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08/02/21 • 21 min

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Emily speaks with author Molly Beth Griffin, author of Ten Beautiful Things, a children's book which deals with helping a grand develop a sense of gratitude in a tough time. Emily's essay explores how and why her gratitude has ebbed and flowed over her lifetime.


The author's web site is

THE STRETCH IT TAKES (Emily's essay):
Enjoy the Stillness

There have been some periods of my life when I’ve been more grateful than others. And the more I consider the reasons for that, I believe that it has to do with how much cushion I have around my life. We’ve talked a little about the difference between being thankful and being grateful. It’s easy to express thanks. And I think for the most part I have been thankful to others for the things I enjoy. But the deeper things...the real feelings of gratitude have always come with a generous amount of time to reflect on them.

Like my mother’s square yellow casserole dish as she pulled it out of the oven, filled with a boiling hot spring of homemade mac and cheese. There was nothing like the feeling of receiving the first spoonful of that bubbling, cheesy pasta. I was always grateful if I was served that spoonful before anyone else.

As a child, my gratitude extended to being handed the cold, sweaty pink aluminum cup of KoolAid from my grandmother’s kitchen, or inhaling the scent of New Hampshire pine needles when I walked hand in hand with my grandfather to the mailbox to get the morning paper.

My first ten years were spent living in a cement subdivision where driveways and sidewalks took up the majority of that Buffalo landscape. On sweltering hot days, my friends and I would soak our beach towels with water and then lay down on them after skipping back and forth through the sprinkler. When it was time for dinner, we would pull them off the steamy cement underneath. I still remember the velcro-like sound of my towel as I ripped it off the driveway. Strange things to feel gratitude for. Strange things to remember. But maybe not so strange when you think about how much time I had at that point in my life.

Most days, that’s all I had was time. Not a lot of agency. Not much freedom to make my own decisions. I was completely at the mercy of everyone else’s schedule, which meant that I needed to keep myself occupied. So I read books, explored home construction sites (scary thought now that I’m older), I put on talk shows with my friends, and I played house in practically everyone’s basement in the neighborhood. And so many of my feelings of gratitude are wrapped around that time of my life. The list is endless...wearing my pajamas to the ice cream stand, the rough feel of the carpet in the back of the yellow VW Beetle (a place I loved to crawl into), the box fan blowing in my face and the funny mouth noises I entertained myself with, the massive trays of donuts brought to our front door for us to point to and then consume, the smell of the lily pads at my grandparent’s lake cottage.

But then there’s a long space that spanned my teenage years until the years I had our babies where I have a hard time remembering anything I was really grateful for. Jr. High, High School, College and then grad school, new jobs and marriage. So was I newly ungrateful, or was I just busy?

A lot happened during that time, but my most memorable moment of gratitude happened when as an adult and a new mother I was sitting out on the upstairs screened porch of our home in Rochester, NY. We had moved there when our daughter was one, and in the next spring our son was born. I sat out on the porch many late nights, nursing him and rocking him to sleep. I had nothing but time on my hands. No agency really. Not much freedom. Lots of hours at home with a 21-month-old and a newborn. Time had once again stopped for me, and in that pause, I was beyond grateful. I rocked my baby and watched the lights flicker below in the neighborhood. It was quiet. And I was filled with gratitude.

But before I knew it, I was in the throes of mothering four children all the way from birth to college. Looking back, it’s a blur, a...

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