Stark-Style Gratitude

As the air cuts through my coat with a chill, I breathe, then cough the growing thickness. It is heavy with snow. The wind whips the powdery snow circling my imagination.

For that is the only place it could be.

It does not look a lot like Christmas here in Northern California with days in the high seventies and nights in the mid-forties.

What does look festive are the storefronts, the Christmas barrels outside Bank of America and at every school and Church in Hughson, the event announcements and the rapidly filling calendar begging for special planning and celebration.

Our Thanksgiving is quiet and simple with a tried and true menu

Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash

Garlic mashed potatoes, sourdough and sage stuffing, a home-made loaf of challah, classic cranberry sauce, the traditional turkey with bourbon gravy and pumpkin pie. The day before we prepare the potatoes (they are better reheated), the bread and the cranberry sauce. The stuffing is cut and prepped as much as possible. My mother supplies the pie (because why mess with perfection?). Thanksgiving Day is spent basting the turkey, watching “Miracle on 34th Street,” and when we sit, reviewing not just our blessings from the day, but offering thanks for blessings from the year.

Blessings this year

The year brought a new home, a published book, a successful homeschool routine (unlike last year), a new position with this newspaper (Assignment Editor) and a new baby (not yet seen but felt regularly by me). For my husband, new and expanded work.

My nine-year-old prepares her answer, “I’m glad we got a new home which is in the country.”

My seven-year-old quickly offers, “my Legos.”

My five-year-old coos, “my treasures.”

All three realize they have forgotten to express their thankfulness for the tiny black kitten bounding about the house.

My three-year-old resists answering the question until he has finished playing. His quietly says his simple answer, “Daddy.”

To think of this child, what could be greater than looking at a year past and realizing in just a few short weeks, he could reach an entire year without illness, this child who once was admitted to the hospital every other week, sometimes for weeks at a time, sometimes with life-threatening concerns.

A reflective look

Feeling reflective, it is only now that I can look back and see how the events of my early life are connected to life right now. Personality does not change that much, but I can see more clearly than ever the foundations laid in my thinking and faith that created the stability we needed to pursue the present.

My husband and I reconnect with our roots as we reconnect to the land of our new home. In writing long-form works, I return to the stuff of my childhood, pounding away at an archaic Macintosh. My work for this newspaper becomes an opportunity to do good by promoting those better able to be out in the world caring for the stranger. A new baby reminds us of the hope and peace we experienced in earlier pregnancies before our world was rocked again…and again.

Nathan Stark in Concert

I have no doubt this reflection will carry over as I journey out of our snug home, down the rushing Whitmore Avenue to the familiarity of Hughson High School to see opera singer Nathan Stark returning to his roots, to work with, encourage, and perform with students at his alma mater in the Hughson High School Auditorium, December 6 at 7 p.m.

The “Stark Raving Concert” shows the connections of small-town Hughson in all its best ways: an international opera star offers workshops to dedicated high school students in a small town, taught by Brad Thompson, one of Stark’s mentors and inspirations. Proceeds from the concert with them will benefit the local food bank.

Tickets are available at the door for this unique event, celebrating the return to one’s roots, gratitude for the good things of the season, and a look ahead to all the potential of tomorrow.

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