Secret Pop

Nov 25, 2002


When I was a girl in grade school, Thanksgiving became a list of words and pictures. Cornucopia. Indian corn. Pilgrims. The Mayflower. Still life arrangements of gourds and squash and unappetizing-looking dry things. Centerpieces with accordioned crepe paper in them. Aprons and bonnets. Buckled shoes. Dead leaves. Turkeys in black hats and little pilgrim outfits. Thanksgiving was the smell of paste behind orange and brown construction paper letters, jauntily affixed to the board in the classroom where the teacher put up timely and topical collages. I can barely remember a Thanksgiving meal from those years. They all run together. In a time when nearly every night was a celebration, those occasional Thursdays never stood out.

I outgrew the spell of construction paper holidays.

I remember a lot of Thanksgiving dinners now. I remember who was in attendance and who wasn't. I remember whether I did the cooking or not. I remember the windows in my Hillcrest apartment all being steamed up when I had the oven going one year. I remember washing dishes long into the night while everyone else in the house slept. Putting leftovers into the refrigerator strategically, somehow making it all fit. I remember shopping. Always buying chicken broth just in case. Always having plenty at home. I remember having to get up so early to get the turkey started. And being so proud of it when it was done. I remember the dilemma of video rental choices. The crackle of fire logs. The comfort of a home filled with friends and laughter. The years when tears were in order. The years after the point when I came to enjoy wine with dinner. The television marathons. The green bean casseroles. My special, drunken candied yams. Ways to use cranberries. Driving home after a long, long day of eating and dozing and festivity. The dual-edged sword of the gift of reflection.

I catch myself no longer looking forward to grand holidays. They've come to be days on which an unfounded smile must be maintained for much longer than usual. Merciless memory machines. Harrowing markers of a stretch of life that feels as if it is laughing at me. They have become that thing one must "get through." Rather than the thing one yearns for. That infuriates me. And causes me to wonder if this is all just part of a network television feature wherein a grouchy girl learns the true meaning of the holidays. What a strange thing that would be. If it turned out that I was just living in the pages of someone else's script. If some unseen pen were making all of this so. Drat that pen and the hand that grips it, if that is the case.

I have it in me to laugh and to cause others to do so. I have it in me to appear a vessel of joy. I even have it in me to not accuse myself of a massive fraud each time such things appear to be true. But in the stillness of solitude, there is disquiet waiting for me. I wake with the hooks of dreams still in me but dissolving fast and gone before I can remove them. I wake with neither reluctance nor relief. Just the faint and far-off assurance that it's what one is supposed to do and one had better get to it.

This always filled me with a sense of melancholy that was once nearly glorious and welcome. Now, it is merely a path to the memory of that feeling. Even emotion is subject to generation loss, it seems.

No comments: