This first Saturday between the all too short Thanksgiving holiday and the too long commercialization of the Christmas season has me thinking of what I should be thankful for and the gifts I've been given.
And among the most meaningful of those are perfectly symbolized in my Dad's lunchbox.
I started thinking about this after seeing a disturbing statistic for West Virginia children. According to the Kids Count Data Book, 35 percent of kids live in a household where no parent has a full-time, year-round job.
I don't know how to fix that, but that statistic concerns me. Growing up in a house where one or both parents routinely leave for work and return after a full day is a great way to teach a work ethic to the children in the house.
I know because I lived it. I watched my Dad head off to work at about 7:30 a.m. every Monday through Friday, then saw him return about 5:30 p.m.
Dad was a Carbider - a loyal, dedicated and full-time employee of Union Carbide Corp. He started not long after earning a business degree from the University of Texas.
Back in those days, Union Carbide was an innovative chemical manufacturing giant that moved its employees around to plants along the Texas Gulf Coast and here in the Kanawha Valley.
Dad worked at the Victoria, Seadrift and Brownsville, Texas, plants as he and Mom were doing some manufacturing of their own, producing five children.
I became aware of Dad's working life during his 10 years at Carbide's newest Gulf Coast plant in Taft, La.
Mom packed Dad's gray, plastic lunchbox every morning with a sandwich, fresh fruit and vegetables, a Thermos, and two Oreo cookies.
She'd hand Dad the lunchbox and give him a kiss as he headed out the door to catch the carpool of four or five other Carbide dads in the neighborhood.
He'd return about nine hours later, walk directly to Mom and plant a loving kiss on her lips, then lay the empty lunchbox on the kitchen counter.