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For All Things Great and Small

November 18, 2022

Every year in the Cold, right around this time, I like to sit back and take stock of my life. Ponder all the things great and small that inspire within me joy, wistfulness, relief, a belly laugh, and most of all, gratitude.

A life without gratitude invites despair. Even in our most trying times, a mere acknowledgement of a person, circumstance, or event that brought something good into our lives is a seed of hope that can see us through to the other side. Grow into a bounty that can feed our souls for a long time to come.

I usually start my list of thankfulness right around the launch of the school year – that’s early September here in Virginia, USA. When you have school-age kids, the year begins in September, just when the leaves are getting ready to change, and the air begs for a sweater come nightfall. It’s my favorite time of year, so it’s an ideal starting point for me to take stock, Julie Andrews style, of my favorite things. And there is never, ever a time when creating this annual list fails to lift my spirits.

So, here goes.

I’m ever so grateful for my health. My body is strong enough that I can move furniture and nimble enough that I can touch my toes. My walks are long and painless, my breaths deep, and my vision, unless I’m trying to read close-up, crisp. I know very well that health, like weather, can turn on a dime, and I welcome every good day.

Speaking of good days, I love the fact that my home office, in which I spend most of my days, has taken on the popcorny, musty dog smells of my Boston Terrier. It’s become his domain as much as mine, earning him his moniker of “writing dog.” I love you, Barney. You snuggle next to me as I type, you patiently watch me pace up and down my frayed, old Turkish rug as I endeavor to solve plot problems and you chase down the summer wasps that enter our space through some kind of inexplicable devil’s magic. Thanks for keeping me company.

Barney is ready for his close up.

Want to know what puts a toothy smile on my face on even the melancholiest day? These goofy photos my daughters send me. Ones transformed by cheeky filters that superimpose big noses, mustaches, rainbow hairstyles and vampire fangs onto their beautiful faces. They remind me that no matter how busy and independent-minded, my girls still take the time to reach out to their mother from time to time. That is most certainly something to be grateful for.

Old photo albums – aren’t they the best? The edge-curled, yellowed snapshots of yesteryear that show our grandmothers as ingénues, our grandfathers as rogues, and best of all, our siblings in a plethora of haphazard Halloween costumes and weird, frilly holiday get-ups. With the convenience of the delete button, the hilarious, bad family photo has become a rarity and I celebrate the ones we’ve collected along the way.

Then there’s my youngest daughter’s spot-on imitation of Amy Winehouse. It is one for the ages and never fails to make my day (she’s got a killer, bluesy-jazzy voice). Let’s throw in any Amy Winehouse song sung by the mistress of self-effacing calamity herself! RIP, Ms. Winehouse. You left us too soon.

I savor with immense gratitude my romanticized memories of being the mother of young children. The way my son’s silly grin made me want to poke his tummy, how I actually used to get butterflies watching my girls play dress-up, and that all of them used to come in from the backyard covered head to toe in red clay mud – these things and more make me yearn for a time machine. Yet I am delighted by the people they are becoming. Their capacity for growth, even after a stumble is both humbling and deeply gratifying. A big thanks to my husband, Jack, for convincing me to give this motherhood thing a try.

Dinner with our best friends is as restorative as a good night’s sleep, and the crackling fire burning in our 1905 pot belly stove fills me with contentment. For these things I am much obliged, especially when they are combined to create a perfect night. We’ve had many of those and I feel truly blessed.

Not having to look for parking is surely something to feel good about, too, as is authentic Mexican food, the supreme satisfaction of scratching an itch, and really good hair dye. These are definitely in the small category, but who among us has not walked with a spring in our step after landing a primo parking spot?

What goes in the great category, however, is the comfort of being surrounded by a community who cares and knows they can rely on us. It’s truly one of the best things in life. Even better (and this one deserves a category all its own) is the black and white ultrasound image of a prospective new member of the family. In our case, it’s that of our nephew and his wife’s little girl, who will officially be joining the human race in April. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This list would be complete if that were the only thing on it.

My nephew and niece’s marvelous wedding last year!

Getting back to some of the smaller things in life, I am also ever so glad for the existence of a fine egg salad, stand-up comedy, sleeping naked, old Persian rugs, and rope swings. Of the latter, I especially like the kind that swing over a lake or other cool watering hole on a hot and muggy day. The “kerplunk” sound we make as we fall into the water is quite possibly the most refreshing noise in the world, and I’m just thrilled for its existence.

And while we’re on the subject of all things refreshing, I will never tire of floating down rivers in inner tubes, skating on frozen ponds, and jumping into a pile of autumn leaves. It’s the Midwesterner in me, I guess.

My daughter at our local watering hole – just as she lets go of the rope!

Stinky cheese! I, for one, think it’s divine. The faster it clears a room, the more I enjoy every, stinkin’ bite. I won’t hold it against you if you’re not quite as grateful as I am for a food that smells like it should crawl. My own husband and children can’t take it.

Reading a great biography, discovering the work of a new artist, and dreaming up a fresh adventure – preferably all in one day – is simply sublime and even better than the stinkiest cheese, I must say. As are the weekly Sunday dinners that we’ve made standard in our household this year. Even the two who have flown the nest try to make a show, and often bring a college friend or two.

As for aesthetic pleasures, I am simply rapturous over the golden, jewel-like beauty of byzantine art, charmed by the awkward poetry of little girls practicing ballet, and cheered by holding a beautiful, delicate wine glass between my fingers. Sigh-inducing – every single one!

But rediscovering why you love someone is a rush of emotions that is worthy of the gods, as is the pursuit of excellence, which is why I will end this missive here. Because it’s always best to wind things up when you know you’ve done your very best.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Until next time.

Vintage Macy’s parade! Never been. Always wanted to. Either way, I’m grateful for it.


From → family, love

  1. Thank you for sharing these beautiful thoughts, Victoria. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. You have found many things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for your share. I never thought about how gratitude can protect us from despair and strengthens our sense of hope!

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