been published at all. It would have been enough if my dear friend Hannah Viano had created such a beautiful paper-cut image for the cover. It would have been enough if I’d just gotten to read at my local bookstore. And of course, it would have been enough if Graham had just been Graham, even if he hadn’t learned to walk, and if I didn’t now notice, after a week of twice-daily therapy, that he’s starting to walk heel-toe, instead of plodding each foot onto the earth like I imagine the dinosaurs used to walk. But there’s been so much more, this year, that this spring really does feel new and alive in a different way.

It feels like rebirth for many reasons: Because today, a story I was once afraid to tell is out in the world, in a form I am very much proud of. Because today, our little family is happy and healthy, even when some of us have work that carries us outside Seattle. And because this week, as Graham turned 8, he walked independently across a street, without a hand to hold, in his neon orange New Balance kicks.

And somehow, all that has been letting me make my own changes. This is my last post here. Soon, Hogwash will live in the archives of my own personal writing website, where favorite recipes like nettle pesto and caramelized rhubarb jam (and old posts) will still be accessible. It’s been 11 years since I started writing here. There’s still more to write, of course. (There’s always more.) But this—here—was enough.

I’ll leave you not with a recipe, but with a text I look forward to every single year: my brother’s Haggadah. Traditionally, it’s a guide to thankfulness, but as you know, he rewrites the classic for a pithy, political, sometimes off-color take on the Exodus story. This year, as you might imagine, it’s funny as hell.

The Uncle Josh Haggadah Project (2017)


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15 responses to “Dayenu

  1. Kathy gunst

    Love you. Live all of this.

  2. Kathy gunst

    Love all of this.

  3. Wendy

    Will miss you “here”! Excellent writings today….😊

  4. Leontine

    Thanks,Jess, for sharing. I really enjoy your writing and your story.

  5. Rosie Shapiro

    Jess thank you for this. This year especially. Very heart warming. Have a happy holiday. Love to Jim and Graham.

  6. s*

    Oh my goodness, it’s here! A Year Right Here! Congratulations!

    Oh, I will miss your posts, but I am so happy for you! I think of you often. Thank you for sharing all the sharing you do.

    Here’s to the continuing evolution of it all.

  7. You will be missed, so many of the old voices moving on.

  8. Rachel Horwitz

    well, I ordered your book from the Sno-Isle library. I also am copying your bother’s Haggadah. It’s a really good one. thank you for that.

  9. I just finished reading A Year Right Here, and I loved it. I’ve not read any of your work before, so this was my first introduction to your voice, your style. Your book was very moving, and funny and honest. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to share with you this study published in the medical journal, The Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, with cases of patients who were treated for years with lupus but who in fact turned out to have gluten sensitivity. It made a huge difference for me, and had a doctor not told me about this, I never would have made the connection. “Abstract Case reports: Three patients are described whose original presentation and immunological profile led to the erroneous diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. The correct diagnosis of gluten sensitivity was made after years of treatment with steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs” . Good luck. And thanks for your wonderful writing.

  10. Sonja

    Oh no…. this always seems to be the way for me, a child who always came to things slowly, that just as I discover you, you are gone to somewhere else. I still have all the old posts to read (lucky me), and your book too, of course. Good luck with where you go from here.

  11. You have given such a wonderful gift to your readers. Thank you. Best always to you and all of your family, especially to Graham and Uncle Josh.

  12. Chris

    I just finished reading the book, and so many points resonated to me as a parent of an almost thirty year old with developmental disabilities (plus a genetic heart condition that required open heart surgery, also done in another state – not our favored type of vacation).

    The part about going to the grocery story and Graham actually finding ways to navigate to get, hold and put the groceries in the cart was lovely. Especially when his stick was not touching the floor and he was standing on his own. That was one of the “normal child” moments that make us parents not overtly make a big deal out of it (especially in public), but in our imagination are doing high fives and celebrating.

    Ah, the food! I grew up with a dad who lived in Yakima during the Depression. He started cooking at the age of eight when his parents divorced and he refused to be with his mother. He also joined the Army during the last months of WWII, which became his career (even after getting a linguistics degree from WSU on the GI Bill). Assignments in Asia and South America excited his foody self (due to him being an “advisor” in Vietnam in the early 1960s, I learned how to use chopsticks when I was in third grade).

    He claimed to have taught two wives how to cook.

    Plus one daughter. I made angel food cakes with actual egg whites. In fact making three Boston Cream pies with four egg yokes was how one angel food cake was created. I made whipped cream from heavy cream, and learned around the time I was eight years old that if you did it wrong it became butter.

    I was given lots of freedom in the kitchen as a kid. If I made a horrible mistake, my dad would explain carefully what I did wrong and why. This is how I learned to not to put make chocolate 7-minute frosting due to the fat in the melted chocolate (egg whites deflate when they encounter fat), and that the leavening in baking soda/powder is time limited, which is why you want to mix the dry ingredients in and get it into the oven quickly for muffins.

    Then I met the guy I married. Le sigh… it was with then I was introduced to “Cool Whip”, which as far as I am concerned is more like whipped American cheese. Yikes! Oh, and don’t get me started on the Dutch bit where his grandparents’ recipes start with “first melt half a kilo of butter.” Anyway, dear hubby copied the recipes of his favorite meals from his mother (turns out what was written was not was actually done, it took almost twenty years to find out she turned the oven down 200 degrees when she applied the brown sugar glace on the ham!).

    But then I tried her barbecued meatball recipe, I was not a novice, I followed the hand written instructions… but dear 22 year old hubby said: “My mom makes it better than this.” Okay, darling it is now your job to make it! Which is how he actually became a cook, and we have been cooking together for almost forty years.

  13. I can totally relate to this post! Appreciate the everyday doses of posts

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