I don't play an instrument any more, and I"m not into the blues. The music and lyrics creep me out because one sounds okay, and the other makes you want to go home and slit your wrists. And then you can see people using the blues in other forms, like this poem by Kevin Young that was in The New Yorker June 23 issue:
Slow Drag Blues
I don't believe in sex after marriage.
My wife does,
just not with me.
I plead the Fifth
of whiskey. I am close
to perfecting a theory
Grief a dog
that keeps dogging me—
Good Grief, I say.
It's me he's teaching to beg—
my next anniversary
is newspaper, yesterday's—
lining my cage--
Tomorrow the day
I hope to learn to stay.
(if I knew html, I could make this look the way it should. Go to page 62 of this issue for what the poet wanted!)
At least this poem ends with some hope, the speaker might decide to hang out in the word after all, even though his ex wife has moved on. But it's dicey.
Holidays make a lot of people sing the blues. Even in the middle of summer like the Fourth of July, some old feeling about holidays and anticipation and expectation creep in and just punch out some people. And it's all about Maslow. Let's say you aren't in a relationship and your family is far away. All you want to be with is someone. Preferably someone you like. But someone. And if you end up with someone, and this someone is not a person you love, you yearn for the holiday where you were or will be with that perfect, shining person.
Or let's say you've been in a relationship for a long time, and suddenly, you want other people around on the holidays because you can't bear to sit across one damn more holiday table with this over-known person. Damn! Why does everyone else you know have gobs of people. Sisters and cousins and mothers and fathers and brothers. Where are all MY people, you think.
The holiday dribbles by.
And then there are the people who won't come to you or refuse to come to you--those who have other things to do that be with you. Better options. The happy hours of the festival slip by, maybe assisted by a bottle of wine or two. Thank god you can wake up in the morning and go about your business without all this expectation in the air. Only 47 more days until another flipping festival to mar the otherwise ordinary fabric of your existence.
I get some of this. When I was little, we Barksdales were on the West Coast outpost of the extended family, and no one ever traveled to come see us on major holidays. We were too far away--there was too much hustle and bustle to go all the way to the Bay Area. So the five of us would just hang out together. Looking back on it now, I would really pay attention to those holidays because the days when there were five of us were numbered. But there we were, with our little rituals and fun, and I did enjoy it all. But I had a secret yearning for a gigantic table, filled with cousins and uncles who brought pretty wives and strangers, the mystery guest no one could figure out.
Later, with my husband and children, we traveled sometimes to LA to be with his gigantic family, and once I couldn't 35 people in the house. Poof! dream come true. I counted from outside on the patio, where I could think and escape. It would appear that I didn't really want all that interaction, after all.
Divorcing made for some very rocky and at least one slightly inebriated holiday, but mostly, I'm back on track with how I feel. They are fine, sometimes really fun. I've new people to celebrate with sometimes, Michael's daughters joining us, me, Michael, my mother, my boys at the table. We both love to cook and bake, so there's fun in that, too. We get together, talk, share, and then eat. We open presents, cut the cake, open the champagne. Whatever it is we need to do, we do. Then the day is over.
But here's how I really feel. I don't like being forced into doing things. I don't like the interruption, mostly, of the pattern of life. I think that life should contain those daily celebrations and happinesses. I think that people should make time for one another no matter if it's Christmas, or Tuesday, April 16th. Let's have a lunch! Let's open a bottle of wine! Here's a present. I was thinking of you. Why don't you come down and stay with me, and we can go out for a lovely walk and then brunch! Let's go eat Mexican food and go shopping. Let's sit together and thank each other for our lives. Let's sit quietly and watch the sun set. Let's go to New York and walk in the park.
Instead, we have this day set aside (though I am BIG on company holidays. Everyone needs days off. So do NOT abolish these days, oh, those of you in power) where we have to do certain things, on cue, with certain people and in certain ways. We fit the grid of the holiday over ourselves and try to move in it. What if I don't like the government that came from the revolution? What if my Chickasaw Indian side wants to stomp the ground and mourn the trail of Tears?
Forget about it! Have another ear of corn and a slab of beef, and stop your whinging.
Mother's Day, Father's Day--maybe even Christmas in its current shape--are all about money. I have stolen this information from Wikipedia: "Mother's Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions."
And we are buying up stuff we don't need for just about every holiday we have. Do you really need that 80 foot strand of blinking red and green lights? What about that stuffed Santa? And that rabbit? It has to go. Can't we just have a nice macaroni and cheese and watch Netflixed Friday Night Lights?
Michael and I have just finished the parade of visiting children with various legal ills, and I can tell you this: we will sleep in tomorrow. We will go workout. We will make a fabulous meal. We will go for a walk. We will sit on our couch and watch Netflixed Friday Night Lights.
Whoever you are with or not with, sit down, take a load off. Open a bottle of Cabernet. Take a deep breath, look out the window. Happy Fourth.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org