So They Say

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Photo by Aimee Vogelsang, via Unsplash

They Say
it is wrong to speak ill of the dead
And So
they feast, eat us alive
They Say
honor your mother and father
And So
we duck our heads, and lie
They say
until death do us part
But No
there’s no severing of hearts.

dead, alive, mother, father, truth, or lie
there is only us, together and apart.

Advice for Hosts

As some of you may have guessed, my previous bad poem “Orphan at Your Table“, was a fictionalized account of my experiences as an orphan taken in by various people for Thanksgiving dinner.  My parents died when I was a young teen and neither of them had a lot of family left. I was quite in demand as an orphan to invite for Thanksgiving for many years. While many of the people were well-meaning in their attempts to include me, some of them were indeed mostly looking to show off what great people they were by having a semi-homeless waif over for a holiday. I was in foster care and reasonably well-cared for, so nobody imagine that I was living on the streets!

If you do want to invite someone over for the holidays because they are an orphan or living far from home or recently divorced or whatever other thing has washed them up on the shores of “alone for a major US holiday”, I have a few suggestions to make it nicer for them.

Book Release: Undead Embrace

This Turkey hopes that you are not inviting him to dinner. He knows how that ends!

      • Treat them like they belong with you. Most of us don’t like to be fussed over and treated like an exotic creature. Let them blend in with your family traditions as much as possible.
      • Keep the well-meaning sympathy on the back burner. Maybe they want to talk about their deceased loved ones, ex-spouse, or far away home. Maybe they don’t. Be open to the possibility, but let them initiate this. It could be that they would prefer a distraction over a sympathetic ear.
      • Tell other regular attendees in advance that you have invited this person. You might be amazed at the alarm, suspicion, and discomfort springing a surprise orphan on your extended nearest and dearest can cause.
      • Don’t introduce them as “the orphan” and supply a lot of backstory. “This is Jane. We work together.” or whatever is the case for the acquaintance will go a long way to making your orphan feel more comfortable.
      • Understand if they refuse the invitation, it’s not you. It’s us. Sometimes we really are more comfortable in the diner with a good buck.

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving, and bless your kind hearts if you’re taking in random guests, orphans or not!

Orphan at Your Table

The orphan at your table
didn’t ask to be invited.
She’d rather be down at the diner where
The waitress knows.
Knows she likes sweet tea
and hot cinnamon rolls.
She fills the cup without comment
when the orphan has her head in a book.

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In just a few more chapters
Mr. Wickham gets his comeuppance
and the cinnamon rolls
are really good on Thursdays.

The orphan at your table
hears all your whispered pity
The muttered comments in the kitchen
She takes them on the chin, with a smile.
Behind her  grin she knows it
knows your motives better than you do
She’s here not for her pleasure
but for your benevolence.

The orphan at the diner
sips her sweet tea
This year she escaped the Lady Bountifuls
The cinnamon rolls are perfect.

We Gather Together

Years ago, when I was younger and childless, I used to have what I called “refugee” Thanksgivings. People without family or far from their family or on the outs with their family would end up at my house, eating traditional Thanksgiving food off my mother’s china (service for 12, Stylehouse Miniver, straight out of the 1950s).  It was my way of honoring my family traditions, and also a recreation of the mythical “family” Thanksgiving as it should be, instead of how it actually was/is.

 

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photo by Scott Umstattd, via Unsplash

We have our families of choice, like the ones of my long ago “refugee” Thanksgivings, and we also have our inescapable families of birth and marriage. Each kind comes with its own measures of grief, dissent, love, and laughter. Many people crave that ritualized, mythical family experience that we’re led to believe is conjured up from stuffing and cranberry sauce, while simultaneously fearing the shadow family dynamics that almost inevitably accompany any such attempt. It’s often unclear where your boundaries should be drawn.

My advice to you is this: Make the choices which best offer the comfort and joy of the season to you and your nearest and dearest. Do not participate in dysfunction that eats at your soul and makes you dread the season. Be as kind as you can while maintaining your own boundaries. And if you are able, gather your “refugees”. Make a tribe. Reclaim the sacred myth, and make it your own.

Shift Work

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can beer by  Edonjeta Iberhysaj (PD)

The tall boys sit in their ice filled coffin
proud to be working man’s beer.
“You deserve a break today!” but wait. . .
that’s McD’s. That’s for women coming off
a 38 hour week at the five & dime, to another
shift or two or three at home.

The tall boys don’t know about that.
Their drinkers work hard.
Hard work that the little woman can’t understand
and then she wants him to fix the toilet.
“Christ, woman, I just sat down!” but wait. . .
there’s more; the mortgage company called again. About the lawn.

The husks of former tall boys lay in the un-mown grass
consumed, forgotten.
“Do we live in a police state now?”
Who cares about a little peeling paint, a little rust,
a load of sodium and fat clogging hearts that were
broken years ago.

A younger man drives fresh tall boys by,
company truck loaded full.
The wife just got promoted at MalWart. well, a 10 cent raise.
Soon they’ll move out of grandma’s. When he
has a lawn of his own, he swears it will be different–
He’ll mow it every day.

All Saints Day

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Some of the saints in my life don’t look very saintly
examined under the lens of churchly piety

But I tell you that with their words and deeds
with their loving hearts and helping hands

They have shown me more of God than any prayer book
and given me more Grace than any hymn.

~~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~

Algunos de los santos de mi vida no son muy piadoso
Mirado con la piedad ordinaria

Pero les digo que con sus palabras y hechos
Con sus corazones amorosos y ayudando a las manos

A mí se ha revelado a Dios más que cualquier en los libros de oraciones
Y para mí se ha dado más gracia que cualquier himno.

(Please forgive my beginner’s Spanish!/Lo siento por mi principiante español)