Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Right Kind of List

It seems ironic to me that right smack in the most stressful time of year we have this holiday designed to make us stop and be thankful. Maybe ironic is not the word I’m looking for. Maybe it’s strategic.

Somehow it’s rolled around again. Just as we start to feel the hints of another bitter, icy winter coming any day now. Just as we re-stock our medicine cabinets and gear up for the cold and flu season. Right about the time the stores start playing Christmas music and making their employees wear Santa hats. While mental lists are being made and scrap paper lists are being misplaced, our brains full, then blank, with who wanted what for Christmas, this other holiday sneaks in the back door.

So before I get lost in department store lines and stressed by yet another report on the news about how today is the last, and we mean last, day you can mail that holiday package and still have it arrive on time, I am going to spend a few minutes in a more productive way. I am going to move past the token one line of ‘what I’m thankful for’ that’s uttered around the table before the roasted bird is cut and pumpkin pie is topped with whipped cream and I’m going to dig a little deeper.

I’m thankful for things. The washing machine that chugs away, day after day, accepting my awful, smelly, stained donations and turning them into things we can actually use again. I’m thankful for my trustworthy dishwasher, that does basically the same thing, but in the kitchen instead of the laundry room. I’m even thankful for my pesky cell phone. Although I can’t seem to remember to turn it on, put it in my pocket, or check its messages on a regular basis, it still allows me to keep in touch with my children, who are flung to all corners of our town on any given day.

I’m thankful for moments. Every time I paused to hug my mom and share a smile with her, even in my crazy busy college years, not knowing they would be limited opportunities. The moment I took my left hand out of my pocket and presented it to my best college friends, hoping they would notice the sparkling gem that rested on that significant finger (they did, we squealed, and I will never forget that feeling) Each and every time I held that plastic stick with the blue ‘yes’ line in my hands, the one that can make you want to shout, cry and maybe throw up all at the same time. The short but productive drive home after I’ve picked up my sons from track practice and the memories of their days are still fresh in their minds, ready to spill out to an open eared mom. (I get my best information on these priceless ten minute drives).

Although there are many bad ones I could dwell on, I am thankful for good choices we’ve made along the way. Buying the stripped down cherry red minivan we could barely afford when our third baby arrived. That vehicle escorted us to many great states and great adventures. It was worth every scraped together penny. I’m glad we also found the money for me to fly across the country with our first born child when she was barely three weeks old, to surprise her grandmother, who had raised five hearty boys. And ten years later, when we finally decided that we needed just one more member to be complete, I am thrilled that we had that ‘one more baby’.

Although it was just about the death of us, I am now thrilled that we bought this big old house, that needed so much help when we signed that stack of mortgage papers three years ago. Through much tearing down and building up, our house and our family have come out on the other side better and stronger for the process. If I ever get distracted by the endless list of small things that still need to be finished up, trimmed off, or repainted I sit back and think of where we started and I am thankful. Thankful for the big stuff that’s already been done and hopeful that the little stuff will find its own time.

And of course I could not call this a Thankful List unless I included the people. My husband and life partner who knows me better than anyone else on the planet (including me) yet loves me anyway. It seems appropriate to me that our 20th wedding anniversary will fall on the day before Thanksgiving this year. That leads to these suddenly tall children who live in my house. I dreamed of them and wished for them from the time I was a child, and they came to be, right on time. It’s not always been easy but it’s always been a gift to be their mother. My parents, siblings, and in-laws, brothers and sisters in law included, nieces and nephews. My life is filled with people to be thankful for. Throw in neighbors, bus drivers, hair dressers, co-workers, and this list could go on forever.

So I feel better now. Dwelling on the good stuff keeps that other stuff in perspective. Thanks for listening to my list. Now it’s time to sit down and make your own. Happy Holidays and happy list making.

The good kind of list.

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