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a prayer: some things for which I am thankful

November 27th, 2008 by slewfoot

Music: Starlet: Stay on My Side (1999)

In a small, two bedroom bungalow on Zoar Church Road, a copy of this painted photograph hung in the kitchen above the dining room table for over fifty years. My grandmother told me, many years ago before she lost the ability to speak, that she thought she and my grandfather received the photograph from a car dealership when they purchased a vehicle. Growing up in my grandmother’s house I often pondered the meaning of this photograph, as it had a special attraction to me (you can click the image for a larger version). Later I learned that it was taken by Eric Enstrom in 1918 for a man at his request in the small mining town of Bovey, Minnesota. Obviously staged, the man and Enstrom assembled a family book (not a bible as is commonly assumed), a bowl of gruel, some bread, his glasses, and so forth. Titled “Grace,” Enstom sold black-and-white prints of the image for years until its popularity led to hand-painted versions by Rhoda Nyberg in Coleraine Minnesota.

The painting has become a signifier for Thanksgiving with my family, which always used to be at my grandmother’s house. Now with Granny in ill health and in a nursing home, my mother and aunt sold the house on Zoar Church Road. The dining table at which we all used to eat is now in my dining room, and the framed photograph of “Grace” has been given to me, but is in storage.

Granny always said grace at our Thanksgiving meals. She would often thank the Lord for what seemed like an interminable list of things. I remember she always said this phrase: ” . . . and Lord, we thank you for this food and the nourishment it brings our bodies . . . .” Despite my agnosticism, I have never had a difficulty bowing my head to say grace, or sending spoken desires and wishes up to the ear of deity, should such a grand being exist (I’m doubtful, but hell, I’m open to surprise). Prayer means many things, and one of them is the spoken, public recognition of what one “has” and, at least tacitly, what others do not. Today I am not with my family and will be spending this holiday alone, but I think it would be in the spirit of the holiday to craft a public prayer of gratitude. So:

I am thankful for having an intact family who cares deeply for one another and shows it.

I am thankful for friendship, and that core group of friends whom I know I can call at 3:00 a.m.

I am thankful for having lived with my beloved Obi Wan-der-Ful for nine years. I miss him very much.

I am thankful for love, and those who share it with me in their own original, unique gestures.

I am thankful for music. If there were no such thing as music, life would not be worth living.

I am thankful that the Bush regime is almost over, and although I fear the new president will be little more than a return to frictionless neoliberalism, I am thankful that we are at least we’re ten times less likely to be bombed.

I am thankful for Bailey’s Irish Cream and coffee on holiday mornings.

I am thankful for humor and comedic relief, and for people who insist I not take myself, or others, so seriously.

I am thankful for having an affordable health care package, and I will be even more thankful when everyone in the world has the same opportunity.

I am thankful to be living in Austin, allergies and all.

I am thankful for peanut butter. I do not keep it in the house because it will be gone within three hours. I am even more thankful for the International Medical Corps and their efforts to end starvation and malnutrition with Plumpy’nut. You can give Plumpy as a holiday gift, if you want.

I am thankful for my colleagues, many of whom I would donate an expendable organ to should they need one.

I am thankful to have two computers, so that when one crashes (like my desktop did yesterday) I can still continue my so-called digital life.

I am thankful for the educational opportunities that I have had; I am thankful to be a teacher, so that I can contribute to making the same opportunities for others.

I am thankful for the intelligence, good character, and generosity of our graduate students.

I am thankful not to be in the hospital.

I am thankful to finally make an affordable living, to own my home, and to have invested “conservatively” for my retirement. I am thankful to live a lower middle-class life, for I know so many others do not have the opportunities to live such a life because of systemic disadvantages.

I am thankful for food, in general, and for having some in the kitchen.

Here’s to wishing all of you RoseChron readers a happy giving-thanks day. I hope you were able to send and receive some love, and were caused to reflect on what you have, and unfortunately, what others do not. Amen.

8 Responses to “a prayer: some things for which I am thankful

  1. Shaunessey Says:

    Amen, bro.

  2. Gretchen Says:

    Happy belated turkey day Josh! We missed you in San Diego. I just wanted to let you know that I loved this post. My grandmother has a reproduction of Leonardo’s Last Supper over her dining table and similarly it is now an image for which I have a special affinity.

  3. slewfoot Says:

    Thanks Gretch, especially for your good cheer. Are y’all going to be in Hotlanta for any of the holiday break?

  4. slewfoot Says:

    I am grateful for the lot of you, by the say, and thanks so much for the warm text messaging (and massaging). Meanwhile: the culprit of my computer crash was a “trojan virus” that apparently came in on an MP3 from a Gary Numan song, “Are Friends Electric?” Apparently enemies are, in some fashion . . . .

  5. Gretchen Says:

    Going to La the week prior to Christmas and will be back in the ATL from around the 27th onward. Will you be in town?

  6. Mindy Says:

    Since I am a MN girl, this image has been in my family, too…for a very long time.

    Didn’t grow up too far from Bovey, in fact…
    Love your post and sentiments and absolutely did miss you in SD.

    Oh, and if you are planning to be in hotlanta, say, around the new year….shenanigans may be required!

    just sayin’

  7. Joshie Juice Says:

    RATS! Looks like I’m missing you lovelies in Hotlanta—I’ll be back here shortly after the Pagan holiday.

  8. james Says:

    You are wonderful, Josh. I am looking forward to seeing you soon.

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