In Thanksgiving columns in years gone by, I sometimes made long gratitude lists. To change things up for 2021, I’ve decided to focus on only two things for which I’m thankful.
The first is baseball, a game I fell in love with in the 1960s when, as a little girl, I sat with my great-grandmother in front of a tiny black-and-white TV on a rickety rolling cart and watched whatever baseball game we could find. Grandma taught me most everything there was to know about the sport. But I never asked if she herself knew how to field or throw or bat or run the bases, because she was in her eighties–a proverbial little old lady–and such questions never entered my head. I regret that now.
My family moved to Augusta, Georgia in 1963. The Braves followed us to the peach state just three years later. At long last, people in the south had a Major League team to root for. Though my family moved to Nashville in 1967 and Grandma passed away shortly afterwards, I never stopped being a Braves fan. They were one factor in my decision to attend Emory University in Atlanta after high school. On April 8, 1974, I was in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium when Hank Aaron hit his 715th homerun, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. It was magical.
Fast forward to the 1990s. Though I was busy raising children, I almost never missed a game on TV when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz (who is—to be honest—still my imaginary boyfriend) were our pitching trio extraordinaire. I rejoiced when the Braves won the World Series in 1995, never guessing it would be 26 long years before that happened again.
Our guys had fans on edge this time as they failed to win game five in Atlanta and forced the series back to Houston, but a glorious shut-out and the trophy were our reward in game six. I only wish that Grandma and Hammerin’ Hank, who died last January at age 86, could have lived to see it. And I wish the Braves would ditch the tomahawk chop and the war chant, but that’s the subject for another column.
The second thing I’m thankful for this year is the widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines. I’m grateful for every scientist who helped develop the vaccines and for the people who continue to distribute and deliver them. When I got my first shot in the parking lot of the Hyder-Burks pavilion in February, I cried tears of joy. I visited my grandkids, whom I hadn’t seen in person for many months, soon after my second shot. For a while it looked as though, after the devastation of 2020, we had turned the corner. The pandemic would soon be over.
But no. Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers dug in their heels. Progress stalled. The delta variant reared its ugly head. The Covid death toll has now risen to more than three-quarters of a million people in the United States and more than 16,000 in Tennessee. Health officials fear that things will grow worse as cold weather sets in.
So why am I still feeling grateful? Earlier this month, children ages five and older became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. All my grandchildren who are old enough have received their first “Fauci ouchie,” an inaccurate term for a shot so quick and painless that it’s hard to muster tears. These kids still wear masks in school and other public places and will get their second vaccine the week after Thanksgiving. They’ve become part of the solution rather than part of the problem, just like all those folks who, over the years, have been vaccinated against smallpox and polio and flu and measles and mumps and chickenpox and various other contagious diseases.
For these things, I’m thankful.
(November 20, 2019)