The tree that changed my perspective....
The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
~Robert Louis Stevenson
My nonna and I have always had a strained relationship. She isn't an easy woman to please, and she quite often speaks her mind. She'll let you know if that color looks awful on you, if you've gained a bit of weight, or if your shoes don't match your belt. She's been known to tell total strangers that they have a pretty face, but need to drop some pounds. You can imagine as a teenager, what this did to me. For years I avoided going to her house, and announcements of Sunday dinners at her table came with a groan and a sigh, because we all knew what we were in for. Thanksgivings and Christmas' were equally as painful. We'd go around the table sharing what we were thankful for, and I knew one thing. I wasn't thankful for her.
This year changed many things. It came with pained decisions about nonna's future, giving up apartments, and ultimately moving in with her to be a full time caregiver. Although I thought I knew exactly what I was in for, I was ready and willing this time. This Thanksgiving was held at hers, (now our) house and was filled with food, family and friends. As we sat around with our bellies full I began to count my blessings and all that I'm thankful for. I thought about all the stories I'd heard from nonna and how each one had given me insight into her world. I thought about all the wisdom that was stored in her many years on this earth, and how I'd taken it for granted. I thought about how wrong my childhood perception of her was, and how many treasured moments I'd had with her now so far.
As I thought about her and how thankful I was, I contemplated how I could bless her. We wrapped up our Thanksgiving weekend by purchasing a 9 foot Douglass fir tree and trimming it to the nines. That was our suprise blessing for nonna. See, she'd lived alone for so many years that she'd stopped decorating for Christmas. Quietly, during her nap we brought the tree in, trimmed it, and lighted it just for her. When she came out the look on her face was priceless. In her thick Italian accent she exclaimed how "beauuuuutiful" it was. She took so much joy from that lighted tree. She spent hours afterward talking about how lovely it was. Later that day I overheard a phone call she made to a friend telling them that they had to come over and see her house and how beautiful it looked for the Christmas season. That's the moment that I realized two things: one, I was undoubtedly thankful for my nonna and everything I'd learned from her, and two, If we all took as much joy in the small things as nonna does we'd be much more grateful people throughout the year.
As Americans, we overlook so many things. Even the poorest of our poor live better than the poor of countries like Africa and India. We forget that having running water, cars, electricity, refrigerators, and stove tops are all luxuries that many people world wide do without. My nonna was thankful for a tree trimmed just for her, and I'm so thankful for that Douglass fir tree as well, because everytime I look at it now it reminds me that it's the small things in life that I'm most thankful for; a conversation with a friend, a hug from my husband, a warm cup of cocoa when it's cold outside, a smile from a grocery store worker, running water, heat, air conditioning (I'm from Texas), and a douglass fir tree that helped change my perspective this Thanksgiving. As we go into the Holiday season that ends with the New Year, may we all experience a change of perspective and of heart, and may it turn us toward the Ultimate Provider of all things good.