This Thanksgiving, I wanted to share something that showed up on my Facebook wall a couple of days ago and actually made me cry. But only for an instant. One tear. Because I was at work, and I’m never a sissy at work. One of my partners captured, so beautifully, the very essence of our job, how it lightens and darkens the soul all at once. And in an instant, I was taken back to all the after-turkey walks through our slumbering town where I mark the houses more through my knowledge of the occupant’s tragedies than anything else. “This one battled cancer, this one died in her sleep, here is the heart attack house, here is the basement fire.” So, such intimate knowledge. Alas, so isolating, and such a downer - especially on a holiday! – that I have learned not to share. But I will share this with you.
Because it’s lovely.
"Here is my Thanksgiving "Thankful" post and it will be the only one of the month I am going to do. I once argued with someone about shows like "Rescue Me" being a bit unrealistic because the characters saw ghosts. I tried to explain, I see ghosts all the time, not literally like they do in the "shows" but I do. I see the boy who drowned. I see the lady I delivered papers to for years who died in her sleep. I see the family members who I had to tell that I am sorry that there was nothing we could do. I see accident victims who died in my arms. I see the lady on her sun porch looking at a Cardinal eating and taking her last breath surrounded by her family. I see suicides and overdoses and heart attacks. I see people at their worst, their most tragic. I have seen the little girl who felt safe because Jesus was with her in the ambulance and there was no pain. So I thank God everyday for giving me the ability to be there. To give your loved one, someone, for who this is not a job, but someone that cares. God does not hate, God is not evil, he is with us in all things and all places and his is the hand that guides and heals all wounds."
So, I love this, and it made me thankful again for a beautiful job and wonderful coworkers. And the really awesome life with the really lovely people in it that God has given me.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
"Once you use those quotation marks, it's not you the writer talking, it's you the writer listening."—Albert Ríos
“Okay, guys.” I’ve gathered my characters together in a corner of my mind resembling the dining room of Nicola’s big old inn. They’re pretending to listen to me. “The verdict’s in. Ya’ll swear too much.”
“Y’all,” Bobby corrects me. He’s a Tar Heel, after all; he knows.
“You always fu.... misplace that apostrophe, darlin’,” That was purposeful. He’s grinning at me, blue eyes laughing behind his Lennons. At least he’s listening.
Rush and Delilah are at the piano, working on arrangement to “Everybody Hurts.” It’s gorgeous. And furthermore, it’s nice to see them getting along so well.I almost hate to interrupt them, but our meetings have become infrequent since publication; these are exceedingly independent individuals, and by now – seventeen chapters into the sequel - they are running their own show.
“Attention please.” I clear my throat in a futile bid for the spotlight. “About the swearing. You guys drop the F bomb way too often. You take the Lord’s name. Some of my readers are upset.”
“Then they ought to jump into my shoes for a day.” Bobby cracks a Budweiser and takes a long draught while I refrain from comment. “I spent four hours in a dumpster last night waiting for a bust that never happned. Came home stinking like moldy tacos and kitty litter. Sometimes ‘gee whiz’ doesn’t cut it, see?"
“Ha.” Sophie’s smile dimples her narrow cheeks. “Try tending bar if you want to test your tolerance levels, big guy.”
“No, the writer lady is right about this.” Help from an unexpected quarter; Delilah speaks to the piano keys. “You’ve got kids in this house.”
“Give it up.” Rush elbows her without missing a note. “You’re worse than the rest of us.”
Delilah sacrifices harmony for retaliation, punches her father on the arm. “Angelo? Remember him?”
“He’s in bed. And the nice writer lady is only worried about her Amazon rank, kiddo.”
Not fair. I slink from the room, closing the door on their argument and leaning against it to get my breath.
We’ll take this up another time. In the meanwhile, gentle reader, try not to judge.
Our house has been tucked into the base of Cemetery Hill for so long it is not hard to imagine horse-drawn farm wagons lumbering past, and my children were the third generation of our family to toss maple spinners in the front yard. All of which is to say that our home belongs as much to the past as the present; and that has always felt exactly right.
But, particularly in November, the line between seems rather blurred.
November is the month of All Souls, and the seventeenth was my grandfather’s birthday, as well. This late in the season, there is already a bite in the wind, and nightfall comes early, twilight seeping through the blinds and throwing plum colored slats across my living room floor. It’s not hard to envision my younger self sprawled on the carpet with siblings and cousins, chin in hands, while my grandparents showed vacation slides.
“How are you?” My grandmother’s voice, forever paired in my memory with the music of front door chimes. Short little woman, she wore flowered dresses and round spectacles, and on November seventeenth she would have made a two-layer cake and kept if from our incautious fingers by means of a pink plastic carrier.
Funny what your mind chooses to keep. I could pick that cake caddy out of a hundred others.
But often the smallest retrospection is the one that stays with us the longest. Scent of butter cream frosting, sound of first sleet ticking on windowpanes. Comforting backdrop of adult voices. We keep these things in the whirlpool of memory and forget we even have them until they surface again.
Usually in the fall, always in November.
January - at least in Illinois - requires a kit. Snow shovel, extra blankets, Carhartts. August is all about sun screen. Flip-flops and margaritas. April is umbrellas and rubber boots.
But November, as far as I know, is the only month that requires a mental tool kit. From the dawn of the first gray day (with your optimism already circling and gasping like a goldfish in the toilet bowl) to the final death rales just after Thanksgiving, this month is a struggle.
A lot of it has to do with sunshine. Which there tends to be less of when daylight savings time kicks in at the beginning of the month. There’s not much good to be said about living in the dark, but, well – shadows are good for hiding. Once my youngest leaped out at me from behind the oak as I came down the sidewalk after work. I splattered twelve ounces of pumpkin latte down my front and we laughed like loons for half an hour.
So, tool number one, and most important – laughter. Don’t lose it in the dark.
Faith, people, faith. Play “Here Comes the Sun” on your iPod and try to believe it. Do not for any reason play “Bookends”. Simon and Garfunkel injected a downer into their harmony that seeps beneath your skin and lays there like a bruise for days. I’m sure there’s a warning label somewhere on the album cover.
Search out good winter fruits. Pomegranates are phenomenal! Which, okay, I know sounds absolutely overboard, but have you ever had one? Juicy and crunchy all at once, and what a gorgeous color, never mind the red stain beneath your fingernails. In salads, in desserts, or just out-of-hand, these are sweet and wonderful, and the best thing about them is that they don’t become available, at least around here, until several weeks into the fall. Welcome November!
Oh wait, did I say that?
Early evenings are made for reading. Go ahead and be greedy about it – it’s not like you can do yard work! This time of year is awesome for disappearing into a good Victorian mystery – the fog, gas lamps, horse drawn hearses, all so fitting. I can almost feel Jack the Ripper lurking in the shadows, and while there’s nothing uplifting about that, it makes for a great diversion.
So – laughter, faith, winter fruit and a good book. I think we can make it now. Let me leave you with these lyrics from Kimya Dawson, which I try to keep at the front of my mind on the really gray days.
When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road, turn out the lights, get out and look up at the sky
And I do this to remind me that I'm really, really tiny
In the grand scheme of things and sometimes this terrifies me
But it's only really scary cause it makes me feel serene
In a way I never thought I'd be because I've never been
So grounded, and so humbled, and so one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything
Oh, do look this up! There is much more to it, and the tune is as fun as the lyrics.
Importing my blog onto the new website has been quite the feat. My team and I are still in the process of categorizing and fine-tuning the years of posts you'll find here. We hope you enjoy our work-in-progress library. Check back soon for updates!