The Sunday After Thanksgiving

27-11-2018 00:11

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:

The Underwood,

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

After Thanksgiving

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,

But no–

I fiddle-faddled around.

Now I am forced to work on vacation,

praying it doesn’t all turn out to be

flapdoodle.

6

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

about Indochina.

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.

7

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

Old Underwood,

which maybe outweighs me.

8

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.”)

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