Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Pattern of Thankfulness


I'm breaking away from my Simple Sunday tradition to return to something I practiced last November: the daily habit of gratitude. Thanksgiving is truly an integral part of life every day of the year; and although I'm thrilled we celebrate it in a special way on one day this month, I want to highlight gratitude in a thoughtful, focused way for the entire 30 days.

Last year, my theme for 30 Days Thankful was Jeff. :) It is always good to remind myself of all the wonderful things about him; and even though I haven't forgotten all that I wrote last year, I do plan to go back and read those posts to have my memory refreshed and my appreciation for him renewed. I know I could easily come up with another 30 things about him for which I give thanks; however, I want to turn my thoughts and attention to a new theme this year: sweet memories from my childhood. I even thought about calling this project, "I Remember in November," but in the end, I decided to stick with "30 Days Thankful." :)

As I get older, I am more and more convinced of the almost inestimable impact that our childhood years have upon us. It is so very difficult to change certain behaviors, patterns of thought, perceptions of the world around us, etc. when we are past childhood. This is why the dear Russian friends I had when we lived in Israel thought I was absolutely nuts for sitting on the stone floor of my apartment when I was pregnant...and why I wondered how they could be so ignorant as to think that it could possibly harm me. This is why my beloved mother goes into full storm preparation mode when the weather forecast indicates that the temperature might drop and we might get some precipitation; she's out carrying in wood and checking all the doors and windows and making sure we've gotten milk from the farm and generally ensuring that we've battened down the hatches, and we're thinking, "It's just a little storm!" This is why I think that the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the best vacation spot in the world, although the vast majority of people would disagree with me. These early impressions are strong!

We've all heard the saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," but in my opinion, it's not about learning new things--that's simple enough--I hope that, until the day I die, I'm able to learn new things. It's really about changing the way we think, the way we automatically view people and events, the lenses through which we see everything. That is what is so difficult, and that is why childhood experiences are so powerful. For better or for worse, in large part, they make us who we are--sometimes because we become just like the other players in the drama of our early lives, sometimes because we strive as hard as we can to keep from becoming like them. However we respond to it, it affects us; and I have to remember these things when I get frustrated with others (or myself), thinking, "Why can't they (I) just change? Why does the process of transformation take so long? Why do we, once we know something is wrong, still persist in believing/doing it?"

All that to say this: I have always felt extremely blessed to have been born into my family and raised by my parents. The environment that they created during my growing-up years was so full of love and kindness and security--and so many other good things. I feel humbled by how fortunate I was to be given such a childhood. I want to capture here some of the memories I hold dear from those days and, in the process, highlight some of the people, places, things, and events that I continue to be grateful for, even though they were part of my life many years ago.

Day 1 - I remember how my brother David and I would have so much fun together while we were shelling peas. This was one of the garden jobs that I didn't mind in the least; in fact, to this day, it might rank in the #1 spot on the list of my favorite garden work (which partially explains my disappointment that since we've moved back here, we haven't had a single decent pea crop from our garden...if anybody reading this lives near me and needs help shelling peas next spring, PLEASE call me!). :) There were several ways that we made it fun: 1) we set the bucket for the pods far enough away from us to make it a little tough to aim accurately and throw the pods into it--a kind of pea basketball game, so to speak, 2) other times we moved the bucket close and arranged the empty pods around the rim like clothespins until we ran out of space, and 3) we talked, while we worked, about our plans for going to the beach. Since the peas were ready to be harvested every year before our annual pilgrimage to the Outer Banks, my memories of shelling peas are intertwined with my memories of dreaming about and preparing for vacation. David and I would talk and talk about every aspect of our coming trip, and it made the minutes fly by as we shelled those peas. I wish nowadays, I could be creative enough to make all my routine tasks that much fun! :)

I'm thankful for my brother David, for delicious peas from the garden, for the benefit of learning to be joyful while working, and for this happy memory.

1 comment:

Morning said...

What a worthwhile challenge -- this is one thing I feel would benefit me to do. I am very thankful for so many aspects of my childhood, but it is difficult for me to say much of this, in part because of my sister's death. It is difficult to remember the good bits of childhood with her in them, especially when she was a part of making me happy. Also because I know she was very hurt by some childhood memories, which she carried through to later life. I think this challenge is one I will work toward -- perhaps next year!