My cousin’s daughter is making a list of things she’s grateful for. It’s a Thanksgiving-themed assignment for school. She asked for my help. And when a kid asks you for help, it makes you feel eleven feet tall.
“It would be an honor,” I said. “Thanks for asking me.”
“What made you choose me?”
“Well, I was thinking maybe you could write my list while I ride bikes with my friends.”
“Wait a second. Aren’t you gonna do any work?”
“Of course,” she explained. “I’ll be your editor. Now get busy.”
Well, I don’t mind naming items for which I am grateful. I will start by writing that I am grateful for cold weather.
Admittedly, I don’t love the weather itself, but I enjoy what the cold represents. It means November is here, it means the holidays are close, it means I have to put on my winter coat to use the toilet in my trailer home.
Gratefulness item number two: cinnamon brooms in the supermarket. Man I love these things. I could sniff them for hours in the grocery store.
I am grateful for sweet potato pies, and Butterball turkeys that are deep fried by men who wear overalls. And for squash casserole, green bean casserole, cheese potato casserole, hash brown casserole, collards, and cornbread dressing.
Reruns of the Andy Griffith Show. My late father’s Case pocket knife. And good music.
The is the time of year when radio stations play the old stuff. Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Old Blue Eyes, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
I am grateful for the way dogs wake you up in the morning. And for Hallmark Channel movies. Especially the cheesy movies that are about as clever as a scoop of ham salad.
The plots all go something like this:
Beautiful young business woman from big city visits her hometown after twenty years and falls in love with a handsome flannel-shirt-wearing widower and former country-music singer who owns a golden retriever named Max and is trying to save his town from bankruptcy by opening a Christmas bakery with his lovable but prediabetic grandpa, George. Boy gets girl. They kiss. The end. I could watch these movies until April.
I also love cast iron cookware, old coffee cans of bacon grease, the taste of pepper gravy, Conecuh sausage, gaudy socks, and the aroma of truck exhaust on a cold morning.
I am grateful for the way my wife looks when she’s sleeping. Her face relaxes, and she snores gently with her mouth open.
In moments like that, I like to see how many cocktail peanuts I can carefully place into her open mouth without waking her. My all-time record is nineteen. When she awoke, she spit out the peanuts, and tried to gut me with a set of car keys.
I am thankful for the way the sun comes out and warms the world when we need it most. The sun is poking through the clouds while I write this. And it’s enough to make you stop and stare.
My cousin’s daughter is still riding bikes with friends, laughing. She breezes into the driveway, then slams her brakes. She is out of breath, rosy cheeked, and alive with childhood. An entire lifetime is ahead of her, and she doesn’t even know it.
I was her age once. I was happy, like her. And I believed in things. Big things. But then life happened. Our family fell on hard times, I lost myself. The details don’t matter because my story is your story.
Life is hard. Sooner or later, everyone learns this. It’s no revelation. Life is unfair, unforgiving, indifferent, and out to kill you—at least that’s what some people believe.
But I don’t believe that.
Not that it matters what I think, but if you ask me, life is artwork, hanging on a museum wall. Not a single stroke of paint is out of place. It’s magnificent. And I hope one day to see this painting from the Other Side. Maybe then, I’ll see how good things, bad things, and the sad things join to make a breathtaking portrait.
And how everything matters. Both the great, and the minuscule. From cinnamon brooms, to the hours spent in a hospital waiting room. Neighborhood cats, cheesy movies, and the way my mother hugs me and refuses to let go before I do.
“Are you done with my list?” my cousin’s daughter says.
“Yeah, I’m done.”
“Hey!” she says, inspecting my work. “You misspelled ‘cinnamon.’ I thought you were supposed to be a freakin’ writer, man.”