I hardly know where to begin in my list of 'Things for which I am Thankful' ... I can begin, but where would it ever end. My blessings are innumerable, and seem immeasurable. For this post, I'm going to concentrate on my past and on some of the blessings I enjoyed in my childhood years.
1. I am thankful for the parents God gave me.
My childhood was one of total love and security. I took it completely for granted, and it simply didn't occur to me that this was not the norm for everyone else. It's only now, as I've become much older, that I realize how amazingly blessed my childhood was.
I read the horrors of the hundreds of thousands of baby girls who are killed in the womb before they ever see the light of day - simply because they are girls. And I begin to grasp the blessing of growing up in a family, in an era, and in a culture where I was never, ever made to feel inferior because I was a girl.
I become aware of what some children have to suffer because of parents who have addictions and who are violent and abusive, and I begin to grasp the amazing blessing of growing up not even knowing such lives existed.
I read of so many devastatingly sad lives, and I can only praise God for the wonderfully happy childhood with which He blessed me.
I am thankful for my Mum:
... who was at home every single day when I came home from school;
... who did all the household 'chores' much more efficiently than I do, and who did them all - as far as I could see - with joy in her heart;
... who always let us know that school holidays were her favourite time of the year, and who always dreaded the end of holidays and the beginning of a new term. She was happiest when we were all at home, and for the sense of security that brought, I will always be thankful;
... who loved to have an open door. I have wonderful memories of lots of aunts, uncles and cousins with us for Christmas or New Year dinners; I knew as I got older that I could invite any friends to our home, whether for a meal or to stay for a while; and I know it was easy for my childhood friends to come into my home any time.
I am thankful for my Dad:
... who worked so hard, often six days each week, and without complaining. I never, ever heard my Dad moan about 'another day at work'. Not ever.
... who, despite his long working hours, spent many evenings playing Monopoly with us kids. Now that the Builder and I are at the stage of life at which he then was, I see more and more how much of a labour of love these Monopoly games were.
... who, along with Mum, thought nothing of taking us off school on Wednesdays in May or in August so we could all go for a day trip to Harris. When he had a day off, it was on a Wednesday - not ideal when Saturday was our day off school. These 'unofficial' days off sorted that. I'm not aware that our education suffered significantly, but I am aware that precious memories were made - memories of picnic baskets, of fishing rods, or long sunny days roaming Harris hills.
... and one more thing: my Dad was not at all concerned for what other people thought or may have said about his family. I remember him saying on a number of occasions that 'what other people do is not our business, and what other people say about what we do isn't our worry. What God thinks of what we do is all that matters'. This attitude made a deep, deep impression on me, and I am very thankful for it.
Yes, I'm very thankful to God for the parents He gave me.
2. I am thankful for the place in which we live, and where I grew up.
In a similar way to my home life, life in the wider community was also blessed. In my naivety, I thought all boys and girls could wander home from school, taking hours to meander the mile between school and home. I had no idea that it wasn't the norm not to fear anyone, and not to learn not to talk to strangers. When my friends and I walked home from school each afternoon, we would stop for a game of football on an empty patch of land beside the river. We'd stand at the bridge and throw stones into the water and then we'd find a stone to kick all the way home, following it into its numerous digressions into the ditches. We'd saunter down the road as if we had all the time in the world - after all, we did, didn't we? We'd stop off to say Hi to an old cailleach who may have happened to be at her door as we passed. We'd accept sweets or biscuits from anyone who offered them, and we didn't know that other children lived totally different lives.
I didn't know there was such a thing as fear. For that, I truly give thanks to God.
3. I am thankful for the people who were my neighbours.
The Builder often laughs at me because I know so few people on the island and even in our district. He says this: 'If they weren't in Taigh Stingear or in Taigh a' Mhinisteir, Anne will have no clue who they are'. These two houses were next door to our home, and he's not far wrong! I really knew very few people by name - remember what I said about my Dad? He never spoke about people and what they were doing (I don't mean just gossiping, but even in general chit-chat). But these two homes that I mentioned have such warm and happy memories for me. I don't want to mention names on the blog without people's permission, but Taigh Stingear was always such a warm home for me. The kitchen always seemed to smell of scones and of strong tea - oh, this is bringing so many memories flooding into my mind, making me smile, laugh and yes, cry! And Taigh a' Mhinisteir was the same: warm and loving, it felt to me like an extension of my own home. To this day it reminds me of my Grandpa and the people he loved, and that fills me with joyful sadness. These 'extensions' to our home allowed for a neighbourliness that is fast becoming a thing of the past. I am thankful to have grown up during a time when wandering into my neighbour's home for a cuppa was considered normal. And I'm thankful for bonds that were created then and that last a lifetime.
My darling Grandpa, front right, with three of his nephews.