Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Appreciation and Giving Thanks

I haven't written about it in these letters, but I love the Anne Tyler book, Back When We Were Grownups. I own the audiotapes and listen almost every year. I find it warm and kind and instructive and heartening. Anyway, as we approach Thanksgiving here in the US, I'm reminded of Poppy's words near the end of the book. He is a man who has just celebrated his 100th birthday, and he speaks of all the joys of his day. He starts at the very beginning and continues on. Each time I read it, I am struck by the wonder of this passage. Do any of us consciously do this at the end of the day? Wouldn't it be awesome and life-changing if we did?

From the very start of the day, it's been perfect. Sunshine on my bedspread when I opened my eyes; radiators coming on all dusty-smelling and cozy. Waffles for breakfast, that puffy kind that are light inside but crispy outside, and one-hundred-percent maple syrup heated first in the microwave and then poured over in a pool and left a moment to soak, so the waffles swell and turn spongy and every crumb of them is sopping with that toasty, nutty flavor...

He goes on to talk about his morning shave, and the game of solitaire:

The best thing about solitaire is, it's so solitary. You're allowed to think these aimless thoughts and nobody asks what you're up to.

And his lunch which was just what he requested:

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat. ... There's something so satisfactory about a p.b.j. done right.

He continues on through naptime:

... cool white sheets that warmed as they got used to you.

dressing for his party, the candles on his cake, and at almost the end of the book he concludes with the frosting:

... the icing was my favorite: fondant. It melted in my mouth. I held a bite in my mouth and it sat for just a second and then trickled, trickled down my throat, all that melting sweetness.

Much as the sweetness of life, I think.

And now, Bing Crosby singing to Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas.


  1. Thank you for that post...loved it totally and makes me appreciate the simple pleasures in life!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  2. And I thank you, and wish you the same!

  3. Lovely post! Back When We Were Grownups was a wonderful audio. Thank you for reminding me of it and Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. What a wonderful post! That part in White Christmas always gets me as well as when they salute General Waverly when he first walks into the hall on Christmas Eve. One of the best movies ever:)Many blessings to you and your family on this Thanksgiving.

  5. That sounds like my mind of book - I've just requested it from the library. Thanks Nan! and a happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  6. What a lovely passage, I must get the book down and re-read it, I had forgotten that part.
    We don't have Thanksgiving here in the U.K. as you know, ungrateful lot we are! I wish you and yours a nourishing and delightful time.

  7. Beautiful. Thank you Nan. I love Anne Tyler and must read more of her. I think she is rather underrated and underread in the UK.

  8. My Mum taught me - when I was very young - to run through my day at bedtime and give thanks for all the things that had happened. Sadly it's a habit I got out of in my teens. Perhaps it is time to resurrect it. Irrespective of one's religious beliefs (i.e, whether it is a prayer of thankfulness or not) it surely must help generate a positive attitude to life.
    Thank you.

  9. I loved that movie so much. I used to have a little crush on ol' Bing. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving, Nan!

  10. Rachel, I don't love all her work, but I think this one is perfect.

    Scriptor, I love this. It brings tears to my eyes to think of your mother doing this. Thank you for telling me.

    Kay, I think I still do. :<) Especially in Holiday Inn. And the same wish to you.

    Carole, I don't think there are more grateful people anywhere than in your home land. Honestly.

    Thank you, Island Sparrow, and the same to you. I think you'll love the book. (let me know, okay?)

    JoAnn, and the same to you! I think Blair Brown is just wonderful with the narration and voices.

    Book Psmith, I love the movie, too, and since we own the dvd I watch it most years. I wish the same to you!

  11. I also thank you for that very 'thoughtful' post because I was 'full of thoughts' when I was done reading it!!

  12. Happy Thanksgiving, dear Nan!

    Thanks for a beautiful evocation of being thankful for the daily richness of being alive. I had just that kind of waffle one morning this week... I was thankful in the moment and for the memory.

    I, too, loved that book. But I haven't revisited it. Hmmm...

  13. Ah, you've gotten me into the holiday spirit with all this warm talk, Nan. I just wanted Rosemary to chime in on the song as well. What a beautiful voice she had too. I do think the mental re-run of the highlights of the day is a lovely way to drop off to sleep and set the mind to the right kind of dreams. Thanks for affirming that with the excerpt from the Anne Tyler. I thoroughly enjoyed that book too.

  14. Mary Lois, I have Rosie singing this on a Christmas album:


    If you don't own it, I think you would love it!

    Oh, thank you, Mare!

    June, isn't that something that you had a waffle like Poppy's just as I wrote about it. :<)

  15. Good music, good books, good food, and good friends.

    Could life be any better?

    My best to you and your family on this holiday!

    - J.

  16. Thanks, Jeff. (and you may add good health!)

  17. I remember how much you loved Tyler's book when you first read it. I've got the movie in my Netflix queue (it's been there forever), but no release date as of yet. I may just have to read it again, although I think you liked it better than I did. Aren't you shocked? ;)

  18. Yeah, Les, you are right! You didn't like the names and I love them!!! I bought the movie at Hallmark ages ago. It is quite good, but I don't like Faye Dunaway as the first wife. All the other actors were perfect, perfect (except Beck is supposed to be overweight and Blythe Danner is definitely not!)


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