Poem – Plates

I opened the box
from my mother in law,
the heavy brown cardboard, the crisp pale paper inside.
She’d been dead a month by this time
but she knew it was coming
so there’d been time to prepare.

Every plate
every bowl
every cup
even the gravy boat
she had wrapped
herself
one
by
one

and placed carefully in this box.

She knew
that this was the last time
she would see these dishes,
these dishes that we had used
as a family
for Christmas
for Easter
for Thanksgiving
every year.

She knew
this was the end
that there would be no more holidays
for her.

We’ll continue
in our fashion
in our own new way
without her
but with her plates
so lovingly
and so carefully
wrapped.

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In-laws and outlaws

You know the difference between in-laws and outlaws? Outlaws are wanted.

In-laws are like an arranged marriage. You didn’t pick them – they were picked for you. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. It is great when it does, but it is horrible when it doesn’t.

You can’t drop them like you can drop a new friend.

With a new friend, one you are trying out, things might not work out the way you both hoped. You can just stop calling and making dates with each other.

Family is different. You are stuck with them. All the major holidays, all the big celebrations, you are expected to spend with your family. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Weddings. Funerals.

The most important days of your life, and you are stuck with people you didn’t pick.

This makes no sense.

The only thing that will make bad in-laws go away is divorce. Either you leave, or they do.

Or, better yet – re-invent the idea of holidays. Don’t make it mandatory to spend time with people you don’t like. Create new traditions. Invent your own ideas.

Being stuck with people you didn’t pick doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps this is why people hate holidays so much. They are expected to spend time with people they think, by society’s rules, that they have to get along with.

Why fake it anymore?

Irish day

I don’t understand how St. Patrick’s Day has gotten equated with getting drunk. But then again, to be fair, every holiday in America is equated with that.

Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick ’s Day are both ethnic holidays where people who aren’t even of that ethnicity get roaringly drunk. People who don’t even know anything about the culture before they start to drink get so bombed that they don’t even know anything about their own culture by the time they are done. But it isn’t just these holidays. New Year’s, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day – you name it, if there is a holiday, Americans are drinking to it.

Perhaps we collectively have a holiday problem. Perhaps we are just so wound up from our jobs and our families and our lives that we have to escape, at least mentally, every time there is a holiday. Perhaps we need to create lives that don’t need to be escaped from. This doesn’t mean we need to get a better paying job or a bigger house or more friends. This means we need to start appreciating what we have now.

I’m reminded of the story in Exodus, of the Israelites escaping from Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt, but now they are free. They are grumbling to Moses about how they don’t have any food in the desert. They say they were better off in Egypt, that at least they had meat. Right now they have almost nothing, just this crazy manna that shows up every morning. It isn’t what they want. It is filling, and it provides energy, but it is boring. They complain, and Moses complains to God. God thinks they are ungrateful and sends enough quail that they are up to their knees in the birds. They gorge on the quail and get very sick. They never ask for meat again. It doesn’t mean that they don’t ask for anything else – but on that, they’ve learned their lesson.

To me, St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating the persistence of the heart of Celtic life amidst adversity. The Irish suffered greatly at home and in America a century ago. They were the “immigrant problem” of the time. To be Irish is to endure despite hardship, and to keep your Self intact amidst a culture that wants you to assimilate.

This is something that transcends culture and ethnicity. For all of us who are staying true to your inner Being and not yielding to a culture that tells you to buy more, be mindless, to not care – you are Irish, regardless of your ethnicity.

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a drinking holiday. It is a holiday about persistence and endurance. It is an Exodus story. It is about finding a safe place to be. Let us remember everything we have gone through to get where we are. Let us not make “here” another “there” that has to be escaped from.