by Matt Walsh
I always wanted to be an artist. Maybe a poet or a painter or a musician. I used to be passably skilled with a colored pencil, at least. I know you remember. You have elementary school drawings from all six of your kids still hanging in the dining room.
And, for 20 years now, the siblings have argued over whose drawing is the best. I still say that my flower sketch demonstrates a certain skill and artistic sensibility that none of the others could possibly match. You’ve never taken a side in this decades-long war, but every time this debate erupts, I can feel the vibes coming from you, saying, “Matt’s picture is by far superior to the hideous abominations my other children tragically vomited onto pieces of white construction paper.” I’m paraphrasing your vibes, but that’s the gist.
In any case, despite my promising early career, I never became much of an artist. That’s a shame, because artists have the ability to take enormous things – deep, immeasurable, infinite things – capture them and translate them into something tangible and comprehensible.
I do not have that ability. So I sit here, attempting to take on the simple but colossal task of saying ‘thank you,’ and I know that however I say it, and for whatever things I express my gratitude, it will be only a small, dim shadow of the ‘thank you’ that you deserve to hear.
I can only mutter it in my own clumsy, insufficient way – but clumsy and insufficient is better than saying nothing at all.
So, here goes:
Thank you for never getting that bigger house or those nicer cars. Thank you for never taking us to Disney World. Thank you for never buying me the latest video game system. Thank you for a humble life – a life of hand-me-down clothes and beat up Astro passenger vans and six kids crammed into three bedrooms – because you and Dad had different priorities . Thank you, because you had six kids, and you stayed home to raise us – to be there for us, to teach us, to mold us, to love us, to discipline us — and that meant less Happy Meals and fancy toys, but more life, more joy, more love.
Thank you for enduring our lack of gratitude.
Thank you for making us snacks when we came home from school.
Thank you for packing our lunches and making us home cooked meals for dinner.
Thank you for seeing to it that we ate dinner as a family — always at the table, never in front of the TV.
Thank you for sitting there and listening to us tell horrendously boring stories about our adventures in gym class and recess.
Thank you for encouraging us to think. Thank you for asking about our views and our ideas, and teaching us to how express them.
Thank you for making sure that we had opinions about the important things, and were never afraid to voice them. This was very positive and important, but of course now you and Dad share the blame for the fact that every family gathering turns into a loud debate about some topic or another.
Last Christmas, someone mentioned The Little Mermaid, and next thing you know, an hour-long argument erupted over whether or not it would be morally acceptable for a man to actually fall in love with a woman who is partially a fish. I said no, and I was right, of course. Partial bestiality is still bestiality.
Thank you for teaching us how to question the culture. Thank you for showing us how to stand up for the truth.
Thank you for telling us that we would never be in trouble at home if we got in trouble at school for standing up for what’s right.
Thank you for only having one TV for 8 people, which forced us to find other things to do — like read books and play games.
Thank you for buying me the whole Dr. Seuss anthology when I was five years old. Green Eggs and Ham is still, for my money, the greatest piece of literature ever written.
Thank you for the family game nights.
Thank you for the family movie nights.
Thank you for cleaning the vomit out of my Halloween mask that one year when I got sick while trick-or-treating.
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for teaching us responsibility by making us walk to school if we missed the bus.