When I was a little girl Thanksgiving, for me, didn’t come on the usual Thursday of the usual month necessarily. We did celebrate that particular day with the usual feast and formalization. For me though Thanksgiving was the day Grandpa’s the root cellar was full. There aren’t too many folks these days that have root cellars or even know what one is so I’ll do my best to enlighten the uninitiated.
A root cellar is a dug down into the ground. It’s a small room usually lined with concrete blocks. It has a roof right at ground level with a little ventilation shaft sticking out. It’s built into a hillside usually or has had dirt moved up around it so that only part of one side is open to the air and accessible through a small door. There are usually steps going down to the bottom so that as much of the interior as possible is insulated by earth. A root cellar is so called because it was primarily used for storing root crops but Grandpa’s was used for storing bout everything anybody could eat except for meat, which was stored in the smoke house until he got a freezer.
There would always come a day when the last of the season’s crops were put away and I would stand in the root cellar and take in the sights and smells and colors of earth and apples and potatoes and canning jars full of everything from corn to watermelon preserves. There were pumpkins and cushaws and onions, sweet potatoes and turnips and strings of dried peppers.
I loved that smell. It smelled like security, like safety, like reassurance. I’d stand there taking it all in and feeling embraced somehow by contentment and peace. That was Thanksgiving for me. I was so grateful for all those little bits of heaven’s manna that we had grown and gathered and stored. I was grateful for the sunshine and rain that made it all grow. I was grateful for the root cellar and Grandpa’s foresight that would keep it safe and edible through the winter. I was thankful for the bounty and riches that I had had a hand in securing. I was thankful that I had sense enough to be thankful.
I don’t have a root cellar these days but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating my own particular Thanksgiving. Every year there comes a day when the weather and the angle of sunlight and the scent of falling leaves bring to mind that old root cellar. I can see it and smell it again in my mind just like I was standing there. This year that day came about three weeks ago. I did what I do every year on that day. I went to the grocery store and stocked up on everything….spent a couple hundred dollars on canned goods and staples (that being things like flour and sugar and cornmeal). I bought a bunch of meat to put in the freezer and I bought some apples and potatoes just for the smell. I brought it all home and put it all away in my cupboards and freezer and stood there smiling and giving thanks that my labor these days earns me enough to be able to do that.
I know a lot of folks have trouble thinking of anything to be grateful for. Many of these folks are well fed, have good jobs, wonderful homes, happy children and a spouse that loves them yet come that day they find more to complain about than most folks who have a lot less. Just as there can be riches in poverty, (for me in the form of an old root cellar or gorgeous sunset) I suppose these people suffer the poverty of riches. They can’t know how much they have because they’ve never been without.
I guess that’s what I mean when I say that I’m thankful I have enough sense to be thankful. I know what matters. I know what counts. I know that if I have love and something to eat I am truly rich. Everything else is just so much clutter the can blind us to the true gift of life.
Be thankful this week y’all. Be thankful, truly thankful for all the things with which you are blessed. If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for you’re not paying attention. Take a trip down to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or a hospital ward for children who are terminally ill. Visit a nursing home or a Veteran’s hospital. Humble yourself a bit. You don’t deserve your good fortune. No one does. Be thankful that it’s not about deserving. Be thankful and be mindful of the Grace all good things.