By Jessica Domel

Every year on Thanksgiving, my aunt makes all of my cousins and I hold hands in the kitchen and take turns saying what we’re thankful for. I’ll never forget the first year she made us do it. There was a lot of mumbling and sideways glances, but we all went around the group and made something up that we were thankful for.

I’m fairly certain I said something sarcastic like, “I’m thankful for vegetables,” because after all, who doesn’t love broccoli? My cousins each mumbled things like, “I’m thankful for family,” and “I’m thankful for good health.” At the time, we thought it was a strange exercise, and to be honest, for us it was.

We were kids. We were used to walking rapidly into the kitchen (no running!) to stand in line for a plate of the goodies my grandmother and aunts spent most of the morning cooking. This whole “giving thanks” thing was weird for us.

Now, many years later, it’s a tradition that many of us silently (and vocally) do on our own.

I have to say, I am still thankful for vegetables. There really is nothing quite like a good tomato, but now that I’m older, I see that my appreciation has changed a bit.

Instead of simply being thankful for a good tomato, I’m thankful that I once had the opportunity to crouch down in the garden with my grandfather and smell the tomatoes as they grew on the vines. That’s a smell I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and it’s one I haven’t found in quite a while.

I’m also thankful that my cousins and I were privileged enough to experience life on our grandparents’ farm. While it wasn’t always easy, and there were geese that liked to bite our rear-ends if we were out of line, it was an experience that I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

I mean, really, how many other people can say they vividly remember the first day they were able to walk outside the fenced-in yard because there were no geese to attack you? There should have been theme music for that first walk out to the tractor shed. While I’m on the subject, there should have also been theme music the first time I caught a giant fish in one of our tanks. That was quite a feat of patience for a little girl, but let me tell you, I’ve never been more proud.

Never in a million years did I think I’d be thankful for these two

That pride in our hard work and accomplishments in something that I learned through my dad and his parents on our family farm. I look at some kids today who just seem unmotivated to do anything, and it makes me truly appreciate all the blessings I’ve been given—even if it means being thankful for corralling my grandmother’s geese.