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These things for which I'm thankful
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During this holiday season, I’m thankful for:

• The bright blue skies of autumn, with yellow maple leaves blowing in the breeze.

• The way people are personalizing funerals these days, with friends and family members talking about the deceased -- non-mournful, true celebrations of life.

• Fleece garments like Polartec (is that a brand name?) that keep us warm even on the chilliest South Carolina winter morning.

• The steeple bells of Camden’s First Baptist Church, with their hymns tolling out over the town’s streets.

• The good health that still allows me, rickety knees and all, to put in a few miles running early in the morning.

• The decorative lights that will soon be spreading Christmas cheer in the Cooper Street area.

• Those seemingly effortless look-away passes that skilled point guards can throw.

• The way steam rises off a meadow in winter.

• Outward Bound, an outdoors program that stretches kids’ horizons and toughens them in the best way possible.

• The early stars of NASCAR -- Junior Johnson, Cale Yarbrough, Speedy Thompson -- who’d just as soon have a good fistfight as a close race.

• The life of novelist Robert Parker, who provided his many fans with terrific Spenser mysteries until his death earlier this year.

• “Forrest Gump,“ “The Shawshank Redemption“ and “The Graduate“ -- the only movies I can watch over and over.

• As always, the soothing ballads of Van Morrison, the most soulful crooner who ever picked up a microphone.

• Those white egrets that stand on the backs of cattle, just as if they had purchased a ringside seat for a first-hand pasture event.

• Masons who can lay bricks in perfectly level courses and think it’s no big deal at all.

• Satellite radio, with all its variety (except for the debt relief ads).

• The magic of language and watching toddlers learning to communicate.

• Chain saws which start easily and don’t choke down.

• Cruise control on long road trips.

• Grilled asparagus, McDonald’s French fries, Kit Kat bars and veal piccata.

• Oh, gosh, can’t let the food thing go: cheeseburgers, onion rings, and spinach salad, BLTs and, best of all, lobster.

• Two minutes left in the game, fourth and goal from the two.

• The serene and relentless waves that roll into shore from far out in the Atlantic, singing a rhythmic song to all who love the sea.

• Arnold Palmer and the legacy he has left for the game of golf.

• The aroma of freshly cut Christmas trees.

• Teenagers who don’t act as if it’s a pain to talk to adults -- and to call them by name.

• Music downloads off the Internet, which make it easy to buy a favorite song rather than having to purchase an entire album.

• The fun little kids have at Lake Wateree, being pulled around behind a boat on all sorts of fun water devices.

• Ticonderoga number-one pencils – the ones with soft lead.

• That first cup of coffee in the morning, when the sun is just beginning to peek over the eastern horizon.

• The expressive comedy of Steve Martin.

• My mangled, dent-ridden,  old pick-up truck, which doesn’t look like much but starts every day and does whatever I ask of it.

• The deep red tint of quarter-sawn heart pine flooring.

• “Boardwalk Empire“ and “Bluebloods,“ the best of the new season’s TV offerings.

• “Amazing Grace.“

• A hot cup of coffee after a pleasant dinner, maybe with a little brandy on the side.

• And, of course, family and friends.