Stuffing My Face Into a Good Book
It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The refrigerator is still pretty well stuffed with what was left from Thursday’s heavily laden table, despite another night’s supper and the grazing throughout the day by everyone in the family starting with my daughter-in-law, the marathon runner, who breakfasted on mashed potatoes with gravy and reheated hors d’oeuvres with her morning coffee. Truly the breakfast of champions.
Today, just as yesterday, promises to be as relaxing as we and our guests nap at will, watch movies, play board games, read the paper or go for long leisurely walks. The cares of the work week seem a million miles away in either direction. The sun shines warmly in the bright blue sky, hibiscus bloom wildly in the cool weather and the citrus trees in the yard, weighed down with lemons, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines, sweeten with the chilly evenings and cool days. Everyone is healthy. My mother-in-law, Phyllis, is still with us celebrating this holiday, many medical miracles, medicines and a good doctor making it all possible. There is much for which I am thankful.
With the quiet and the soft snuffles and sighs of a sleeping baby as a backdrop, and a plethora of football games for the men to watch, I am free to imagine what the rest of my children might be doing this weekend since they live up north. I hope they are enjoying their weekend as much as I am. I hope they know they are thought of and very much loved as they visit with their friends and in-laws.
The previous days of this week I did what millions of others did in their free time. I cleaned, planned, cooked. I happily anticipated the impending arrival of kith and kin and a four-day weekend. The week didn’t leave me much time to read more than an article or two in a magazine or newspaper. Today, however, with the hard work over and what messes there are being happy messes that will resolve themselves in due time, I am free to curl up in whichever chair that does not have a backside already in it and read!
I’m in a mood for poetry, but not Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. Rather, I’m in the mood for good things to ponder, interesting things to consider and bits of life and time to remember. There is a book that fits the bill.
I purchased the perfect book when it was new back in 1976. It was a gift I bought myself after Thanksgiving that year. I was pregnant with my fourth child. My marriage was coming apart slowly and irretrievably. I needed a soft place to go and think in the chaos of raising three other children the oldest of whom was three. I had spent the previous nine months battling unrelenting morning sickness, hard work, bone-numbing fatigue and mountains of laundry. I bought this book because of the title—Picture That Storm Inside My Head (poems for the inner you) because I felt as though I had a huge storm inside my head, a storm that had no beauty, a storm that made no sense to me. I remember that it was hard that Thanksgiving holiday to feel truly thankful for the life I had.
That book of poetry gave me something far larger to think about than just me and the problems of my life. One poem in particular felt like a can opener for my sealed-up heart. It was poem #8, Birdsong, written by an anonymous child in Terezin Concentration Camp in 1941 that opened my heart and my eyes and made me truly grateful for the good things in my life then and each year since. Though I have never forgotten it, there is such bliss in being able to read it again and again. The poem goes like this:
He doesn’t know the world at all
Who stays in his next and doesn’t go out.
He doesn’t know what birds know best
Nor what I want to sing about,
That the world is full of loveliness.
When dewdrops sparkle in the grass
And earth’s aflood with morning light,
A blackbird sings upon a bush
To greet the dawning after night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.
Hey, try to open your heart
To beauty; go to the woods someday
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Than if the tears obscure your way
You’ll know how wonderful it is
To be alive.
It’s been more than 30 years since that long ago holiday. This Thanksgiving, surrounded by a new generation of children being raised by the children I raised, and married for almost 14 years to a man whose commitment to love is as strong as mine, I am humbled and grateful for the gift of words from a child who had the courage to see much farther than the circumstances that no youngster should ever endure. I can imagine nothing worse in life than that kind of living nightmare. I look forward to reading this wonderful book one more time to see what great things the poets whose work lives in these pages have to say to me. There is something new in each reading. It’s good, this peaceful time, this holiday, to sit and read, ponder and consider the diminutive stories contained in a poem.
I hope your heart this holiday season is as full as your refrigerator after your feast with the love and caring of your family and the joy at being alive. I trust you have much for which you can be thankful in 2007, even if it is only for the small lessons taught to you in a poem.
At age 10, Anne realized she was never going to get to be Miss America since reading a book was not an acceptable talent. So she went on to get a job and raise a family. Along the way, she fixed meals, picked up toys, helped with homework, and collected a drawer full of rejection slips for her “great American novel.” It was not all bad, however, since she ended up wallpapering a closet with them. She currently designs and creates greeting cards for her tiny company, The Frog Prints, LLC, and also works full-time as a Training Specialist. Anne is currently tethered to reality by a loving spouse, two dogs, one cat and the occasional hurricane that blows through Florida, although falling headlong and happily into a book is still her favorite “talent.” She can be reached at