The Sunday After Thanksgiving
Today I’m thinking about the Sunday after Thanksgiving for years and years, the bittersweet quality of this day, and how privileged my life has been. When I was in school I was often writing a paper over Thanksgiving weekend, fretting over not spending enough time on it and not making it perfect, or spending too much time on it and not having enough fun.
Thanksgiving, no matter how uncomfortable its history makes me, is an awesome holiday. It’s like free dessert, or 4 snow days in a row, or forgetting about the Arthur Rackham first editions you ordered from Better World Books until they land on your front porch and it’s raining and cold outside and there is a fire in the fireplace and you can do whatever you want.
Sure, for some of us Thanksgiving means showing up and being pleasant to our relatives, but that is pretty manageable. The rest of the time, if we don’t work in retail or show business, we can go for walks, read a book, and finally have time to clean the house, if we want to. Unlike at Christmas, we don’t have to buy people presents, watching their faces carefully as they open them. We don’t have to wrestle with our Christianity (if it’s a thing we wrestle with) in relation to whatever Christmas has become in secular America. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we can just BE.
So I am thankful for Thanksgiving, even the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when it can be tempting to worry about the work that has piled up at the office, but still rally to savor the last few hours of a holiday that is for lagniappe.
Here’s a poem I wrote last year, thinking about the Thanksgiving break:
Friday after Thanksgiving, 1974
On one of many cold Novembers
Colder than now
I sit blowing on my fingers
Typing a paper on an old black Underwood
In my dad’s study in the balcony
above the candle-smoked sanctuary.
How many days
have I done this?
A chain of Fridays year after year
Climbing the twisted narrow dusty stairs
to the balcony.
I trap myself inside to type a paper
I might have written weeks ago,
I fiddle-faddled around.
Now I am forced to work on vacation,
praying it doesn’t all turn out to be
I yearn to say something urgent
that I could not say
so well if I were not under pressure
to be brilliant.
I gaze out the window
of my dad’s balcony study
Across the afternoon corn stubble
Toward the woods
where normal teenagers
look for arrowheads
or low level trouble
and are not inside, writing papers badly
I left my muffler on like Bob Cratchit.
to be warm up here I’d have to know how to
work the thermostat.
Back to typing this mediocre paper
on an ancient manual typewriter.
Wite-out has not been invented
by Michael Nesmith’s mother yet.
On the desk is a typewriter eraser
that I hope I will not have to use,
for if I do, I’ll surely put a hole in the paper.
If it were a REAL typewriter eraser,
I could erase this 50-pound typewriter
and conjure in its place
a small tidy word processor from 1989,
fifteen years in the future,
or even just an IBM Selectric with
automatic correction tape
on its little orange spool.
I’d only need to go seven years for that.
But this paper would not make
the same percussive points if it had
not been typed so forcefully on this
which maybe outweighs me.
It is a tool made
for conveying consequential ideas.
Ain’t no poetry in it, tho.
It’s a prosy old beast, and
My arms are tired now
from whaling away at it for hours.
What more can I say that my social studies
Teacher hasn’t heard a hundred times before?
Or if I have to say it again,
How can I say it better–
and more crucially,
will it be exactly
1500 words long?
(This poem can be found, among others, in “The Pearl Fishing Capital of the Known Universe.”)