“You march upstairs, mister,” she told me. “You go count your blessings, count every single one you can think of, or you don’t get any meatloaf.”

I was a little boy. I was in a bad mood. My mother sent me to my room before supper.

“You march upstairs, mister,” she told me. “You go count your blessings.”

“But MAMA!” I said.

“Count’em one by one, young man, make a long list, or you don’t get any meatloaf.”

I’m thirty-some-odd years too late, but my wife is making meatloaf tonight.

So:

My wife—because she loved me first.

And boiled peanuts—just because.

And dogs—every dog.

And people who stop four lanes of traffic to save dogs. And people who adopt dogs. And people who like dogs. And people who spend so much time with dogs they start to think like dogs.

And saturated fat. Smoked bacon, cured hams, and runny egg yolks in my fried eggs.

And cotton clothes that just came off a summer clothesline.

And the sound wind makes when it makes its way through trees. And the smells of fall. And rain.

Old radio shows. As a boy, a local station used to

play reruns of Superman, the Lone Ranger, Little Orphan Annie, the Jack Benny Show, Abbott and Costello, and the Grand Ole Opry. I lived for these shows.

And the girl I met in Birmingham—she’s lived in fourteen different foster homes.

The child in Nashville—whose feet are too big for her sneakers. She can’t afford new ones.

Every soul at Children’s Hospital, Birmingham. Doctors, nurses, janitors, cooks, staff, and patients.

Every child who will be fortunate enough to see tomorrow morning. Every child who won’t.

And tomatoes. Tomatoes remind me of things deeper than just tomatoes themselves. They remind me of women who garden. Women like my mother, who suffered to raise two children after her husband met an untimely end.

Mama. The woman who made me. The woman whose voice I inherited. Sometimes, I hear myself…