In Thanksgiving

Whether or not this is a holiday for you, too, or simply a November Thursday, I want you to know how thankful I am for your friendship:

If you aren’t sure I mean you, ask yourself if the circus setting makes perfect sense. If it does, then I do.

I never could have come this far without you.

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Poetry Wednesday: John Greenleaf Whittier

This week, I’m sharing my favorite Thanksgiving poem.

It’s about pumpkin pie.

Anyone surprised?  Didn’t think so.

Naturally, John Greenleaf Whittier had a bit more on his mind than pie when he wrote this—he was a Quaker, after all, and an accomplished poet, whose first work,  “The Exile’s Departure,” was published before he was twenty* by William Lloyd Garrison—but you have to admire a man who’s willing to tie family, friends, loving memories, and a content future to a round, orange vegetable.

This poem isn’t one of his best known—his abolition poems and “The Song of the Vermonters, 1779” were more popular —but I think it should be.  Mr. Whittier is  considered one of the 19th Century Fireside Poets** who helped prove that Americans could actually write poetry.

And in my opinion, this poem proves that Mr. Whittier’s inclusion is not a mistake:

The Pumpkin
(John Greenleaf Whittier, 1850)

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o’er Nineveh’s prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin, — our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E’er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o’er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

And to think that all this lush, warm, rich imagery was written by a man who was colorblind . . .

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*According to what I’ve read, his sister sent it to the Newburyport Free Press  without John’s permission.  His reaction to this, which was probably mixed, appears to be lost to history.  But since Garrison gave him his first editor’s position with a small paper, which led to the editorship of the New England Weekly Review, I’m sure he forgave her eventually.  Sisters—sheesh.

**Along with William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and Longfellow, himself—pretty spiffy company.

The Mystery of the Cool Carcharhinus

Today’s post  over at Murderati post was about unexpected questions.  Zoë Sharp asked several Murderati writers three questions and then asked the readers the same ones.

One of these was, “What’s in your refrigerator?”

I went to check, hoping for something more interesting than yogurt.  And I found it:

This is Janie’s plastic shark.

I duly reported this and a little later was asked why it was there.  I honestly didn’t know.  Neither did my husband or my MIL.

This little guy has his own house, made out of a Starbuck’s cake-ball box,* though he can usually be found in or near the bathroom sink or in the bath.  And while I’m pretty sure sharks don’t have opposable flippers, I’m certain a plastic shark of his size doesn’t have the mass to open the fridge door, supposing he could make the journey across the house by himself.

So I waited until Janie came home and asked.

“What?”  she said.  “Oh.  He’s a salmon shark.  Salmon sharks like the cold.”

Of course he does.  “So you put him on top of the spaghetti?”

‘I didn’t want him to fall in Sunny’s milk.”

Can’t argue with that.  “Hey—didn’t you tell me he was a coral reef shark in the bath last night?” **

“Oh . . . He was just visiting the reef to warm up.”

Mystery solved.

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*Which are the coolest little boxes I’ve ever seen.  Go order a cake ball—Sunny likes the Rocky Road and Janie can personally recommend all of them except the Espresso ones, because I might be an indulgent mother but I’m not actually insane—and see for yourself.

**The bubbles were the coral, though there was some disappointment that it wouldn’t support the shark.

O. Monday. G.

Mondays

Janie woke me up this morning by shaking my shoulder. “Mom?” she whispered. “Mom?”

I rolled over, pried open an eye, and saw from the hallway light  that she was fully dressed, including coat, earmuffs, and backpack.

“Oh no, am I that late?!”  I grabbed my bedside clock, knocking over the Leaning Tower of Read.

Four forty-five.

Thank God.  Fifteen more minutes before I had to get up.

I set down the clock and closed my eyes, willing my heart to slow down.

“Mom?”  Shake, shake.  “Mom?”

My husband grumbled and stuck his head under the pillow.

“Honey?” I mumbed.  “Why are you up so early?”

“Can we go to Dunkin Donuts?”

“Now?”

“Yes.  I’m ready. I even brushed my teeth.  You said if I got ready early, we could go.

“Um . . . gimme a minute . . .”

And that was pretty much the whole day—off balance and trying to catch up.  It was one of those days where I’d finish one thing, or half of one thing, and two more things would show up needing to be done.  Or re-done.

Good things happened*—but I couldn’t stop to savor them, or reply to half of them.

So I think I’ll stop now.

Forgive the short post—I’ll see you tomorrow.

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*I received excellent advice—and quite a few corrections—-for a scene of Pigeon that worried me,  a specialist at the University of Chicago agreed to talk to me about sickle cell anemia, and my friend Grace is setting up a “Hollywood Hype” Book Club—read the book, watch the movie, compare and complain.