Happy Thanksgiving

Last year, I shared my favorite Thanksgiving book with you. This year, I have my favorite poem of the season. It’s not really about the holiday, but it kindles in me a visceral reminder of the Thanksgivings of my childhood.

I would leave the house after dinner to walk the dog, to get away from the heat and the noise and the people. The houses I passed would be lit up, but on mute – all festivities contained, windows tightly shut. This was long before cell phones, of course, and I cherished the emptiness of the town, my only company a snuffling fifty-pound mutt terrier. With her, I felt safe enough to stay out until my fingers froze, shoulders hunched against the bitter New England night.

It was rare to meet another person, or even to see a car pass. I never brought my Walkman with me then either; I wanted, for once, to listen to the wind exhaling through the trees. It felt good to let the weight of the day lift off of me, to transform into a shadow for an hour before returning to the family and food I was lucky enough to have.
Turkeys, Galway Kinnell

Sometimes we saw shadows of gods
in the trees; silenced, we went on.
Sometimes the dog would bound off
over the snow, into the forest.
Sometimes a tree had twenty
or more black turkeys in it, each
seeming the size of a small black bear.
We remember them for their care
for their kind ever since we watched the big hen
in the very top of the tree shaking
load after load of apples down to the flock.
Sometimes I felt I would never
come out of the woods, I thought
its deeper darkness might absorb me
or feed me to the black turkeys
and I would cry out for the dog
and the dog would not answer.

Post Christmas wrap up

My plan for today was to post a picture of all the books I got for Christmas – a brilliant and almost effortless idea that was especially perfect because by the evening of the 25th, I was taken down by a sore throat. I really needed a holiday post that required as little energy as possible. Unfortunately (and unexpectedly), I received only one book this year – an excellent yoga guide – and no matter what angle I took the picture from, one book does not a glorious pile make.

So I’m improvising, and on cold medicine, which means expectations should remain low…Unless, of course, you love children’s Christmas books as much as I do, in which case, read on to see which ones I neurotically reread every holiday season:

Image Christmas in Noisy Village, Astrid Lindgren and Ilon Wikland – My all-time favorite of favorites, this book just feels like home to me. Every time I read it, I remember the chest my grandmother kept it in, and how she would pull it out for me to read whenever I asked for it, even in the middle of summer. I will never be able to read it without remembering her and all the wonderful times we had together.


Image The Christmas Stranger, Marjorie Thayer and Don Freeman – This was longest Christmas book we owned when I was a child that could technically qualify as a picture book, although it was as long as some chapter books. My dad read it to me tirelessly every night during the holiday season year after year, and I am eternally grateful to him for his patience and love, because if it were me, I might have hidden in it or burned it or tossed it down the deepest well I could find. It’s a great story, and beautifully told, but really, he was a champion.


Image The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg – What am I, a monster? Of course this made the list. Seriously though, I love all of his books passionately. His stories are simple and elegant, and the illustrations are always stunning. I will never forgive Hollywood for making a terrible movie out of this book, destroying it for generations of unsuspecting children.





Image The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry and Lisbeth Zwerger – A family favorite, this is a classic story illustrated fabulously with Zwerger’s watercolor images. If you aren’t familiar with the tale, I highly recommend it for its graceful appreciation of the holiday spirit, and if you are, then I say you haven’t really enjoyed it until you’ve seen this version.


Image The Christmas Cat, Isabelle Holland and Kathy Mitchell – This is actually a pretty hokey story about a cat who convinces a dog and a donkey to follow the star to see the baby born in a manger. When I made my husband read it a few years ago, he looked at me like I was a crazy person for calling it a classic, but what can I say? Sometimes we find books at just the right age, and for whatever reason, we fall in love. Quality not withstanding, I always seek this book out to read by the fire when I come back for the holidays.