Here & there: The salve of gratitude

Photo illustration. | Photo by Alena Vikhareva, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — My mom and I had an elaborate pomegranate ritual every November when I was little. 

Photo illustration of little girl picking ripe pomegranate fruits in the garden. | Photo by
OKrasyuk, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

We would walk the streets of Willowglen in search of two, garnet-colored fruits from a willing tree, take them home nestled in our palms, and carefully spread old newspapers that had been saved for the very purpose across the kitchen table. 

Then, we’d sit, peel and talk as we labored.

It was the time with my mom, as much as the deliciously tart fruit, that I craved. 

So, it made sense that a pomegranate generated an idea about a way to connect with my mom – and my dad – this fall. Only now from afar. 

They are both of a certain age and have chosen to mostly self-isolate in their black-shuttered home in the hills of their small California town.

They get takeout. They walk and bike the neighborhood. And my mom has even become mostly technology proficient, in spite of years of eschewing it because she didn’t want “one more thing to be in charge of.” 

Photo illustration | Photo by fizkes, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

My dad, at age 81, is still a practicing attorney. Only now, and for the first time in his nearly 60-year career, he doesn’t go into the office in a dark suit and crisp tie at 8:35 a.m., every day after a Carnation Instant Breakfast and a banana. 

Instead, he now walks across the landing from his bedroom in shorts and bare feet to log billable hours from his “study.”

And then he plays outdoor tennis in a mask three times a week with a foursome that’s older than my children. 

My mom has used the time largely to write. She penned her autobiography. And then because they were still keeping close to home, went on to write the story of my dad and the story of my siblings and me from birth until we left for college. 

Although we’ve lived states apart for the last 20 years, I miss them profoundly today. And have every day since March. 

There have been no quarterly drives up to Utah for my mom. There was no July family reunion with tri-tip and a giant tent in their backyard. There will be no Christmas together. And my little family will eat my mom’s garlic potatoes and apple pie without them. 


Pomegranate Tree from Rex’s garden, Toquerville, Utah. | Photo by Rex Jensen, St. George News

Last week, my local market put out their pomegranates. Right at the entrance in a big, open square display. Loads of bright, happy, pomegranates in shades of crimson, currant and merlot. It was like my mom was calling out to me from the bin. Reminding me of our ritual. And other shared things. 

I stood smiling like a fool for a minute or two, running my fingers lightly across the fruits until I came to a decision.

I’d get a pomegranate to send through the mail to my mom and another one for myself. We could peel them together, even if we’d be apart, and recreate our old ritual. Pandemic be damned.

But what kind of package contains a single pomegranate? 

And even more, how is that solitary fruit, no matter the nostalgia, going to be a salve for what all feels so lonely, chaotic and hard? 

That’s when I remembered something in my inbox about a gratitude box (thanks clever email marketer) and realized the pomegranate would be the first of a handful of items I’d send to both my parents as an exercise of gratitude. 

An expression of gratitude to reinforce the good things that still exist in my life, even during this pandemic. And even while mostly alone. 

Photo illustration of handwritten text “I am grateful for…” | Photo by
natalie_board, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

In a matter of days, the pomegranate had a small army of thankful compatriots in the box with it. Things that expressed my gratitude for my parents – for our memories together, for their current health – for humor, for dark chocolate (I mean c’mon, right?), and for a few other small comforts. 

By the time I put the package in the mail, I was feeling less discouraged about the separation from my parents. I was also feeling more hope about the months to come. 

As American author Melody Beattie so eloquently said, “gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 

So, thank you gratitude. You are a mighty strong salve. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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