I do a lot of thinking while on my walks. I usually walk alone, and although a walking companion is always welcome, it seems that those who pretend interest rarely accept my invitation. It’s okay. Walking alone means I can walk at my own pace (usually faster than most) and use the time to sort things out or put random thoughts together into little bundles of thoughts, which sometimes can lead me to a bigger thought, then maybe even a breakthrough on something.
I took a walk on Independence Day and the word that went with me that day was “gratitude”.
I live freely and am allowed to take a day off and take a walk, bake brownies to take to a cook-out, or run to Home Depot on an errand for TT who is using his day off to sand our bedroom floors so we can refinish them, the near end of the most recent “ceiling to floor projects” we have completed over the years. We are free to make changes to our home because we own our home. We have property rights, a basic right in a free society. For this I am very grateful.
Generally I’ll walk about 2-3 miles at a time, and I keep to two different routes if I am going to walk from my house as opposed to driving someplace for a more scenic adventure, either at a nearby state park or by the ocean. This time I headed south out of my street, which is the more frequent route, and it takes me though a neighborhood filled with people who are friends and friendly acquaintances. This same direction will lead me to the Library so, sometimes the walk will be an errand to pick up or return a book. The Free Lending Library – another gift of a free society for which I am grateful. Imagine that. The freedom to borrow books of our own choosing and read them at will.
As I walk past a small blue ranch style house I think of the couple who lives there, owners of an electroplating company who does plating for some of our customers. Very nice folks, clean honest business people. His great-aunt was also my babysitter when I was quite young. Mrs. B. was a friend of my grandmother’s, a widow. Trustworthy and kind, and I’m sure the occasional passing of cash didn’t hurt her feelings. I hope my folks paid Mrs. B. enough. Goodness knows I gave her a run for the money. She babysat occasionally on Wednesday afternoons so my mother could go to Boston to see her Psychiatrist. It’s good to have people you can trust in your life when you’re battling depression. It’s good that we’re free to pursue medical and psychological treatment when we need to do so. For that I am also grateful.
Quick left and up a short incline and I face the house where my aunt and uncle lived until they moved to Solvang in 1972. Uncle Roy had to find a better climate because he had developed Emphysema and the New England winters were getting to be too much. So many happy memories were made in that lovely home. Grateful for those, most assuredly. Family Christmas parties mostly. Sometimes nearly 50 of us would be gathered there for festivities. I remember the night my dad became a little too, well, enthusiastic, and decided to swing from the chandelier in their front hall. I was quite young, but I’ll never forget the laughter. Don’t know what Daddy paid the electrician and the plasterer for the repairs. My goodness, imagine the freedom to celebrate a holiday with family without fear. More gratitude.
To my right as I look at Uncle Roy’s house is the home of a couple who were once my Sunday school teachers. Our last greetings were over his wife’s car, which he had for sale in the driveway. We needed a new car, and I knew they were meticulous folk, so we did the potential car-buying dance, and we would probably have bought it, but we changed our mind when we checked the service records for that model and year on-line. What is this? The freedom to buy and sell our personal property without interference or having to pay a bribe? And the freedom to access impartial information which enables due diligence? Again, gratitude.
Diagonally across the street live some friends, she a Ceramics Professor and he, a fine furniture artisan and cabinet maker. We spent many a Friday evening when our children were young gathered with them along with other friends enjoying TT’s homemade nut brown ale (I refer to it as brown silk) and the variety of snacks we would assemble for the event. Times change, our children grew, TT stopped making beer, so the soirees stopped happening, but fond memories abound as I walk past their arts and crafts style house, built literally with the owner’s own hands. TT built their fireplace for them, and in exchange we have the most beautiful curly maple bathroom cabinetry in town. Every once in a while one of them will be out in the yard, and we’ll have a nice chat.
Next to them are very special friends, CK and her daughter KK – oops, KK is getting married this summer and doesn’t live there any more, but it’s the home of her childhood, and the hours JT spent there playing with KK, her heart and soul friend, are almost too many to count. The icing on the cake is that we are family friends so we continue through life together even though our children are now adults. CK is a chemical engineer, and although I have known her for years and years, I learned just recently that it was she who designed and spearheaded a water treatment facility at a major Attleboro company which, her co-worked insisted, saved the company and helped with our city water supply. She never mentioned it. It was just her job, she said, when I brought it up. Another scoop of gratitude, thank you.
