Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm working on a story about gratitude and

it has really got me thinking. I proposed it for a Thanksgiving feature and have sent out queries to nearly everyone on my email list.
But as I waited for comments, I began reflecting on gratitude and the role it has played in my life. Of course there are the obvious - my children, my health, my little dog Emma, the kindnesses of friends, butternut squash and cold milk - but I wanted to think beyond that.
What came to me at one point this afternoon was a comment my father made back in 1966. We were riding to work together (yup, I was a working woman way back then!) on a warm summer morning and passed this house with a HUGE front window that consisted of about a gazillion tiny panes of glass.
"I've always loved that window,'' I said.
"It would be a great window for a Christmas tree,'' he answered.
A small conversation, one that could have easily been forgotten or ignored. But from a cold, untouchable dad like mine, those words pierced me. You mean, my dad, MY dad, actually thought about Christmas? It was amazing - the man who had never kissed me, not once (and still wouldn't at the altar when I married), the man who had never shared one single intimate moment of his life, or one thought beyond "what's for dinner?'' or "did you do your homework?'' actually thought about soft, family Christmas stuff. Whew!
What this one tiny exchange did was to change the way I looked at EVERYTHING -it forced me to look for the detail, the picture INSIDE the window, beyond just the glass or the shape of the pane. This clearly has translated to my writing career. I try not to just tell the reader what the person said, but how they scuffed their shoes, or rubbed their fingers on the edge of the tablecloth, or swallowed twice before answering a question. In essence, that window became my opening into meaningful description and life: look beyond, my father's few words taught me. Look past the obvious. Look into and through the window.
And so, if I cannot find one other thing to be thankful about when it comes to my father, this is huge. This is amazing - that he could affect my career and life in such a profound way. Can you imagine what could have happened if he had actually been PRESENT? Gratitude...ok I get it.

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