The Day Before the Thanking Day

Yesterday here in the precincts north of Boston we had classic Day Before Thanksgiving weather, with air like apple cider and a sun so strong the shadows lay black on the bright-green grass.

If I were still little, I’d have looked out at that bright green grass and seen pheasants doing their strut-walk in our yard, funny as it seems to say that since we lived in a city.

Lowell was the nation’s first planned city, a factory town filled with mills and rowhouses and churches for every wave of immigration… And yet here we had pheasants out back.

Why? Because the city sits on the confluence of two rivers, muscular and sudsy, and they are the real main characters in Lowell’s story.

Even now, you drive through Lowell and Lawrence and Haverhill and all you have to do is squint your eyes to see the old fields lying just beyond the downtown, just under the suburban-style homes with their driveways and their swing sets.

Our old house in Lowell sits on what had been, since Revolutionary times, an apple orchard. The house to our right was the farmhouse and the one to our left was its barn. We were the dooryard between the two, with this row of little apple trees marching out back, crooked and stooped like the oldest soldiers in the parades of your childhood.

The oldest soldiers at the school assemblies of my youth were from the Great War mostly. I even remember one from the Spanish American War, that fraudulent 1890’s conflict cooked up by a nation bent on empire. When my mom was little they saw veterans from the Civil War at their school assemblies, imagine it! There’s footage on YouTube of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg that would break your heart.  It makes me think of how seldom we ever think on the blood that was shed over time. After Memorial Day, after Veterans Day, who thinks of all that sacrifice, besides the families whose sons and daughters who have most recently shed it?

I feel ashamed for all we take for granted in this country; I mean for the peace, both and political that allows someone like me to dream back and paint pictures of times gone by.

We wake today to rain in New England. Rain with all its own charms. Rain that send us hurrying back indoors, grateful for the hot tea and the dry towel…

I opened my eyes at 6am to the rain. Then I closed them again and saw those pheasants, and our neighbor’s great old dog Tramp coming over to greet us as we jumped in the swirling leaves, the brown oak leaves that are falling this week, the last to go always, like me the most reluctant to acknowledge an end to the gaudy party. 

the next door neighbors’ glider, with the old apple trees that dotted both our yards