Time to count your blessings ...

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

'Tis the season ... Not Christmas or Halloween! It's Thanksgiving! Time to sit back, relax, count your blessings and give thanks ...

As I take time to reminisce, I am proud to say I have come a long way and as all travelers will tell you, it's the people you meet that make the voyage worthwhile.

Thinking back to my paternal grandfather who lived with us till he died in his early sixties, I still feel his love.

A photo of Grandpa looking out for my sister and I perched on this huge, sawed-off tree trunk sits on my desk.

Grandpa Adéas

He would rock us in a huge rattan chair in the evening and sing a haunting lullaby that sounded aboriginal. I still remember the refrain and wish someone could tell me its meaning. He watched over me for I was curious and would run away to the barn or the stable where there were horses and cows and farm machinery ... He would say, "Go back home, you little schnooks! It's too dangerous out here."

The memory of my maternal grandmother who had over 50 grandchildren and managed to love them all also springs to mind. She kept a special cookie jar in the dining-room — FOR GRANDCHILDREN ONLY! We could pick a cookie from the jar but it was off limits for adults! She was also my godmother and every Christmas I would receive a card with a dollar inside. It was delivered along with a kiss and a great big hug. Grandma was a bottomless well of love. I am forever grateful for that love.

Being raised on a farm was a blessing too! I loved the great outdoors, the Ottawa River, my country schoolhouse, friendly neighbors. I learned to work. I became very adept at using farm machinery. It wasn't about competition, being rewarded or paid; it was about being useful and doing a good job. These lessons served me well.

I started teaching at a very young age, a passion (not just a job) that lasted thirty-two years. I am grateful for this wonderful career and the opportunity to influence so many children. Meeting a former student is always an incredible pleasure. To better yourself while helping others learn and grow ... What a wonderful experience!

During those same years I married, gave birth to my wonderful daughter, Adèle. Yes, life challenged me; it tested my strength and my resolve, my ingenuity and my perseverance. I viewed difficulties as learning experiences and forgave those who had cheated, lied or hurt me. I strived to become a better person. Writing became my second passion and painting added yet another dimension. I am grateful for these opportunities to express my self and touch people through my art.

True love has been one of the greatest gifts of all. Dare to love, dare to share and watch the results: an extraordinary life journey. My efforts paid off. My beautiful daughter found her passion, married and now has a family of her own. My grandchildren, all blond with brown eyes, are my pride and joy. Like my grandmother, I have become a bottomless well of love.

Retirement has brought more blessings so it is time to say thank you and show my gratitude. My friend Lucie has a jade-colored stone she calls her "gratitude rock". Every time she looks at it or touches it, she is reminded to be grateful for all the good things life has offered. I like that idea so I recovered the stone picked up on the shore of Lake Ontario this September and placed it next to my grandfather's photo. It will be "my gratitude rock" ... a well-rounded, smooth stone with layer upon layer of charcoal grey and rich red turned crimson.

Khalil Gibran was right when he said, "You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance".

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

9 October 2009 — Return to cover.