As soon as Halloween ends, the clock starts ticking in my head for the ‘holiday season’, a cascade of culturally significant events that always trigger me to reflect on my relationship with my family.

In short, it’s not the most positive family dynamic and I’ve found it better for everyone if I keep my distance instead of continuing to pick at the wounds of the past.

But Thanksgiving is here and the spirit of the holiday itself demands gratitude, so I thought I’d muster up some gratefulness and send it in the general direction of my parents, who firmly set their intentions a long time ago to give me everything they never had and propel me into a stable, self-sufficient adult life.

Without further ado, below is the letter I sent to my Mom for Thanksgiving.

To the woman who insists on being called Mommy (but never Mom, Mother, or Ma):

I wanted to show how thankful I am for the things you may not think I remember…

Thanks Mom - Thanksgiving - Exercising Gratitude

Thank you for leaving your whole life behind and moving us across the country just to ensure I’d be safe.

Thank you for always speaking to me like an adult, even as a child.

Thank you for all the birthday parties you threw me and for making a big deal out of Christmas and Easter even though we weren’t religious.

Thank you for telling me that I was so smart and beautiful and everyone else was just jealous.

Thank you for reading to me before bed at night when I was little.

Thank you for being honest with me when I finally noticed my last name was different than you and Dad’s.

Thank you for spending hours combing through my hair to treat me for lice so we wouldn’t have to cut it all off (even though ultimately, we did have to.)

Thank you for working really, really hard just so I could grow up in a house with a yard in a nice area.

Thank you for teaching me to never start fights, but always to finish them.

Thank you for teaching me that I need not feel pressured to give hugs to strangers – That I am in full control of my body.

Thank you for always making sure we had a well-stocked kitchen and a clean home.

Thanks for never forcing religion on me.

Thank you for teaching me that “It hurts to be beautiful.”

Thanks for teaching me to always put on my seatbelt – It’s totally automatic now.

Thank you for letting me play dress-up with your clothes and taking my picture – This is still one of my favorite things to do!

Playing Dress-Up with Mom's Clothes

Thanks for threatening to “sell me to the gypsies” so I could learn to act right in public.

Thank you for letting me and my friends stick our heads out the sunroof in the car and blast the music to piss off the neighbors.

Thank you for letting me collect Barbie dolls AND Hot Wheels (even if you didn’t ‘get’ the whole tomboy thing.)

Thank you for getting me the Nintendo 64 when it first came out, I’m sure it was expensive (but oh my god, I loved that thing.)

Thank you for teaching me to ride a bicycle without training wheels for the first time.

Thank you for letting me start shaving my legs above the knee even though you strongly disagreed with it.

Thank you for taking my night terrors seriously; buying night lights, checking to see if I was still awake, and letting me spend the night with you if I was too scared to sleep.

Thank you for incentivizing me to get good grades by promising me a little gift for each good progress report.

Thank you for telling me from a very young age that “I was going to college and there’s nothing I could do about it.”

Thanksgiving - Thanks Mom for Making Me Go To College

Thank you for all the times you took me to Disney, MGM, Universal, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens.

Thank you for teaching me to take no shit from anyone, ever.

Thank you for letting me use your treadmill when I was too insecure to exercise in front of other people.

Thank you for taking me (and Dad) swimming with dolphins – I always regretted that you didn’t get to do it with us.

Thank you for always taking my side at school and putting my shitty teachers in their place – I still smile when I imagine the how that meeting between you and Ms. Tanksley went.

Thank you for letting me get my belly-button pierced when I was 15 (I think?) though you’ll be pleased to know I haven’t worn it in years.

Thank you for tolerating my goth phase. (It wasn’t so bad, was it?)

Thank you for opening up and sharing your past with me so I could try to understand your struggles growing up.

Thank you for letting me come to my own conclusions about the toxic people in my life – You were right, OK dammit?

But most of all, thank you for showing me what it means to always keep fighting, no matter how hard life gets –

Because of you, I know how to always bounce back when life inevitably kicks my ass.

NEXT: Read the thank-you letter I sent to my Dad.

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