On my way to Massachusetts
Last year it snowed on the 26th
It was very beautiful and quite coldThree Thanksgivings
Always the odor of poultry fat
drippings, onions, sage, and
Fall falling or had fallen, some
years-snow, a fire in a hearth
not in those pines, 'where the
sun never shines' - Mortality.
Never the family entirely, but
some parts of it at each stop;
stop, crushing and dividing.
Footsteps falling or fallen
echo across times pastime.
Borders shift - Bird migration.
Migrating bits of' Thanks', 'No
thanks', no more of war stuff.
Stuffing, bread baking, berry
pie making, enough for all,
all for one Oh - If you suffer,
suffer my love to heal you.
The Aunts; sturdy Anna, squat Margaret, and tiny Mamie Cunningham - How did all of us fit into that tiny Bronx apartment, along with Uncle Dan and Aunt Mary, cousins Danny, Dorothy and Anthony Ryan, plus Mom (a former Ryan), my brother and me? It had a kitchen the size of a long thin hall, a living room that served as a bedroom when the couch was opened, and a bedroom split into three sections with curtains. Thankfully, there was a screen door inside the apartment door that opened on to the building hall, so some air circulated in the stuffy, overheated rooms where the oven had been raising the temperature since before dawn.
A folding table, which usually sat flush against a wall, was opened to its full with extra planks, and set with the best utensils, plates, glasses, dishes of cream cheese filled celery, olives and pickled onions, two baskets of dinner rolls, butter, salt and pepper on a white linen cloth at the center of the living room turned dining room, extra chairs borrowed from neighbors all in place. The couch sat four, a bit lower than was comfortable, so usually assigned to the most compliant. Once seated we were wall to wall prisoners for the duration of a six course traditional meal plus dessert pies. Then the discontents of fidgety kids begging to go out to the cool air an elevator ride away. Aunt Anna, the stoic who made it her duty to read the stack of mass card prayers for the dead daily, left them in her purse to help with clearing. Fragile Aunt Mamie sat poised, though half asleep, in a corner of the couch, while Aunt Margaret excused herself to lie down in the divided bedroom because of her famous 'upside-down stomach'. Women snaked back and forth to the kitchen, scraping, washing drying and stacking. The radio played a football game while Uncle Dan lit up another Pall Mall and ordered Anthony to get him a cold beer before going out. My mother lit up and sat next to him for access to the ashtray. There was a steady patter from the kitchen, dominated by Aunt Mary's Irish-lilting instructions about where everything belonged.
So it was every November after Dad's death in 1953, and for many years through the disappearances that thinned our ranks--another death, then two left for other places, another stopped coming when she fell ill, and so it was till one day, it simply was no more. My lamp is throwing a circle of light now upon the photographs, fading as we all will when we've finished our feasting.
3. (In process)
May all be well with all of you and every one else
See you in December