The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Friday, November 29, 2013


Every individual and every family that find themselves in the cultural areas where a Thanksgiving  is observed, observes that occasion in an individual way.  Our family is no exception, in that we adhere to certain celebratory patterns and yet we have made other patterns our own.

We try to start the meal with a short meditation of thankfulness.  The menu is pretty much standard:  turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, veggies as are wanted, and probably pumpkin pie and goodness knows what else.  It’s the ‘what else’ where we make our own design.  For instance, everyone except me and my mate wants turkey, we would prefer chicken.  We usually have turkey ‘for the children.’  On the other hand, we always, always have cornbread dressing and it is always baked separately, never, ever stuffed.  Sweet potato casserole has become an adoptee for the last few years, but we never put marshmallows on top, which is a southern tradition that we just don’t much care for; today we sprinkled pecan pieces on top and they toasted as the dish baked and it was awesome.  And of course not everyone in the family likes pumpkin pie so there was chocolate pudding for the pumpkin pie resistors.  Pretty simple meal, really.

Today after dinner we all went for a short walk because the weather was cool but lovely after several days of cold, cloudy wind.  After that we could have played dominoes or cards, but for the last several years our daughter has requested that after the meal we watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie we have all watched so many times we are able to both anticipate and repeat much of the dialog.  And while this is a really funny film, with imaginatively comic events and some fine acting by Steve Martin and John Candy, it seems that every year we see something more in the story, something more in the characters, something transformative.  Both characters make their own mud, so to speak, getting in their own way and blaming each other.  Yet Del Griffith, the John Candy character, who is so oblivious of his obnoxious behavior because he feels he maintains a cheery friendliness, is called to account by Steve Martin’s Neal Page, and Neal, who is just as intense and uptight as one would expect someone in advertising to be, learns, through a very difficult series of experiences, to be more tolerant and see beyond the surface.  And at the end, we as audience are left with our annual reminder of the value of friendship and family and a day to give thanks.

And we none of us went shopping.  We had enough and we were thankful.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The JFK We Knew

Oh, let’s get one thing clear right away:  we neither of us knew Mr. Kennedy personally.  But fifty and more years ago when Mr. Kennedy was elected, we were young and Kennedy did not seem that much older than we, and we and everyone in our generation felt like we knew this man.

We were oblivious of the gossip.  Like many others, we saw Jack Kennedy as a loving father of young children, as a graceful escort of a lovely wife, as an impassioned speaker who inspired so many to give to their country and to the world.  We read the admiring newspaper and magazine articles and admired the photographs of the Kennedy family, and went on our own ways.  We were neither of us as seriously interested in the politics of our country as we have become over the years, when we finally realized, as many of the young eventually do, that politics are about how we live and work and build a future.  

And when Mr. Kennedy died, we mourned along with most of our country and much of the rest of the world, that a still-young man was destroyed mid-presidency, and that a young wife and very young children were left without him.  It was, and is still, a shocking event.  We have read some of the books and seen some of the films and documentaries, and formed our own conclusions, as everyone must, about what exactly happened, and why.

While there will always be questions, at this far-removed view of those long-past days, there are a few convictions we hold.  We believe that the president who stood steadfast during the Cuban missile crisis managed to stare down a terrifying foe and perhaps lay the groundwork for bringing the Berlin wall down a few decades later.  About that Cold War, he spoke the following powerful words:  For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

And after we watched the recent documentary about the March on Washington, we realized that the president’s quiet support for that event greatly helped move along the civil rights movement that, for the most part, has prevailed.  And that ultimately must and will prevail. And these will be how we remember him.