Editor’s note: Denise Trivelas was a finalist for the Courier-Herald’s columnist application process. With March having five editions of the newspaper, Ms. Trivelas was kind enough to allow the Courier-Herald to publish her application column as a special opinion piece.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about possessions lately. Tangible possessions. Not how many I have, for they are plentiful, but sadly, how often I take them for granted. I am amazed at how quickly I can fall into a state of apathy, if I am not mindful of the many things I have to be thankful for. The definition of thankful is feeling or expressing thanks; appreciative. We would agree that saying thank you for a kindness or gift is essential. But to be thankful and appreciative, in my mind, refers to a state of being which raises the question — do I truly appreciate what I have? It seems like I need to continually be reminded of this.
My first introduction to thankfulness came when I was a child. I grew up with parents who had both lived through the Great Depression. They endured rationing. Gasoline, clothing and many food items were not readily available. They did without. When my siblings and I complained — “Oatmeal again?” “Why can’t I have a brand-new bike?” “I hate hand-me-downs” — my dad had a ready response. He would often recite, “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
Young as I was, it convicted me to be thankful for what I had. I understood it could be worse. As I grew up, I had the opportunity to witness this first hand, especially when traveling to other countries. I would come back home with a heart full of thankfulness, but slowly it would wane. I even placed a sign in my entry hall to remind me as I come and go. It reads: “The things we take for granted, someone else is praying for.”
Those things are boundless. Things that will fit in your pocket, things you must move with a dolly, things you would be hard pressed to move, like your house. Things that seem insignificant until they break down, can’t be found, or are sold out. Things like toilet paper. I must confess, I don’t think I have ever truly appreciated a jumbo pack of toilet paper until this past year. I need reminders, experiences that point me to thankfulness — like my vacuum cleaner.
When George and I were first married, we lived in a tipi happily situated on the Fall City side of the Snoqualmie Falls. If you’ve never been in a tipi, they are actually quite spacious and cozy. The exterior was made of canvas. Another layer of thick canvas covered the interior ground, which protected the tapestry rugs that lay on top. There was no electricity, so I swept the rugs with a broom. Life was simple and we were happy.
Before winter, we rented a small, old miner’s cabin on the Raging River. There, I swept the wall to wall carpeting with my trusty broom giving little thought to it. I felt so thankful to be in a house, where I did not have to pick slugs off the inside walls at night before going to bed. One day a friend came for a surprise visit. I made her a cup of her favorite tea, sat her in my most comfortable chair and resumed sweeping the carpet while we visited. She watched me for a while, then announced, “You need a vacuum cleaner.”
A couple of weeks later, she appeared at my door with a $5 garage sale treasure — a small upright vacuum. You can imagine my delight. Why someone would sell a vacuum cleaner that cheap never even entered my mind. I turned it on and was amazed at how much dirt is sucked out of the carpet. My floors had never been cleaner, although, the air became slightly greyish in color as a mild dust cloud shot out of the back of the machine. Nonetheless, I was thrilled. It saved me a great deal of time and effort, and with the doors and windows open, especially on a windy day, the dust disappeared quickly.
A year later, our landlords informed us they were selling the property. So, we packed up and brought all our belongings, including the $5 vacuum to our slightly larger, slightly newer house. We settled in quite nicely, but I soon realized this small vacuum didn’t have the power to clean a house this size. To be honest, I was no longer thankful for my humble vacuum. I mumbled and complained every time I used it and asked for a new one. It was not the best of times as the company George had worked for had gone out of business and our budget was tight. Still, we managed to find a shop which carried used models. We looked at the refurbished and pre-owned vacuums and felt fortunate to find a model, used for commercial cleaning, that was reasonably priced. I was overjoyed. This dirt-devouring monster vac would suck the carpet up if it wasn’t tacked down. I vacuumed every day that first week. I knew my carpets were clean. I was so thankful, even though it roared like a jet engine and should have included ear plugs and an engine hoist to move it to the second floor.
Time passed, and as you can well imagine, I became dissatisfied with that one also. I have had other vacuums since then and the one I have now I don’t give much thought to as I mindlessly clean the floors. I saw a sign the other day that asked:
“What if you wake up tomorrow with only those things you were thankful for today?”
What would I wake up with? What would you wake up with? A sobering thought indeed. I think I need to grab my broom and spend some time sweeping carpets in the tipi. I do have an extra broom, if you’d like to join me!