Giving Thanks in 2014

It was Sunday before Thanksgiving.

As she guided the felt through the sewing machine, Paige suggested everyone share what she was thankful for.  Sixteen teenagers were making stockings, sewing them actually, the old fashioned way; then they decorated them and filled them with goodies for local seniors.

In response to Paige’s suggestion, several girls said they were thankful for their family.  Sarah said she was thankful for her dog, which made me smile.

Belle, our boxer, pushed her way around the tables, sniffing visitors and drooling on laps. Belle makes me laugh.  There’s a gift I’m thankful for. We inherited Belle, a five year old, muscle-bound slobber hound, well boxer actually.

Grandma’s dog Belle became our dog this summer because Grandma died.  Our dog Kaiser died before that.  My husband said goodbye to his childhood home.  We all said goodbye to Binghamton, because no one in the family lives there anymore.

Each year I give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  And I’ve been noodling on what to write, cynical as I am about 2014, consumed with the dying and the dead and all the stuff that’s left. You know?  Photos, old yearbooks, cast iron skillets, certificates of birth and marriage and death, handwritten letters. Big things too, like grandma’s Hitchcock rocker and her instruments and framed prints.

Looking for inspiration, I asked my husband what he was thankful for.  We’re healthy.  He has a good job.  We’ve got great kids. God has been kind to us.  These are the usual things to be thankful for.  Maybe you don’t appreciate them as much until you lose them.  These really are the big things.

Back to Belle-the-Boxer.  I’ve taken to calling her all three words now. Belle-the-Boxer. In addition to the dog, I inherited violins.  Grandma’s German fiddle rests on a stand in the Tree House and her American fiddle rests in the sun room.  I play them. Instead of taking a walk or a stretch break, I lift the violin from its cradle, and play the Black Cat Jig or Child Grove or Castle on a Cloud.

Stanley Fiddle

Grandma’s American made Stanley Fiddle

There’s the music, and for that I’m beyond grateful.

Paige and Sarah reminded us to think on it, to share what we’re thankful for.

There are home-made biscuits with friends at Eileen’s and Poe readings at Ivy Lodge.

Kenny came back safe from Afghanistan.  He’s with his family and that sure is a big thing.

There’s lunch and literature with book buddies.

An old Kentucky friend visited this month.

My daughter is playing MacDowell’s Improvisation right now, the  piano notes coming up through the floorboards.  She performed one of his Sea Pieces at her grandma’s funeral.  They had a reception after with cucumber sandwiches where I met her fiddle teacher and many of the 20 musicians at the church who played for her.

Sir “Rocky” Ed Rhodes came.  He saw the obit in the paper and wanted to pay his respects.

Her grandson came in his army uniform and spoke at the service.  He got married in September and there’s another Mrs. Shattan in the family.

There was guitar music in the hotel lobby after the wedding with family, feet up, singing songs.

My brother, his family, and my mother are on the way here now for Thanksgiving. He visited in October and we sat on a bench in town, doing nothing while he sipped a Frappuccino. He met Belle-the-Boxer that visit.

To get ready for him and my family, all eight of them– my brother has five children – I had to move the stockings the girls made; remember Paige from the beginning of this letter? I set the 28 stockings in boxes, careful of their decorations: a gingerbread man with shiny buttons, a tree and garland, a big bow, all unique and lovely, just like the girls.

 

Stockings for Seniors

Stockings for Seniors

 

Each stocking is a little thing. A gift. A girl wrote on the card in one stocking, “Know that you’re loved.”

Belle-the-Boxer is curled into a pretzel at my feet, snorting happily in her sleep.

 

Belle-the-Boxer, Grandma's dog

Belle-the-Boxer, Grandma’s dog

Thank you for the little things, the gifts, the miracle in each moment. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.

With love and affection from the Tree House

About mylinhshattan

MyLinh B. Shattan is a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.