Thanksgiving 2012—a poem by B

Thanksgiving 2012—a poem by B

You thundered in on Tuesday night—all five of you—

An extra day of grace before the Day devoted to Grace.


Midwesterners, from humdrum expanses of soybeans and corn,

you come now from depths of Brooklyn and L.A.,

from Minneapolis, Chapel Hill, the jazz canyons of Chicago,

yet at home in the heights of Uganda or Haiti or Silverthorne, of Grindelwald or Corcovado or El Faro.


We, your parents, are plain. We drive to exotic places like New Jersey or Baton Rouge,

and our skills with foreign tongues peak while speaking fluent Texan to the natives in Dallas.

You chat with fellow adventurers in Spanish or French or German,

read news from Cyrillic symbols we can’t even pronounce.


We brave indulgent smirks at occasional weddings

with awkward, only-the-basics rock-n-roll, an occasional waltz or foxtrot.

You hazard flying elbows and leaping knees on joy-packed salsa and hip-hop floors,

come home only when the music is turned off, the beer taps stopped, the doors locked.


We are plain. Exotic means asking for mustard glaze on our salmon.

Your quickie snacks include leftover aburi or uramaki or tamago, and herbs we can’t pronounce.


When I was a child, I climbed trees.

You tether yourselves with gear we don’t understand and bolt up cliffs like graceful, colossal gekkos.

At least you tether yourselves—I told you free-climbing would lead to instant cardiac failure on my part.

You are kind.


We sing well, harmonize much of the time at church.

You, our offspring, however:

After our revels with turkey and dressing and the usual pies,

together you sculpt musical masterpieces

that seize melancholy and squeeze and pound it until it lies silent, overridden by gladness.

Three guitars and a tambourine, perhaps a couple of spoons,

a kazoo found in a forgotten drawer, left over from elementary school,

and five-part harmony, gracing “Amie” or “Kiss the Girl” or Paul Simon or Beatles

with spontaneous sounds so smooth our neighbors must imagine they come from the radio.

And when you calm your pulses to ask the High King to be your vision, to be first in your hearts,

our tears signal a deep Amen.


Our Thanksgiving dinner guests called ours “a loud and crazy home” in their thank-you note.

It is profound praise.


We know none of you was switched in the natal nursery—

Each resembles a grandparent or an uncle, and my own worst genes were even worster in some of you.


So how did this come to be?

Not extraordinary parenting.

The several years I preferred whiskey in my solo office to the laughter of my kids,

and our inability to agree on discipline,

and our tears and disagreements when we had no clue how to react to pubescent rebellion,

prove the lie that says you magnificent human beings arose because of our wisdom.


So how did this come to be?

Five astounding creatures who evoke awe in many who know you,

who laugh (at least when you are together) more than anyone I’ve met,

who surprise us every year

with greater boldness, more comprehensive kindness, more elegant wisdom,

even more graciousness toward your parents—

We did so much wrong, how did you become so Right?



The uber-answer to all such questions.

This is cosmic Grace that I cannot comprehend.


Before I was married, I desperately cried out once to the dear friend who was and remains my spiritual mother.

“I don’t understand!,” I bellowed.

“Why do I get to marry this incredible, unreachable, dazzlingly perfect woman who merits so much more,

so much better than I can give? I don’t deserve her!”

Immediately came the response, “Of course you don’t deserve her! That’s not the point! It’s all gift!”


I suppose the answer here is the same.

Of course we don’t deserve these near-gods and near-goddesses.

We marvel that you actually want to be here for Thanksgiving and for Christmas,

that you delight to be with us and with each other.

Can you imagine that? You like to come home!


It’s all gift.


And so through tears and with stopped voices that have nothing, nothing, nothing else to say,

we whisper the prayer,


“Thank You.”