Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holidays and Books

Christmas possesses unparalleled magic and nothing rivals Halloween for mystical energy, but Thanksgiving is just plain old fun, a breather in the bullet train of a year, which is marked for me, these days, by the growth of my three-year old son and the realization that in no time he will have turned into a stinky, awkward monosyllabic teenage werewolf who will not want to spend any holiday with me.

I force myself to remember this future alienation when he chatters at me from 6:30am until 7:30pm and I have to bite my tongue from screaming at him to shut up for one blessed minute. As I write, he is desperate to know why the zippered cushions face the back of the couch instead of the front. “Because it looks better, “ I mumble. “Why?” he asks. My brain begins to throb.

I’m afraid I’m not a very attentive mother. I don’t take many pictures and there are no pencil markings on door trims to measure height increments. I have noticed, however, amongst the chatter, how very polite he is. This is due to my husband and mother. Like I said, I’m inattentive.

I asked him if he wanted a snack and his reply, “No, but thank you for offering, Mama. That was nice of you.” As my jaw dropped to the floor, he proceeded to ram his truck into the newly made train track while screaming, “Bash! Bam! Crash!” My little Shiva.

The Creator-Destroyer, while he tests my lack of patience, is the object of my thankfulness and the reminder of all that’s good and whole in this world, which prompts me to think of The Road, just dawning in theaters and a topic of discussion over our turkey and apple pie.

The novel, The Road, portrays the absolute worst side of humanity and deepest despair that a human can suffer. Ultimately, it is a child who redeems all of humanity, a child that “carries the fire”, a child who is “God’s word.” Humans can and do shine, and the small moments count more than the larger portrait of devastation.

Thanksgiving is a perfect example of this. Yes, in the larger picture the first feast marks the beginning of the end for native culture, yet in the bleak landscape of this chapter of American history, the day itself represents promise, peace and hope. Thanksgiving represents one tribe risking the unknown to help another, very different tribe over the course of a year and the meal they chose to share together at harvest end.

Their peaceable gathering is a small moment in human history, but there are many such small moments, and these should be celebrated as often as possible. So when I look across the table at my parents and son, sitting side by side, and all the rest of my family that luxuriates in too much food and hearty laughter, I am grateful for all those small moments in human history that led us to Thursday’s bounty.

My jeans, however, are not at all grateful. They groaned when I tried to fasten them this morning and the button popped completely after an afternoon of gluttony at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn. Yummy food aside, the old inn is one of my favorite spots.

European castles and Greek ruins may be soul stirring, but the youthful at three hundred years old inn captures my heart. There’s nothing better than a well-kept, creaky rambling inn with fire in the hearth and a window overlooking rolling pastures and fieldstone walls. And after dining, I obeyed a long held desire to explore the other history of Longfellow’s “Hobgoblin Hall.”

I finally gave in and booked Room Nine for my birthday next year. The ghost of Jerusha Howe haunts this space, in search of her long-lost love. Since Jerusha prefers men, I’m dragging my husband with me as a lure. I’ll just hide in the corner all night. With a camera. And a pot of coffee.

On The Bookshelf: Just finished the Twilight Saga, reluctantly. I tried reading the first book a year ago and did not care for the writing. Bella’s character seemed shallow and the dialogue too stilted. My opinion was further bolstered after watching the movie, which kept my attention because the scenery was so pretty and I liked Kristen Stewart in the movie version of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Then he soundtrack for New Moon came out. It rocks. Every song. So, I concluded that if the soundtrack is that spectacular, then the books must be pretty great, too. I read them. All four. They are not great, but I was addicted anyway. It’s been a couple of weeks since I closed Breaking Dawn and I’ve finally decided that perhaps I’ve been unfair in my judgment of the saga. They read more like myths and fables, akin to Arthurian legends or Norse tales. When read from that view, they really are engrossing. A new mythology.

Still, I am back to reading my favorite YA author, Sarah Dessen, who masters honest dialogue and striking characterization. Her latest, Along for the Ride is as wonderful as all her others, and the protagonist’s discovery of a self both alike and apart from her parents is particularly well written. I particularly like Dessen’s description of Auden’s sibling because it perfectly explains my own brother: “But then he was gone, just like that. Before I could ask him who exactly Ramona was, or what had happened in Amsterdam. That was my brother, the living, breathing To Be Continued.”

Also just finished Brad Kessler’s Goat Song, a beautiful tale about the author’s new venture and the spiritual journey he happens upon along the way.

Starting Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Influenced by Kipling's The Jungle Book, this book, of course, is just as riveting and smooth as all of his other reads.

Just Netflixed: I was in the mood for an old black and white Thanksgiving night so I randomly chose Holiday, a 1938 film with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, expecting to be entertained. However, this wise, relevant film with its witty, rapid-fire and necessary dialogue, portrayal of human despair and desire, and depth of characters that could have easily been stereotypes happily surprised me. The film is about being trapped, physically or emotionally or both, something that every one of us experiences to some degree at some point during life. The stakes are high and that the viewer cannot see how the protagonists will ever escape entrapment and find happiness. The film decides that freedom is both a state of mind and a matter of conviction and as a result, the viewer feels even more pity for the one character that doesn’t realize this by the end of the film.

And speaking of entrapment, I am most of the way through Season One of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. What can I say? I’m a willful slave for romantic tension of the Sully variety.

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