The first snow of winter appeared before the mounds of dried leaves left our streets. The memory of those beautiful autumn trees was swept away by winter’s early visit.

I can’t help but think how fortunate most of us are to be warm and comfortable in our heated rooms. When I was a kid, radiators tried with all their might to keep us warm, but typically with minimal success. The radiators were burning hot to the touch, but 5 feet away, it was cool. My mom would scold me if I complained. She spoke of having to huddle around a wood-burning stove when she was a child.

When I was a teenager, there would be almost daily morning discussions with my mom about my winter clothing choices. She always chose the warmest, ugliest things for me to wear (often my Aunt’s hand-me-down clothes), and of course I would strongly object. Mom always won the morning battle. However, when I would arrive at school or work, I would remove as much clothing as I could, and proceed to “fashionably” freeze during the day.

Besides dressing for the winter weather, my mom insisted on fortifying me both inside and outside my body. To satisfy her inside requirement for me, Mom prepared her famous chicken soup. It was not a broth. Rather, it was much more porridge-like and could better be eaten with a fork than a spoon. Most of the family thought it was tasty, but also noted it could double as wallpaper paste. I teased about Mom’s soup, and yet I often make a similar thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup when my family has the sniffles or a cough. I swear it even helps soothe COVID-19 patients!

In addition to my “attractive” winter clothing, my mom insisted on warming the outsides of me by slathering Vick’s Vaporub on my neck and chest. The scent of this camphor “eau de cologne” would cling to my skin for hours after application. My embarrassment mattered not to my mother; I still had to go to work or school.

Growing up in our household, school and work were considered both a privilege and an obligation. The rule was unless you were “close to death” you never missed a day of either. According to the school, an absent day was a mark against the student, and at work it was simply, “no work, no pay.” In those times, we did not have the luxury of taking vacation or sick days with pay. So we worked and went to school … fever, sniffles, or whatever!

I am sure my grandparents never dreamed that someone could set a dial to a desired temperature on an invention called a “thermostat,” and have the furnace heat their rooms well. Even though over the years most of our lives have been made more comfortable, I know many have not had the benefits that I’ve had.

In this Thanksgiving season, and every day, I am forever grateful for my personal blessings. Now if only we could design a kinder, warmer society appreciative of our diverse population and our democracy — forgoing cold and hateful thoughts.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

And that would warm us, too, inside and out.

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