Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Thanksgiving is Different, like all the Others

It's the 'day of,' so not much time to write, although turkey is in the oven covectioning slowly at 300 degrees, with bacon strips on top and legs, homemade stuffing inside with large with-peel orange slices near the opening, and tied with turkey string around the legs. Turner Classic Movies is playing the 1949 version, my favorite, of "Little Women," irreplaceable (though I thought the 1994 movie version was excellent.) Jo still pursues her writing and learns more about not copying what is in vogue at the time.

Our family is spread out today, with three of us at home in MD, at least seven in NC, a grandson and cousins in TN, two families together in CT-one from MA, one family in FL, and relatives in AR. I bet a lot of families have the same story today, including those having 'Thanksgiving Alone' for the first time. Older brother's sons and extended family in NC, one recently married, and I wonder where the newlyweds are this Thanksgiving, when you decide to be on your own or find you may have to choose between one family or the other this year.

I remember being a 22-year-old newly-wed in Syracuse, NY, unable to go home at Thanksgiving to visit family in NC or my husband's clan in TN. We went to Rochester, NY, thankfully, at the invitation of a college friend whose graduate school mentor/professor and his wife included us with other young people far from home.

The week before, my dad had sent to me an envelope-clad postcard where he had typed the entire poem he always recited at Thanksgiving:

"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day," said Mary to Little Sue. "There're cookies to make 
and pies to bake and ever so much to do...."

Have you heard that one? His sending it to me, typed by himself, helped me somehow "hear" his voice saying it, as he had done spontaneously every year that I could remember.

Our non-American friends around the world are at work this day, as usual, or sending kids off to school, going shopping, likely unaware of American Thanksgiving today, until one of us emails.

Back to "Little Women": now Jo March/June Allyson is learning that Beth/Margaret O'Brien is not well. Jo has moved to New York, the center of book publishing. Her sister Amy is giving Jo a hug before Amy heads off for Europe with their wealthy aunt. Jo and Professor Baer, also a boarder at their fancy rooming house in NY, have been to an opera together, and as her first such artistic exposure, the opera transfixed Jo's attention. A few days later and after Amy's visit, the professor answers Jo's questions about her latest fictional story, unaware of her low point, and he tells her that her story has disappointed him, for it is full of artificiality and overly-contrived characters.

Jo begins to cry because "everything happens at once," and Laurie, her male friend and neighbor, did not visit her in NY when he was there recently. Also, she really wishes she could go to Europe, too, for that had previously been the plan. And now, the professor's comments. He apologizes for his ill-expressed critique of her writing and she says, "If I can't stand the truth, I'm not worth anything." Nevertheless, he tells her he could have spoken more gently, and he believes she has talent and encourages her to write genuine things from her heart.

I remember with a smile the time my grown-up daughters took me to see a newer version of "Little Women," putting me in the middle and calling me "Marmie" in whispers now and then. We smiled, laughed, and cried, and then grinned at the happy ending. Together. And we laughed later, remembering when they were very young and the dressed our overactive Cockerpoo dog "Rascal" in a calico head scarf and told him to lie down, which he amazingly did, on the sofa, playing Beth to their "little girls"  re-enactments of part of their "Little Women" scene in our family room. 

I wish to each reader a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe if you are alone you can find a really good movie that uplifts and holds your attention no matter how old it or you may be.

Oh, the family March is together again, after Amy and Laurie return from their honeymoon, and it looks like Thanksgiving to me! But, look, there's more. A lone figure walks in the rain and asks forThey "Miss March, Miss Josephine March." He hears Jo calling Laurie's name and turns away. Sadness. Lost opportunity. He assumes that Jo has finally found happiness with "her Laurie."

But wait! Jo opens a gift handed to her by Laurie. It is her manuscript in published book form! She dashes out of the house and into the pouring rain, calling, "Professor Baer! Professor Baer!" He stops and she reaches where he stands, waiting. From under the large black umbrella he tells her that her book has much "simple beauty."

Now, as the movie closes, they return together to the March house, after she assured the professor that she accepts his "empty hands" (which he called them, due to his lack of wealth to offer) and rainbow arcs  in the darkened, moonlit sky above the March house.

And I, too, must close. I have potatoes and green beans and other goodies awaiting the process of being put together in their dishes. They will come together with visions of rainbow in my head.

All the best to you, wherever you are, alone or with many! I hope you make it a simply beautiful day,  even if you think that you have "empty hands" like the professor's actually being-filled ones, even if this Thanksgiving is different, like all the others.

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