Counting My Blessings

image copyright Fred First
November 2001. Our only grandchild, Abby, was less than a year old, barely enough hair to tie a ribbon around , fat-cheeked, speechless. My how she’s grown into a bright, stuck-on-go little gal, just like her momma. We see her once or twice a year–and if she doesn’t remember us down the road, she’ll remember the white house in the woods, splashing in the creek, and she’ll remember the dogs, Buster and especially Tsuga, her hug-buddy.

Mike and Holli, SIL and daughter, we thought were living far away then–in North Carolina. Now we wish they were so close, having seen how much country passes under the shadow of the plane between Goose Creek and South Dakota. Both are thriving in their respective therapy professions of PT and OT. I’m afraid we’ll never get them back this way, now that Holli has a horse again. That was the only thing we could tempt her with that she didn’t have out there. She’s never forgotten Beauty, and her clubhouse in the barn loft–the blessings of a country childhood I’m thankful we could give her before wisking both kids to Birmingham so I could climb my professional ladder.

Nate soon lost the beard he had brought home from Belfast a few months before. If I’m keeping my calendars right, at Thanksgiving that year he was finishing his bachelors at Maryville, finally, after first taking a semester off to walk home from Bar Harbor in April through July 2000 on the back roads of 8 states, and then there was the stint at Queens College and after that, busking his way around Europe and a few months on a dairy farm in the Swiss Alps in 2001. His flight was scheduled to bring him home on September 13, 2001. There were some unsettling complications in air travel about that time. We were so thankful to have him home for Thanksgiving. Now he is married almost a year, moving even today somewhere on the road, from Vancouver where he finished a Masters in Theology to a few months in St. Louis. Now only God knows what and where the boy will go from here, and He isn’t divulging what comes next just yet.

Ann was working at the pharmacy at the V.A. in Salem then, and didn’t know at the time that it wouldn’t be a forever job for her. Six months later, her first choice job, not available when we moved here in 1997, opened up. She started it the same week I left mine. And she’s still there, more than four years later. She’s to credit for the lovely table and meal.

I can’t remember how we talked mom into joining us. I’m pretty certain it had to do with the rare conjunction of her son, his children and their child in one place. I don’t think she’s been back since. We’ll get to see her for a short while when we pass through Birmingham soon.

The photographer behind the camera on this day was a fortunate fellow, with a fine family sitting down together to a warm meal in a snug old house far out in the woods. But six months after this picture was taken, he came home from the clinic and told his wife he needed to do something different with his life. He found blogging as a way of speaking out his uncertainties, but also as a way of sharing his blessings–and they were, and are many. And to this day, he finds this picture of the last time the whole family had Thanksgiving dinner in this old house, and it makes him feel mighty satisfied. Yes sir.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving, fragmented fred! i like the pic- our family rarely gets to be together on the holidays- we’re too spread out, also. so i cherish those rare times that we are all together.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Papa, from New Bloomfield, new home for at least a while. It’s nice. There’s highland sheep just out our door, and the house has much “home” potential. Glad we’re one step (or maybe two) closer to another home with deep roots on Goose Creek. Say hi and love to Ma, and we’ll call soon.