Long ago when Middle Child and I lived far apart and were both in the Slough of Despond we concluded that a large part of our emotional landscape was determined by the way we were using our minds. Badly we thought. Too much time spent reviewing the low points of our lives. Other people's lives too for that matter. To change that we began a practice of emailing each other lists of Ten Thankfuls. These items for which we expressed thankfulness did not have to be profound, they did not have to be expressed poetically or even spell-checked. There just had to be ten of them. It cheered us up mightily to realize how many darn things there are to be thankful for even in a fairly mundane life.
Even longer ago, when I was practicing a rigorous single-mom-no-money lifestyle three offspring still at home and I began on Thanksgiving week to write down a list of things we were thankful for. In those long ago days computer paper came in one piece, extremely long and perforated at 11 inch intervals. We used colorful markers and wrote in one inch letters, adding items as they occurred to us. Between Sunday night and Thanksgiving morning we had filled 27 pages.
There is always something to be thankful for.
To help myself remember this I'm going to put down ten things I'm thankful for here, and then by dedication, coercion or brute force I'm going to make another list of ten ever Thursday.
1-I'm thankful for a warm cozy house. This house is not of my doing. The Manimal built it twenty-some years ago, raised his family here. I'm a newcomer, having been here only three years or so. It wasn't my imagination that dreamed up this place, or my money that bought the beams and boards, the tiles and nails. It wasn't my hard work that put them together. The Manimal and his family and friends did all that. When I fell unexpectedly in love with him this safe home was already an existing thing, all I had to do was pack my little bags and carry them in. That is an amazing blessing.
2-I am thankful for firewood. We heat with wood here in the forest. There are stacks and stacks of it on the porch, and more yet at the end of the driveway. Stacks of firewood are not a pre-existing thing. We work hard. The Manimal is a deft hand with a chainsaw and a splitter. I am reasonably good at carrying and stacking once the logs are made into stove-sized (and therefore Rapunzel-sized) pieces. We have friends and family who sometimes volunteer to "help get wood". When I sit by the fire to stitch I think of all the work that brings us warmth, and of the 17 acres of trees here that allow us to not worry much about what the gas company or the coal people get up to.
3- I am thankful for Everything But Money. OK, I'm not thankful for everything in the world except money. There are things in the world I'm not actually thankful for. And I AM thankful for money when I have some, and thankful that other people have it and that it is a useful means of exchanging work ands so on. What I am referring to here is the overall richness of life. When I was a child I asked my father if we were rich, and he said Yes we were very rich. We had everything but money. Now, fifty years hence, I've had times of being flat broke, and times of having enough cash to literally buy anything I wanted, but it's always been the things other than money that have made my life rich.
4-I am thankful for Orphan Thanksgiving. Somewhere in New Orleans my Tiniest Child and her dashing husband are celebrating this day with friends who also have no family nearby. They call it Orphan Thanksgiving. I love knowing my far-away children have the wits and the good hearts to create a family of their own design and celebrate life and love and goodness without me having to personally be there to orchestrate it all for them.
Particularly since my four offspring are in four separate cities nowhere near each other. I rest assured my happy orphans are enjoying plenty of Food, Glorious Food. Probably singing about it, too.
5-I am thankful for Carrots and Celery. As a kid I attended a lot of church suppers, family reunions, and holiday feasts of various descriptions. There is never any telling what kind of strange dishes, pots and casseroles of heaven-only-knows-what will appear on such occasions. Invariably however there would be a pretty glass dish of carrot and celery sticks. Even if everything else had nasty sauce on it, even if I was personally loathe to consume the carcass of some deceased creature, even if things were unrecognizable to my non-gourmet palate I could always ward off starvation with carrots and celery sticks. I still like them. They taste good, they have a satisfying crunch (without the billion calories of other crunchy things like potato chips) and they contribute to my happiness.
6-I am thankful for Sugar and Milk. They turn cocoa into Hot Chocolate. Theyn turn coffee into something you can actually drink that tastes almost like Hot Chocolate.
7-I am thankful for Needles. I like to stitch. I started at an early age. I can recall sitting underneath the quilt frame at my Mamaw's house,with my doll baby for company, surrounded by women's legs. I would thread a needle and poke it into the edge of the quilt where the ladies could reach it. Then I'd thread another needle and put it with the first, then a third needle...I had "young eyes" and was a good needle threader. I was not permitted to tie the knot in the end of the thread. Child-tied knots tend to be grubby.
When I was a bit older Mamaw would park me and my Copper-haired cousin on her wide front porch which was all windows on three sides. She would give us her scrap bag, thread and needles, and we'd occupy ourselves all afternoon making clothes for our Barbies and our trolls. Trolls are better looking, but Barbies were easier to make clothes for. I don't remember how old we were when we were first introduced to the needle and thread, but I do remember that we were young enough that we weren't allowed to use scissors yet. If we needed something cut we'd trot into the house to find Mamaw or Mama and show them what needed cutting and how far down to cut, and they'd do it for us.
8-I am thankful for Pie. The pies of my childhood were all homemade, mostly by my maternal grandmother Mama, and my paternal grandmother Mom. In both homes they were kept in the "icebox" to keep them from spoiling. consequently I knew nothing of the supposed virtues of the proper flaky pie crust so touted in Crisco commercials. Pie crust to me was cold and soggy. Yum.
9- I am thankful for Men's Shirts. My first source of fabric was the rag bags of my Mama and Mamaw, and in both of these worn out men's shirts featured heavily. Daddy worked in a glass factory and burned holes in his clothes a lot. Papaw was a coal miner, and whatever they do down there it is very hard on collars and cuffs. Mending was the first solution for this, but eventually a shirt would be too far gone to be worth mending, and then it was carefully taken apart. The buttons would be added to the button jar, which doubled as a source of buttons for reuse and a children's entertainment center. We didn't have PlayStation in my day, we played with buttons that weren't attached to anything and that didn't 'do' anything. The shirt pieces were put in the rag bag. Ratty bits would be used to scrub things with. Nicer bits would be used for patching other shirts, making quilt patches, making clothes for dolls or small people and making smallish household things like pincushions, pot holders and so on. the back of a man's shirt is big enough to cut into a square and hem for a nice cloth napkin. Two pockets sewn together back to back make a nice little treasure bag, and what child doesn't need a place to keep treasures.
10-I am thankful for Sodden Gosh-Awful Misery. This is something I haven't really had much of in life, and when I've had it I haven't liked it one little bit. Hated it really. Still, it makes a nice change from being son damn happy all the time, and they say it helps one develop character.
There you have it, Ten Thankfuls from moi with love.
and I've got seven whole days to think up another ten.
PS-Spellchecker wants me to change Barbies to Arbors. I refuse.