Thankful November 25, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
You have to love a holiday that is primarily about eating and drinking whatever sort of civics class fatherland malarkey They have tried to drape the table with. Thanksgiving is the holiday (I will bet you a bottle of wine) at which you will find yourself trying to remember the grape-and-grain rule and will as well at some point change your clothes not because you’ve spilled the gravy but because you have eaten like a Roman Senator on holiday in Pompey.
My wife takes the whole thing a bit more seriously, will brook no discussion of the Pilgrims as a American proto-Taliban and insist someone Say Grace. It will likely fall to me, who has no use for modern Christianity in any flavor and who is hosting an old friend who is a devout Pagan, to come up with some suitable words. As I sit in a bank all day juggling project schedules I should be thankful that most of a degree in English Literature and a houseful of books is of some small use, not to mention twelve years of Catholic education (we coasted through our pre-Cana interview on the strength of all that catechism, and by my early discovery that Monsignor Murphy was Archbishop Phillip Hannan’s roommate in seminary turning the entire hour into a comparative discussion of New Orleans’ better restaurants), but I digress. Consider it rehearsal for conversation at the table.
At some point my wife, dear girl, will also insist we go around the table and enumerate that for which we are thankful, a prospect that to me is like passing around that canned green bean-mushroom gloop-friend onion casserole your Aunt Martha always brings. I shouldn’t be such a Scrooge so soon before Xmas, but it seems a distraction from the critical business of passing around a dozen bowls and platters and getting down to the real reason for the season: eating. Finding things to give thanks is not so hard, given I will be sitting with my family in a dry house in the only place I’ve ever wanted to live, that my mother of 87 will be with us and an old friend as well, that I will be looking at enough food prepared with enough petro-chemical energy to sustain an entire Andean village for a week. It will be a much easier task than a suitably ecumenical prayer (thinking I had best work Jesus or some other suitable father figure into it, who probably should not be Odin or Ganesha, and that a Native invocation of the directions will likely not go over terribly well.)
Reading the paper lately makes the entire idea of thankful a bit challenging until I remember those ne’er-do-well Protestants–sitting in their little stockade, in a place as alien as any distant planet, starving their way into winter–managed to have themselves a good time, after their fashion. Still, the challenges of living in New Orleans gives me pause when I stop to rehearse my thankful list. I will be grateful for the home my wife found and furnished for us here in a city where vast areas are full of gutted houses (and some untouched for over four years). I will be thankful my children are in good schools in spite of the city’s school system devolving into a charter nightmare of Ayn Rand: The Board Game. I will be suitable obliged we all well and have health insurance, after a fashion (no, maybe I’ll skip that. An hour of politics is not good for the digestion).
As I finally pull out the Christmas music my wife will insist we start playing as we wash the china, I put my foot down and point out that it’s too damn early for Charlotte Church and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I will put on Xmas In New Orleans instead. This will remind me that I am most thankful to be home, that my children who were not raised here never say home when they mean Fargo, that there were both oyster and merliton dressing on the table, that to entertain our visitors there is every possibility of heading out to hear the Rebirth Brass Band Thursday night if we can overcome the post-holiday lethargy.
And here maybe is a bit that will work at least as a launching point for grace. The whole song is sufficiently ecumenical (notice references to your Maker and the Wheel) but will only a little bit of imagination on the past of the listener you should clearly be able to pick out the obvious Xian references. If you don’t then I’m sending your back down for another year of Catechism and Eng. Lit. with the Sisters.
Now be thankful
To your Maker
For the rose
The red ose
Blooms for all