by John M. Carlson
“I’m making spaghetti for dinner, with an apple crisp for desert,” Mom said, as she puttered about the kitchen. “I’d thought of making something special, since it’s your first night home. But I just didn’t have the time.”
“Spaghetti sounds good to me!” Indeed, I liked spaghetti. For that matter, I liked everything Mom cooked. Well, everything except liver and onions.
“I hope you’ll eat a lot of spaghetti! You’ve lost weight. You won’t do well in school if you don’t eat properly!”
Not this topic again! We’d just covered it less than a month before. I said: “I’m no thinner than I was at Thanksgiving. As I told you then, I’m eating enough. I just don’t have a lot of stuff I have at home—like deserts—and I’m walking so much.” Time to change the topic. “Can I do something to help?”
“Well, you could open a bottle of wine for dinner.”
“Sure.” I went over to the cupboard where we stored wine. “Any particular wine?”
“A red wine. Beyond that, I don’t care. It’s all the same—good for the price.” Mom sighed. “‘Good for the price!’ I get so tired of always thinking of the price! I get so tired of thinking of money. I remember what it was like ten years ago, when we could completely fill the oil tank—and we kept the house warmer! Back then, I bought nice wine more often. And back then, ‘roast’ didn’t automatically mean ‘pot roast.’ Come to think of it, when was the last time we had a real roast?”
“No idea.” I thought. The last time I could remember was when I was in junior high. I wouldn’t tell Mom that—I didn’t want to depress her by reminding her it had been so many years since the last time she’d roasted a real roast that her teenage boy had become a man. “It’s been a while. But that’s OK. I like your pot roast.”
“Good. Guess what’s on the menu for Sunday?”
I opened a bottle of wine. I reached into the glass cupboard, and started pulling out a wine glass.
“Use the nice glasses,” Mom said.
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Maybe we should use nice things more often. They are made to be used, after all. And I can trust you now. I remember when you were six, and somehow climbed up to grab one of those glasses. I nearly had heart failure.”
I poured a couple of glasses of wine, using the nice glasses.
We sat down at the dining room table a few minutes later. Mom had me say grace. Then, we began eating. The spaghetti was, as always, wonderful. The sauce was thick, rich, and full of flavor. We had garlic bread that had buttery-garlic goodness with every bite. And the wine might be cheap, but it was good. Really good.
“You probably don’t say grace when you’re at school,” Mom said, “since you eat in the cafeteria.”
“No, I don’t say grace,” I said. Indeed, I could imagine that if I did say grace, everyone around me would think I was crazy. Especially on those all too frequent nights when dinner was beyond horrible.
“I just hope you at least remember to be grateful for all your blessings,” Mom said. “I know it’s hard sometimes—I have trouble remembering to be grateful sometimes, too! But it’s important to be grateful.”
Mom was right. I had a lot to be grateful for. I had enough to eat, even if college meals could sometimes be beyond horrible. I had a chance to go to college, unlike either of my parents. I was doing well. I had good friends. I had my family.
She was also right that sometimes it’s all too easy to lose sight of one’s blessings. One bad event can completely ruin a day that was otherwise perfect.
“I am grateful,” I said. “I am very grateful.”