Yesterday, my dad’s best friend sent me a picture of the building that I believe was my first home with my parents. It’s the intersection of 14th and Woodland Streets, in what is now the very trendy neighborhood of East Nashville.
The apartment was above what was then a drugstore. Mom told me that I got splinters from the floor, which was apparently less than finished. She also told me that once, during the summer, she was sitting with me on the sidewalk — the apartment didn’t have A/C. A stranger stopped his car, gave my mom some change (a quarter? fifty cents?) and told her to “take the baby inside [the drugstore] and get him some ice cream.” So she did.
When I was born, Dad was 22 and Mom was 21. They had been married for two years. Dad was in the middle of a series of jobs, from florist to furniture salesman to loading dock worker and a brief stint as a P.I., losing them as quickly as he could get them. He had already been through a brief stint in the Air Force, eventually being discharged as sole support for my mom and paternal grandmother.
When I was about two, Dad wandered into a job in the data processing business, and the job developed into a career that took us from Nashville to Northern Kentucky, where he became mayor of our small town for 20 years of the 31 that they lived up there. Mom was there every step of the way, working outside the home when we needed the money, and until she became too disabled to work.
Now I live with a family of my own, with Mrs. M, who worked her way from dire poverty in Appalachia to an award-winning teaching career, and the Spawn, who is working toward a career herself. By using the talents with which I was born, the resiliency I learned from my parents, and the motivation I’ve derived from my wife and daughter, I’ve managed to achieve a deeply satisfying career. I’ve also stumbled into an opportunity to develop as a writer, and that in turn has allowed me to meet and work alongside some of my own favorite writers.
In short (“Too late!” they cried.), I have abundant reasons for gratitude, and on this Thanksgiving Day, it seems appropriate to reflect on them, and to express that gratitude. But I also am grateful for the time ahead, and the prospect of pleasures (and I hope joys) to come. Indeed, I hope to be able to share some of them in the coming weeks and months.
And as I look at the picture of the home of my infancy, I’m thankful for the journey from there to here, and all the people who gave me the opportunity for this trip.
So Happy Thanksgiving to all of us — but save me some extra dressing, huh?