Today is a day for counting blessings. I have many reasons to be thankful and all of them involve the people that I have known. From the moment of my first memories I have been surrounded by good loving souls who cared for me and made me feel safe and secure. I have to admit that I have only rarely felt the pain of abuse from another human and in each of those cases I enjoyed the freedom to walk away. I have observed hate in this world but have not been the victim of it. Instead my life has witnessed kindness, loyalty, understanding and genuinely unconditional love over and over again.
When my baby brain awoke my parents were there doting on me, along with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends. I recall riding in my grandfather’s Plymouth coupe with the earthy aromas of pipe tobacco and leather engulfing my senses as I watched him steer the car so confidently with his big laborer’s hands. I remember watching my grandmother rolling dough and allowing me to cut little round circles that would become big fluffy biscuits that melted in my mouth along with the homemade butter and jam that she slathered on them. I can still see my other grandma padding across the room in her bare feet carrying enamel cups of sugary coffee for her guests.
When I think of my aunts and uncles they are still young and beautiful in my mind. They sit around a big table playing poker and squabbling like loving siblings from a large family are wont to do. Then I think of my cousins, the ones who are more like brothers and sisters, who always seem to have been stalwarts in my world. We are filled with wonder and imagination, inventing games and entertaining ourselves for hours without any adult supervision. How we loved each other as children and how we still do as adults!
I enjoyed the times that we spent with my parents’ friends, especially Mr. and Mrs. Krebs. Sitting in a circle listening to Texas Aggie football games on the radio was a regular fall weekend event. We munched on cinnamon toast and popcorn while a lone voice narrated the action. I wouldn’t give up those times for anything. They were wonderful.
Eventually Daddy was gone. I would miss listening to his voice as he read fairytales to me or chuckled at the Sunday funny papers. Me and my brothers and mother would have to move on without him. Mama became our everything all rolled up into one beautiful package. She kept the faith with Texas A&M and there was never a Thanksgiving Day that we missed tuning in to the gridiron clash between the Aggies and the Longhorns. She would time our dinner so that we would be able to pay careful attention to the game. It was a tradition that we cherished and followed until the game was scheduled for another day and then the two teams played no more.
We found so many genuine friends in our neighborhood after our father died, people who literally watched over us and made sure that we always had whatever we needed. They made me feel quite special with their frequent displays of kindness. As a young child they provided me with multiple examples of how to be a good and upright adult. Mrs. Janot shared her afternoon programs with me in air conditioned splendor. Mrs. Bush demonstrated a rare courage that I greatly admired. Mrs. Frey took me and my brothers under her wing along with her own five children. The Limbs were models of hard work and moderation in all things. The Cervenkas were fun. The Sessums quietly did small favors that were actually huge in my mind.
School was like heaven for me. With one exception my teachers were always angels. I loved them so. Many of the friends that I made have followed me into adulthood and of late I have become reacquainted with others whom I had lost along the way. I find that we are very much alike for having shared the same experiences when we were growing into adults. We have good values. We were taught by our parents and teachers to always be ethical and fair minded. As far as I can tell most of us ended up being model citizens, employees, spouses, parents. We learned from the best.
Eventually I met my husband and we fell madly in love. Ours has been a grand romance from the beginning mostly because we cherish each other as unique individuals. We are both independent and do not always think exactly alike. The differences that we have make our lives more interesting. My Mike has always treated me with unquestioning respect. He encourages me to be the person that I want to be. He is loyal and undoubtedly my very best friend. I have loved him every single day for almost fifty years. In turn, I received a second set of parents on the day that we wed. My in-laws have helped me in some of the most difficult times of my life.
At work I met the most amazing and giving people who were dedicated to helping the youth of our nation to become educated. They worked hard to bring excellence into the classroom. I admired them as much as the teachers that I had as a child. I saw them devoting themselves totally to their vocations. They might have become wealthy in other careers but they chose to serve the countless children and families that came to them year after exhausting year. Some only speak of being champions for our youth but my teacher friends have actually done the heavy lifting, often with little gratitude or compensation. They are my heroes, the people that I most admire. If life were totally fair they would all meet with the President of the United States and be given Medals of Freedom for their good deeds.
The pleasant memories of my friendships are ongoing. I think of all the fun that I have had shopping at thrift stores with Cappy, exchanging Christmas cheer with Linda and Bill, sitting at a table discussing the world with Pat and Bill, camping with Monica and Franz, playing bridge with Susan, watching our children play with the Turners and the Halls, being myself with Nancy, enjoying dinners with the KIPP gang, being with my adult former students and seeing how remarkable they have become, continuing to admire Judy as my icon, finding my first grade pal Virginia. I might go on for hours with beautiful stories of individuals who gave me their hearts.
I have been blessed with two daughters who are brilliant and beautiful and best of all, loving. They in turn married good men and together they built families that gave me the gift of seven grandchildren. All of them are the joy and the center of my universe. I revel in being with them and watching them grow. Their laughter warms my heart. I pray each day that they will know the same level of affection that I have so enjoyed.
I have been surrounded by the most incredible people at every turn of my existence. I have been blessed beyond measure in knowing them. I sometimes wonder why I have been chosen to be so fortunate. There have been times when my family was financially challenged. I have dealt with extremely difficult situations. I have not been sheltered from sadness and tragedy. Still I have only known love and kindness. At each turn someone has stepped forward to fill me with joy sometimes for a reason, sometimes for a season, sometimes for a lifetime. For that I am profoundly thankful on this day.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.