Sometimes the best gifts are those we most take for granted.
“Do you have big plans for this weekend?” asked the clerk as she rang up my groceries.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to unpack my suitcase, do laundry, open mail, cook a little, and watch a whole lot of basketball.”
She laughed, but I was serious.
My husband and I were just back from a trip to California. Our house had a look that said, “You were gone too long.” But it was also the start of the NCAA basketball tournament. And we are, to say the least, big fans. Not fans of one team (I tend to root for any school near a town that carries my column) but of the game as a whole.
We are especially fond of the Golden State Warriors, who also had games over the weekend, so we were set to see a lot of hoops.
My husband helped put away the groceries, then we sat down to rest. Resting is a prime chore at our house. Then he tuned into a game and I started dinner.
Our kitchen and den are one room, so we can cook and watch TV all at once. Sort of. I was making shrimp and grits, a specialty of the South where I grew up. It was never big in my family (mountain folks didn’t do much shrimp) but my husband loves it. So I thawed a bag of frozen shrimp and boiled water for the grits.
During halftime of a game, I unpacked my suitcase and started a load of laundry.
Then I fried a chopped onion and some garlic with a little lemon and a lot of butter, added the shrimp to the pan until they turned pink, dumped it all on the grits and served it up.
I wish you could’ve tasted it.
My husband swore it was the best meal he’d had in months. I saw no need to doubt him.
We cleared the dishes and sat down to watch another game. As I watched, I opened a stack of reader mail with all sorts of birthday cards from some of you, thank you so very much. Three rated extra thanks:
1 _ A reader in upstate New York sent me a candy bar (in response to a column about my first birthday party where one of the two guests gave me a candy bar and the other one ate it.)
2 _ A reader in Indiana sent me a jar of “pain relief” cream (in response to several columns about my broken ankle.)
3 _ And a reader in Kansas sent me a crocheted bookmark in the shape of a cross (in response to nothing I could think of, but appreciated all the same.)
I split the candy bar with my husband, rubbed the cream on my ankle, and put the bookmark in my Bible next to a favorite verse, Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
That was Friday. Saturday, we did the same, except we ordered pizza. Sunday, we ate leftovers and watched South Carolina beat Duke, of all things.
It was an ordinary weekend, nothing to write home about, maybe. But to me it was special.
Why? Somewhere in that lovely mix of shrimp, laundry, basketball and mail, I suddenly remembered to be thankful.
Four months ago, I broke my ankle, had surgery and spent two months in a wheelchair. Then for weeks, I limped along, went to physical therapy and wondered when, or if, I’d ever get back to “normal”?
In that time, my husband did all the chores we usually shared. This weekend, I did things I had not done in months, things I had feared never doing again.
Imagine that. We heal, you and I. We get back to normal. Or we find a new normal. Then the things we’d prayed for become things we take for granted.
I never want to take for granted ordinary things like walking or cooking or grace.
Gratitude changes the world. Especially my world. I hope to make it my new normal.
Maybe you’ll make it yours, too?
Please know that I am always and forever thankful for you.