Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Thanksgiving Poem



This is Thanksgiving

I.
Four o’clock
I ring my parents’ doorbell
my dad answers
wearing a red, green and blue plaid shirt.

He hugs me
     his cheeks warm from the outdoors
takes the bowl of stuffing and says:
You missed it.  Your sister choked on a piece of pineapple
and your brother gave her the Heimlich.

I sigh; take off my jacket
as my dad brings the stuffing to my mom
in the kitchen.

I fail to notice
he has no pants on.
I am used to this.

II.
An hour later
Dad yells: Turkey’s done.  Come get a picture.
I walk out the back door
to where my dad stands
next to the Weber grill.

He ceremoniously takes the lid off
pretends to be surprised at how lovely
the crisp but tender bird looks.
Get closer, Stef.

He lifts the turkey off the grill.
I lean in and take a photo
and ten more after that.
This is Thanksgiving.

III.
I drink too much wine
as I sit at the table
and fill my plate.
I talk loudly.
I share too much.

My six year old nephew
plugs his ears
as my mom
runs from table to kitchen
kitchen to table.
She fills empty bowls.
She never sits down.

IV.
I know these are moments
I need to remember.
I’m thirty-four years old
and I’ve never missed
a Thanksgiving with these people.

Every year
pictures of the turkey are taken and Dad
runs around half dressed
for the first half of the holiday.

I drink too much wine
with my sister and Mom
circles us and keeps
me and my siblings close.

I tell you
this
is Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Greedy real estate developers are gross... but they remind me to appreciate every moment in life

It's an odd feeling when your neighbors move and you are left behind, if only temporarily.  It's even more uncomfortable when the building you lived in housed some of the nicest, most intelligent, eccentric and humble people you'd ever want to meet, let alone share a building with.  The fact that we are all being forced out by the new owners of our building doesn't make for a good feeling either

This week, our historic carriage house is being emptied out and we are all scattering across the city into our new apartments.  While I only lived here for 1 1/2 years, these neighbors of mine left me with some fantastic memories.  Off and on for 15 years, I've lived in apartment buildings and I've never felt a real connection to any of my neighbors.  That all changed when I moved to Meade Place in 2012.  The night the lease was signed our building manager, a man well into his late 80s, poured us a glass of wine and wished us well.  The building manager's apartment was decorated like a museum from the 40s and 50s.  Artifacts from his travels around the world as an engineer served as physical reminders of his youth and his late wife. 

In Apartment 4, I loved the 13 foot ceilings, the elaborate crown moldings, the intricately carved doors, and the worn wooden floors that never seemed to look clean.  There were things that I didn't love about the apartment as well: the shower that never drained, the fact that it always smelled like we lived upwind of a water treatment facility, the rats and the holes in the floor that invited huge bugs to come and hang out in the apartment.  But, what I truly loved about the apartment had nothing to do with the character of the building or the fact that it was affordable.  No, what I loved most were the events and memories that took place in the apartment and those are what I will miss most.

Last Christmas, I, the ever lazy and practical person that I am, got to experience a real Christmas tree in the building foyer.  Since I live 5 hours away from family and I always spend the holidays in Michigan, I never decorate my apartment.  But, this was a little gift.  Early in December, the residents gathered to decorate the tree together.  We milled around the foyer, drank wine, listened to Christmas music, told stories and decorated the tree.  It felt like I was part of another family, my Meade family.  Our building manager told stories about his travels and, after a couple glasses of boxed wine, told us all about his political beliefs. At that moment, I excused myself to take out the recycling and as I walked back up to the building, through the glass door, I saw all of my relatives gathered around the tree and piano, singing Christmas carols.  It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Every day after work, I'd walk into the building and my eyes would meet the fully decorated tree that stood next to the piano.  And, every day I would smile.

***

As I sit in my new apartment and write this I am reminded of how life is all about change.  Each challenge or hurdle that is thrown my way I try to meet with optimism.  I try to live life as if everything has meaning or purpose, that I just have to search for it and I will find it.  Then, when all is said and done, I will have learned something about myself and become stronger.  I know that my story is not unique. But, what still confuses me is how someone, in this situation a real estate developer, can look beyond the stories and needs of their new tenants and only see money to be made.  I have a hard time believing that once the renovations are done and the new tenants are paying double the rent that friendships like ours will be made in this updated carriage house.  To me, that is the saddest part.