I am grateful to my teeth for the following:
#1. Opening Chobani yogurt lids
#2. Opening the plastic bag encasing for my cereal
#3. Opening my soccer chair outer cover string-pull when I attend the kids’ games
#4. Opening wrappers of any kind
#5. Peeling a banana
“We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing; He chastens and hastens His will to make known; The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing; Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own…..” Ugh. I sat there and shuddered with embarrassment as my parents once again engaged in their annual ritual at the Thanksgiving table with our dear friends, the Shapiros. Our families had been close for many years and three of their four children were practically the same age as me and my two brothers, Peter and Ted. Many years before, we all had been living in Jerusalem during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. Their son Daniel and I played together in the bomb shelters, oblivious to the dangers that surrounded us. Because our parents were all displaced New Yorkers, when it was time for holidays like Thanksgiving, we would typically gather together to celebrate.
This particular year, at the prompting of one of our fathers, each adult and child went around the table declaring what we were thankful for. Weighing my options, I tried to come up with something significant, something that demonstrated my appreciation for the greater world around me and not simply my own life. First was my brother Peter’s turn. “I am thankful for our new Atari set!” Everyone laughed. Next was my turn. I chimed in, repeating what I had heard the Miss USA pageant contestant declare on television that Fall. “I am grateful for the fact there is peace on earth.” Awkward silence. And then it was time for my friend Daniel to offer his take on gratitude. “It’s so incredibly nice to be together with the Weinbaums once again for the holiday. Being together reminds me how sometimes certain friendships are more like having family.”
I looked at Daniel, fully absorbing his comment. That was the first time I recall appreciating that you could find meaningful gratitude even in simple things.
I was sick as a dog. Not sure why dogs are associated with sickness in such an expression, but I knew I fit the bill. I had been up all night before, you don’t need the details. Charlie was only a couple of months old, and Ethan almost four. Within months, Savanna would be born, assuming all went according to our adoption plan.
“Joan just arrived. You going to be okay?” John was about to head to work. Joan had been with us since Ethan was practically an infant. “Yes. Please let her know I’ll be down as soon as I get the energy.” But all day I slept, only opening my eyes finally later that afternoon. “Joan?” I called out. No response. She must have taken the boys out, I presumed, so I was home alone. Eyeing the time, I realized…it was just me, myself and….. Oprah.
So I turned on the television, and on the show was an author named Sarah Ban Breathnach. She was discussing with Oprah the importance of keeping a gratitude journal. Oprah herself had been keeping a journal for more than a decade. Every night she would list five things she was grateful for. Someone in the audience then raised her hand and mentioned that as wonderful as a gratitude journal sounded, she wasn’t sure she could ever come up with at least five things every day. Oprah responded. “Well, many times my grateful list is filled with the obvious, everyday things. The list doesn’t necessarily have to be incredibly significant, as long as it represents something that was positive about your day. It could literally be the equivalent of a stranger unexpectedly opening the door for you.”
According to Oprah, for example, she was grateful on October 12, 1996 for the following:
#1. A run around Florida’s Fisher Island with a slight breeze that kept me cool.
#2. Eating cold melon on a bench in the sun.
#3 . A long and hilarious chat with Gayle about her blind date with Mr. Potato Head.
#4. Sorbet in a cone, so sweet that I literally licked my finger.
#5. Maya Angelou calling to read me a new poem.
I rolled over in my bed, noticing for the first time that day I was hungry. It seemed I was on my road to recovery. The sun shone brightly through my window warming me. “Meg, we’re home!” Joan had heard the TV on and knew I was awake. I couldn’t wait to see Ethan and baby Charlie. I already had three for my list for that day.
Now that we’re finally back in our home for a couple of weeks after Hurricane Sandy, I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and what I am thankful for. For us, the unconditional friends and family offering a warm place to stay as the temperature dropped dramatically are certainly among the top of my list. But beyond the obvious, in the spirit of being grateful also for “the little things,” I would like to give thanks for my teeth.
While I am an independent woman, I have acknowledged in blogs past how handy a steak knife can be for me. It’s my go-to opener for every package. But my husband, John, refuses to let me walk around holding a sharp utensil. The nerve…. and so, as I sit down to write in my gratitude journal on this Thanksgiving day, I have decided to dedicate my entry in appreciation to my teeth. It’s almost as if my pearly whites step in where my fingers are lacking. And so, I have come up with five reasons my teeth are stupendous, and not one had anything to do with helping me to eat my food.
Whether about something significant or seemingly minor, sometimes it feels just as good giving a nod of appreciation to something we otherwise simply take for granted. Happy Thanksgiving for those of you who celebrate!
This post is dedicated to my lifelong dear friend Daniel Shapiro, who remains one of the most thoughtful people I have ever known, and who happens to now be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.