Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pestilence, Captivity Narratives, and Other Thanksgiving Elements

I'm back from another one of our great Southeast driving tours--1 week ago, we'd have been driving across 4 states in one morning!  We listened to Paul Simon's Graceland, and I got a great idea for a short story that will be part of my ever-growing collection of linked short stories.  My spouse also practiced singing the music that he'll sing in concert on Dec. 1--in my sleep, Graceland, Paul Simon's latest So Beautiful or So What, and the chorale music swirled in my head.

I'm trying not to think about how I wish it was a week ago, how I can't believe how quickly the Thanksgiving holiday zoomed by.  While I also love the Christmas season, I begin to feel increasingly sad--the October to December time period holds the best holidays, if you want my honest opinion.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas:  what could be better?  I love the decorations, the food, the music.  Can you say the same thing about the Valentine's Day-Easter-Memorial Day corridor?  I can't.

My extended family meets at a big house at Lutheridge, a church camp.  It's not resort living, but we can cook, and it's a huge place with lots of room for rambunctious children.  There are plenty of walking routes and playgrounds and it's relatively safe, in terms of traffic and predators.

This was the first year without my grandmother, which was strange.  But we had a newborn with us, and the dynamic was going to be quite different anyway.  I felt sad at times, strange at times, but no more than usual.

When we arrive, time feels expansive, like we'll have vast swaths of unused time.  That's never how it turns out, of course.

Still, we had time to go see Argo--what a great film.  Some day, I want to do more thinking about captivity narratives and how they've changed from our earliest American Lit narratives of people captured by Native Americans to our more recent ones of hostages.  Are they really the same narrative?  I'm not sure.

Some years we go to the playground every day, and some years, we go to the track at the local high school, where my dad runs laps (6-9 miles worth!), and the rest of us play variations on games with balls.  This year, my cousin's daughter wanted to ride her bike around the track, so I jogged/walked quickly beside her, because she needed a push every so often.  The whole group only made it to the track once.  As my cousin said, nap times, with children crashing at various times, really had an impact on our play time.

My nephew has developed his narrative skills.  I may write a separate post on this later.  Still, we made books and wrote stories in the journal that he's keeping (yes, at age 6!).  One of the highlights of my trip was when he'd have me read the stories I'd written, and he'd say, "Write me another, Kris!"

We did some shopping, but not the kind of shopping we've done before when my cousins have been known to camp out for good deals.  One day, I went to the Frugal Backpacker and the REI store in the morning, and Walmart in the afternoon--what a contrast in terms of the residents of the area.  The Frugal Backpacker crowd had layers of clothes in interesting textures.  They looked like they had popped in to find a good deal on a kayak.  The Walmart crowd looked like they'd be unable to paddle a kayak.

Because we have 6 children who are 6 years old and younger, we had a variety of sniffles, and I expect that many of us have returned home with colds, like my poor spouse.  Once I got there and saw the runny noses, I went to Walmart and bought two bottles of vitamin C.  So far, I'm OK--but the parents of the newborn came down with pink eye while we were there, so I'll probably stick with my old contact lenses and avoid eye make up until I'm sure I'm out of the woods.

I'm trying not to think about last year, when I returned home with a more severe cold than I've had in years, along with my first case of pink eye.  I'm thinking of the larger issue of pestilence and decimation of the Native American population.

It's amazing that humans have survived as a species.  We're easily felled by flu and other germs.  Our newborns are unbelievably small and fragile.  I guess that what we have going for us is that we can live in a variety of habitats, and we can eat a huge variety of foods.

I didn't eat a huge variety of foods.  Even when we went out with our Jacksonville friends on Sunday, I ordered Thanksgiving dinner:  turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.  Yum.  I could eat that meal every week and never get tired of it.

Now, it's back to regular life, whatever that is.  I have some writing deadlines approaching, as well as the usual variety of work activities.  I'm hoping that my spouse wakes up today with the worst of his cold behind him.  On Thursday, it's off to the specialist to see what he makes of the MRI of my spouse's spine.  I'm trying not to be frightened.  But I'm frightened.

It's good to be with my family and to realize that no one is living a charmed life.  I keep up with many people through Facebook, and I think a disadvantage to Facebook is that the short posts make many people's lives sound so idyllic.  When we're together in real time, we discover that every life has its share of difficulties.  Even the most perfect child has meltdowns.  Even the most vibrant people face health crises.  Very few people have perfect jobs.

Yesterday I got back to my job, and I was able to help people with a variety of small crises.  I needed that reminder that even if we have yet to live up to our full potential, our daily life can be important.  I may not be changing the world in the way I once envisioned, but there's something to be said for inserting kindness into daily life.

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