I’m not sure when exactly it’s supposed to hit you that you’re a grown-up, or really if it is one specific time, but I know that something that comes along with becoming a real grown-up is the idea of gratitude. I learned this from being away from my family and the farmhouse that I grew up in.
I don’t mean that in moving away to college I have learned in one of my lectures what the definition of gratitude is, but rather moving away from what I have always had has allowed me to recognize just what I did have.
My Nana and Papaw have lived in a white-walled, black-roofed farmhouse since my mom was a little girl. My nana always used to tell us it was built by Native Americans, and I believed her until I was probably 12 years old. (It is old, but not that old.) It has ivy leaves covering the whole north side of the house and a decent sized hand-built wooden porch in the backyard. There is a rope hanging from what I used to think was the biggest tree in the world over the porch. I have memories of my cousins and I swinging off the side of the deck pretending to be Tarzan, stopping my mom’s heart every time our feet left the safety of the wood until the second they landed.
On the side of the house, there is another deck. This one has a porch swing, and now, half of it is filled with the wood stacks to use for the fireplace in the winter. Two old garages, filled with one man’s garbage and another man’s treasure peek out from the woods in the backyard. The home looks out onto a cornfield and faces west, perfect for sitting on the back of the pickup truck to watch the sunsets. The driveway is inviting, long and gravel-paved. I remember my dad dropping us off at the end of it and my sisters and I racing his car, as he barely touched the gas, letting us think we were the coolest of kids for beating him to the front door.
Growing up, each of these things meant so much to me. The gravel driveway was a runway and a creek for my cousins and me to build dams with the hose on in the summer while my mom and aunts would make lunch. The garages were grounds for adventure, treasure hunting, and finding trinkets. The ventilation hole above the fireplace was the location of a newly-invented pulley system for dad to put snacks in our makeshift caddy as we reeled it back upstairs so that we didn’t have to go downstairs to get candy.
The basement was a mystery and a place for spooky stories that we would never know the answers to. The dolphin wallpaper in the bedroom upstairs was perfect for our mermaid adventures, and the curved staircase was a perfect Barbie Dreamhouse. The living room was the stage for Christmas Eve plays that my cousins and I would put on for our parents. This house was our world.
Looking back, after spending time in my little four-walled dorm room, three hours from my family, and three hours from my cousins, who are growing up before my eyes and making memories without me, I have learned what gratitude feels like. I have learned how much of a blessing it is to have a family that can come together in a farmhouse in Ohio every month, to have support from my aunts and uncles in order to do whatever I want, to have cousins who are more like best friends, and to have a place that I can call home.
I have learned that I may not have come from the wealthiest family, but I came from a family full of love and joy and that is what matters. Being raised a Martin has given me the confidence to be proud of where I have come from and the trust to know that He is taking me far and onto better things. I feel confident that this newfound feeling of true gratitude will keep me grounded in my endeavors in the future, that no matter how far I go, I will always have the long gravel road up to that farmhouse.