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Reasons to Be Cheerful


Hereís a holiday idea to startle the fam.

Bring a clipboard to the Thanksgiving table. And sometime between the first sips of pinot grigio and the last bites of pie, pass it around and around the table. Squeeze a little gratitude out of everybody.

Too shy to make your family think that hard? Then do it yourself.

Name 50 ordinary things youíre thankful for. None of them can be generalóyou canít say ďfoodĒ or ďlodgingĒ or ďfriendship.Ē And your gratitude doesnít have to be high brow; it just has to be sincere. Believe it or not, all this inventorying the ordinary will feel really, really good.

Not only that, but I think there is some new research to suggest that gratitude burns calories, lowers cholesterol, tames lactose intolerance, counteracts carbohydrates, fights wrinkles, sharpens eyesight, stimulates brain function, tones abdominal muscles, melts fat and heightens sexual performance. Donít you feel more grateful already?

1. Iím grateful the Red Sox won.

2. Iím grateful that my younger daughter still likes me to read to her in bed at night.

3. Iím grateful for Grade B maple syrup.

4. Iím grateful for early 20th-century French poets.

5. Iím grateful for people who browse at Barnes & Noble, but buy at the Book House and the Open Door.

6. Iím grateful my older daughter continues to indulge my unhealthy attachment to backgammon.

7. Iím grateful for antibiotics and antiseptics and antidepressants and antibodies and antinomianism. (Go look it up.)

8. Iím grateful for Zebra mechanical pencils and narrow-ruled notebooks.

9. Iím grateful for the Green Street paniniówith extra pestoóat the 1795 Cafť in Schenectady.

10. Iím grateful for friends who are as depressed as I am about the outcome of the election; the rising religious right; the war in Iraq; Israeli-Palestinian relations; our attitude toward Europe, our attitude toward education, poverty, women and gays at home; new Cabinet appointments, and the probable direction of the Supreme Court.

11. Iím really grateful for those friends.

12. Iím grateful that I cry and laugh so easily.

13. Iím grateful that Rod Stewart has only two CDs of standards; I would be even more grateful if he stopped recording altogether.

14. Iím grateful that I come from a family whose evening entertainments include impersonating fruits, vegetables and sizzling bacon.

15. Iím grateful we donít even require illegal substances to move us to such heights of physical comedy.

16. Iím grateful I learned how to cook.

17. Iím grateful my oldest daughter prefers cleaning to cooking.

18. Iím grateful for room service.

19. Iím grateful for Saratoga Springs geyser water, which I actually like and which my mother thought was as effective as prune juiceósomething I have never been grateful foróin aiding digestion.

20. Iím grateful for the Scotia Dineróand for Lois, who works there.

21. Iím grateful my dentist is a bit of a nut and that my massage therapist is obsessed with muscles.

22. Iím grateful that though Targets and McMansions are popping up all over the region, you can still see a breathtaking stretch of the Mohawk River where Forts Ferry meets River Road.

23. Iím grateful for Peebles Island, where there are no houses, and where the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers join their waters.

24. Iím grateful for the smell of extinguished candles.

25. Iím grateful for skin.

26. Iím grateful for soft wool sweaters.

27. Iím grateful for dry red wine and expensive parmesan cheese.

28. Iím grateful for the people whose lives brush mine in ways that feel gentle and comforting.

29. Iím grateful for being fed up enough to stop trying to build bridges between people who are much happier with dissension and isolation.

30. Iím grateful for Glenn Gould, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Hank Jones.

31. Iím grateful for the third and fourth movements of Beethovenís fifth symphony; and for more classical music chestnuts than I care to admit in print.

32. Iím grateful for Johnny Hartman singing ďLush LifeĒ and ďYou Are Too BeautifulĒ and John Hiatt singing ďFeels Like RainĒ and Elvis Costello and Tony Bennett singingóseparatelyóďMy Funny Valentine.Ē

33. Iím grateful I know the Pipsí part to ďMidnight Train To Georgia.Ē

34. Iím grateful for movie quotes. (ďYou talkiní to me?Ē)

35. Iím grateful for some things that are nobodyís business.

36. Iím grateful for not being able to decide upon a single favorite writer, though Robert Frost, despite his apparent curmudgeonliness, would score high in the poetry area and Wallace Stegner, who I truly believe was a good man as well as a sublime writer, would probably take the prize for fiction.

37. Iím grateful to live in the Northeast, except between mid-January and May.

38. But since I do, Iím grateful for fatwood and fireplaces.

39. Iím grateful for George Innessí painting ďAt Home In MontclairĒ which is in the permanent collection at the Clark (though itís not always up).

40. Iím grateful for the Ketchup Advisory Board.

41. Iím grateful for my estate-sale fur coatówhich should not even be near the word ďketchup.Ē

42. Iím grateful for Crabtree & Evelyn patchouli bubble bath.

43. Iím grateful for pig-headed, outspoken liberals who know how to laugh.

44. Iím grateful for soft-spoken, deeply feeling liberals who know how to mourn.

45. Iím grateful to know both.

46. Iím grateful my older daughter knows how to get royally pissed off.

47. Iím grateful my younger daughter is every bit as wise as she is kind.

48. Iím grateful for people who have bumper stickers on their cars that say ďGod bless everyone. No exceptions.Ē

49. Iím grateful our forebearsí idea of Thanksgiving was to gather and give thanks, even though they probably didnít agree about everything.

50. Iím grateful that, though humans seem hard-wired to carp and criticize, we remain, as the poet, Richard Wilbur, wrote, ďObscurely, yet most surely, called to praise.Ē

óJo Page


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