A left hand turn and a few houses down is the home of one of Attleboro’s longest-running Mayors. Her husband is out in their yard and we share a cheerful greeting. The Mayor asked me to serve on different committees on a few occasions while she was in office. I declined. My reason was a combination of not feeling qualified and the fact that I love my privacy. I am grateful that she asked me, though, and especially grateful that we have a local and accessible government.
Next to the former Mayor’s house is the three-room school house (no word of a lie) where I went to primary school. My dentist owns that building now. Grateful for dental care when I need it, preventive and otherwise.
Another left hand turn and a block down the street, and I am passing the home of the 13th Editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. She is also the first female Editor of the Almanac. I don’t know her very well, but I do know her sister from our daughter’s AAU and high school Basketball days.
Then I pass MB’s house. MB is a Korean born adopted daughter of a dentist and his wife. MB is another of JT’s friends, and having since graduated from West Point Academy, she is stationed somewhere to fulfill her end of the bargain, but I don’t know where at the moment. When JT did her first Danskin triathlon, it was MB who got up at 4:30 in the morning so she could go with us to cheer JT on. So very grateful that JT has such marvelous friends.
Walking past MB’s house got me to thinking about TV (not television, another young lady’s initials). TV, another dear soul in JT’s circle of friends, came to America from Vietnam with her family at the age of 13, speaking no English. She is a college graduate and is currently at Boston University, just completing her first year of Dentistry school, courtesy of the U.S. Army. God bless America. TV leads me to think of AS, another of JT’s friends, who came with her family from South Africa at about age 10, and after waiting nearly 12 years her family became US citizens, and AS just completed a Master’s Degree at Oxford University.
EL, another Attleboro-born young lady and dear friend of JT’s, spent a year at the University of St. Andrews. JT was there for only a semester because of her major requirements at her home college. While JT and EL were in Scotland, they traveled all over the UK and made a side trip to Italy during fall break, taking in Rome and Florence. EL was an Art History major, and JT was just shy of an Art History minor, so they enjoyed seeing so many famous and beautiful works of art live, and with their own eyes. They would both like to see an improved passenger rail system in the US after experiencing easy and affordable access to trains while there.
We are free to be citizens of the planet. Free to be citizens of the planet.
Heaps and heaps of gratitude that this freedom has allowed JT to have such wonderful friends and afford them rich life experiences.
Heading home, back on the main street on the corner of which sits my house, I take in the improvements to the street and sidewalks that are in process. Thanks to the planning and foresight of some of Attleboro’s leaders, this project was shovel ready, so some federal tax dollars came our way to help pay for this badly needed upgrade. Thank you to my fellow tax payers for helping our struggling post-industrial city put on a new face that we hope will make us more attractive to new businesses, which will then improve our tax base, keep our schools at impressive performance levels, and help us continue to send our graduates to excellent colleges, universities and vocational schools so they can join us as fruitful, employed members of a beautiful and free American society.
As I approach my house, by today’s standards, small, a three-bedroom ranch style house, I take in my flower gardens and yard, the walnut trees that TT and I planted 20 years ago and now shade what used to be a very hot south-facing front lawn, the cedar tree that I remember my father planting when I was a child and in front of which I built many a snowman, I realize that I have lived in this house longer than any other member of my family even though I am the youngest by many years, and I offer a silent word of thanks to my parents for building such a lovely, sturdy, and efficient home, as so many other families did just after World War II, and I say thank you to the muse who suggested I buy it in 1987 after the death of my mother.
And I thought about bravery in terms of gratitude as opposed to anger. Anger can compel us to do many things that look like brave acts, but I suspect and hope that it is gratefulness which compels us to be truly brave. Grateful enough to do what is right and not do what is wrong. Brave enough to live according to our consciences, both individually and collectively. Brave enough to look at a truth and own it, and if we don’t fit the truth, then strong enough to change our selves rather than redefine truth to suit our indulgences.
And I know this is a very long blog post, so I thank you for your patience.