Fall is full of simple pleasures here in Saint Louis, even when the Cards aren’t World Series champions. After all, Cardinals fans still got almost a full month of playoff baseball and, judging from history and statistics, can likely look forward to enjoying October games well before Cubs fans again experience the glory of post-season play.
First off. I am truly thankful to live in a city. I grew up in a rural town that is now home to fewer than 3,000 souls. My town did not get a fast-food restaurant until the late 1990s, around the same time it got its first ATM. While those facts may make my hometown sound charming and Rockwellian to those who have never experienced the Arkansas Delta firsthand, I can assure you that it was not.
At the same time, Saint Louis is a city that showcases the seasons, something I rarely experienced in the Delta or in Dallas, a place that specializes in summer and the metropolitan area I previously called home. Dallas is city so short on trees that I believe most Dallasites have to take their seasonal cues from the Starbucks menu. After all, nothing says fall like a Pumpkin Spice Latte and highs in the 70s and 80s.
It’s been so long since I added an item to this list that I had to reread my own blog to see what I’d already covered. I was surprised to find I had not yet mentioned food.
I love food. It’s a bold statement in a culture in which food is often vilified, but I don’t hesitate to admit it. I love everything about food — eating it, cooking it, thinking about it, even shopping for it. I don’t even mind exercising because it means I can have more of it without feeling guilty. And guilt is something I rarely indulge in too much of, though I can’t say the same about food.
In fact, I once took third place in a coed meatball eating contest by consuming 21 golf ball-sized meat treats in five minutes. My prize?
Two Blues hockey tickets and $100 in steaks. I don’t know whether I should feel proud or embarrassed to admit I didn’t even feel that full after the competition, a fundraiser for a local food bank.
And, though I obviously love food on a personal level, I am particularly thankful for the role it plays family, culture, and friendship. Almost every family has favorite recipes that are passed down, serving as edible heirlooms that help both preserve and create memories at every special occasion or on any typical Tuesday.
So, rather than demonizing food for all the negative things it can do to my waistline and wallet, I choose to make shopping, cooking, and eating a shared everyday celebration for the mind, body, and soul.
In a continuation of my post on extending my thirty days of thankfulness into the new year, here are a few more reasons to give thanks.
I am thankful for my friends. Since I moved away from my family to attend graduate school in 1997, an ever-changing cast of characters has become my second family. And though the names in the credits have changed over the years depending on my location and theirs, there are more than a few I could call any day for solace and shenanigans that would put sitcom script writers to shame.
I am thankful for books. Books offered a window into the wider world beyond my tiny northeast Arkansas town. They also gave me fodder for the longest-lasting and best independent study course I will ever have. The self-selected syllabus included core texts like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Little House on the Prairie series early on and has since expanded to encompass everything from Jude Deveraux romance novels to the brilliant nonfiction of Bill Buford.
I am thankful for the American education system. That might be a rare and unexpected assertion from a former K-12 teacher, but it is true. To be sure, the American education system has its flaws, and its far from fair and equal. However, it did equip me with the tools and desire to earn a degree from one of the best-respected universities in the country and go on to work at one of the largest daily newspapers in the nation. And my sister did as well or better, earning a medical degree and completing a residency in the heart of the Research Triangle. Not bad considering neither of our parents even earned their eighth grade diplomas.
I didn’t participate in 30 days of thankfulness during the month of November, but began composing a list in my head as I read friends’ Facebook posts and blog entries about the many good things in their lives. While I was thinking of the things and people who should be on my own list, I was also brainstorming for a way to extend the new technology-driven tradition beyond the month of November. So here are a few of the things, animals and people I am — or at least should be — thankful for each and every day. I plan to add to the list through the new month and new year and revisit it in thankless times to come.
1. I am thankful for my boyfriend. He’s paid for more than his fair share of beer, burgers and bloody marys over the past few years so I could pursue part-time professoring and full-time freelance writing.
2. I am thankful for my so-far successful return to professional writing and reporting after a decade-long detour into teaching.
3. I am thankful for my mom who is in good health and good spirits after a life-changing move to a retirement home this summer.
4. I am thankful for my sister and her family. They have provided countless hours of logistical and moral support to both me and our mom before and since the move.
5. I am thankful for my cat Lucy. Lucy Cat, who has been a faithful and fun companion through one failed relationship, three states and nearly a half dozen moves, even decided to stay close to home this summer rather than yet again answering the call of the wild while we were on vacation.
Although, as made evident by this video, she was less than happy about it.