Remembrances of Thanksgivings Past

Every other Tuesday is #LetsBlogOff day, when bloggers write posts on the same pre-determined subject. Today’s topic: “It’s Thanksgiving, so let’s blog about food.”

It’s all about the food, it’s never about the food. For many Americans, Thanksgiving is the madeleine of holidays, triggering remembrances of holidays past, memories that, before you know it, spiral and spin into other memories. Say you take a sweet potato and drop it in the middle of a frozen lake, ending up with a tangle of cracks spreading out every which way. Start remembering Thanksgiving dinners, and pretty soon you’re every which way yourself. Think of Sallie’s horrible creamed pearl onions and the next thing you know, it’s the little hot dogs in cocktail sauce she served in a little pot simmering over a Sterno flame at grown up parties. Your dress with the bow in the back. Standing on tip toe to spear the hot dogs with toothpicks, and getting scolded for taking too many. And then Sallie herself, and everything there is to remember about her.

The years of unbearable candied yams and marshmallowed sweet potatoes, without which the first unadorned baked sweet potato ever would not have been such a revelation. How Joan and her husband, who served that sweet potato at their quiet Thanksgiving, took you to look for a coat next day. How that was your first Thanksgiving in New York. The vintage coat you’d brought with you from California, the one your new east coast friends laughed at as winter approached. The down coat you finally bought on Greenwich Avenue, and how you bargained for a better price – bargained in a store! The nameless color of that coat. The time Carole came to visit and it was the wettest, coldest day ever, and you both took off your soaking, inadequate boots in the Frick Museum.

The time too much holiday dinner and too much emotion, spiced by teasings from the cousins, created a terrible combustion over the kitchen sink. How tender Uncle George was, holding your hair back. The time in high school, when Bonnie got sick from too much tequila and too many tears, and you held her hair back. How Michael, it turned out, loved you, not Bonnie, but you loved Ted, though not for very long. The look on Ted’s face when he saw your sudden lack of love hanging there between you. Singing “Night in the The City” with Bonnie in the stairwell. Finding out years later that Bonnie had died in a car crash.

The Thanksgiving when you asked your mother if you had to eat turkey and she said no. The smoked salmon for brunch the next day that was the last time you’d eat meat of any kind. Barbara who, though only a year or two older, seemed the coolest, the most sophisticated. Her green velvet pants, her thick brass necklaces. The Chinese restaurant where she insisted on a vegetarian dish. How her vegetable noodles and her green velvet pants got you thinking about things you hadn’t thought about before. Then another restaurant on the way home from another ski trip. Feeling the men staring at you as you passed through the bar on the way to the restroom.

The gelatinous horror of canned cranberry sauce. The stereotype of string beans and sliced almonds. The enormousness of the turkeys. Baba asking who vants a ving. Her apple cobbler. Your mother’s butter-soaked baked chicken. Outlining your hand on construction paper, then coloring in the head, the beak, the feathers, the jiggly thing. The raw potato stabbed with colored toothpicks to look like a turkey’s tail. How it looked more like a peacock. Hearing peacocks cry in the valley behind Tina’s house. Leaving Tina alone while you and Bonnie sang in the stairwell, and all that that led to. The one time it snowed, and the whole family took a snow ball in a coffee can to the hospital so Sallie could feel it. How the neighborhood kids stole your snowman off the brick post while you were gone. How you and Karen loved to walk on the boards between the brick posts as if they were balance beams.


A Grownup, That’s All

Every other Tuesday is #LetsBlogOff day, when bloggers write posts on the same pre-determined subject. I don’t participate very often (and serious kudos to those who do keep up with this lovely creative jump-starter), but here’s my entry for today’s topic: “What did you want to be when you grew up?”

When I grow up I want to be a grown up

I want to stay up as late as I want
I want to drive a damn convertible
And have matching shoes and handbags,
Like my mother

Want to be old enough to have a job
Pumping gas, like the boys,
And the right to eat nothing but candy
And rice
And grilled cheese sandwiches

I want the privileges of grownupness,
Nylons and lipstick
TV shows that come on late
The right to keep the door closed
To turn shoe boxes into houses,
And let the shoes fend for themselves

I’ll visit New Orleans and Greece
And have no husbands,
Only friends,
Including dogs
I’m gonna wear pants
All the time if I feel like it
And no turtlenecks, ever

I want to be a grown up
So I can learn how to snap my fingers
Curse without getting in trouble
Be a real lady
Make my own money and spend it
How I want, like on candy and poor people,
And have the right to sleep all day
Or take my own self to the library
Or wander off where I feel like it,
Without anybody freaking out,
Including me

When I grow up I want to be
A grownup
That’s all

At Lookout Point

At Lookout Point
The seagulls arrive
For the early bird special.
Catch of the Day: starfish.
I wonder how a seagull
Filets its fish,
But none of them will let me see;
I get too close and they skitter away,
Much like I do from you
When I’m not sure there’s
Enough of me to go around.
I look up and see a gull,
Neck exposed,
Swallow a starfish whole.

Later we eat at that place in Queens
The one we’ve been driving by for years.
“Ali Baba!” we cry
Every time we pass,
And say we should go there,
Knowing we never will.
Until, well, here we are,
Early enough for the special.
It’s better than we’d imagined,
And also worse
And there’s plenty to choose from.
All we have to do is figure out what we want,
And make our wishes known.

I Saw Jesus Today

I saw Jesus today
At rush hour in the Union Square station.
His sandal caught on the hem
Of his white robe, and he looked
Did I mention he carried a staff?

Just one of thousands
Hurrying, hurtling to or fro
And no one batted an eye
Or took a second look
As Jesus straightened his hair
And searched for his track.

And why should they?
So what if Jesus or Artemis
Or Superman himself
Is spotted running for the 6?
This is New York City
There are eight million souls here,
And saints and saviors
Are everywhere you look.

Cadman Plaza, A Regular Afternoon


Watching a man watch seven dogs
Being walked by two people

Watching the man’s smile
His stopped-in-his-tracks
Happiness watching the dogs

Good dogs!

Oh, how I love dogs!
Their doggy ways
Their utter dogness

How I love the man!
His light shining
All the way through

How I love me
Watching the man
Watching the dogs

That happy man
Those good dogs
These fluttering hearts

This regular afternoon

Remembering Lily, 2.5.95 – 10.9.10
ⓒ Andrea Wolper

A Fourth of July Story: The Weeds’ Apocalypse

If  the weeds in my mother-in-law’s yard
Were on Facebook
And Twitter
They would post:

“Let the world know that
We, who have asked for so little—
Only small strips of soil to call our own—
Are overcome.
The ruling party sent in reinforcements
From the West.
Their attack was twofold:
Advance troops showered us with vinegar
And soap,
Which killed some
And injured many.
Stunned and weakened by their
Swift, efficient brutality
Few could resist,
Though many tried,
And the oppressors’ second wave moved in
To pick us off
One by one,
Then swept our bodies into piles,
Not even permitting the survivors
To bury the dead.
(Though in truth very few survived.)
The Ants, with whom we have coexisted
Did nothing to help us,
But simply ran.

Do not bother sending help;
The time for help has passed.
Just tell the world our story
And let them know:
We will be back.”