Robert Lowell and Toothpaste

Thankful is being acutely aware of everything – past, present, future, bad, good, indifferent.

It’s those tense, starry-eyed images of dinner. It’s sibling stares, an uncle’s nervous tick, undercooked mashed potatoes, absent seats, frustrated parents, and sexless marriages.

It’s being together one more time. It’s the football after dinner, the nap that follows, the children’s ungodly noise, the large, brick homes, seething chimney smoke.

Thankful is dirty snow. The once-pure beauty and the piss stain later. It’s the melting and the return next year.

Being thankful is relative. It’s taking stock in what’s ours, what could be ours. It’s wondering about the sexy redhead you talked to last night. It’s finding regret in that lonely, fifth-grade fight. It’s prayer. It’s worship. And it’s a deep-seeded longing for something else.

Thankful is also finding the joys of everyday items and thoughts. It’s not regurgitating the immediate “I’m thankful for my health” or “Thank God I don’t live in New York.” It’s wondering what things would be if others hadn’t pushed, pulled, and made things as they are. Have you ever imagined what it would be like today if Dylan hadn’t electrified? I do. I wonder a great deal all the time. Melodramatic? Sure.

Thankful is the small, intangible things, the ideas, maybe even people or myths.

Robert Lowell is one of those. For starters, read Waking in the Blue and For the Union Dead. Please. You won’t regret it. Shiva, ahh, beautiful Shiva is another. The Hindu goddess, with multiple hands, flames, and bare breast, creates the world and destroys the ignorance. My kind of woman! Actually, that redhead the other night reminds me of her.

Thankful is the odd things one acquires or can’t live without. Tacky neon signs and metal tabs on aluminum cans fit this. Neon has a certain cadence, a rhythm that commands its attention. If you stand close enough to a neon sign, you can hear the sizzling and the pop of the fluorescents. If you look closely, you can see the dead gnats and mosquitoes.

And those tabs! Well, I’m not terribly good with can openers.

Thankful is also practical. Toothpaste tops the list. A close second is microchips. Without microchips I wouldn’t be clacking away on this keyboard, these nice, evenly spaced words wouldn’t appear, magically, upon my fake-paper, nor will you be reading them.

It’s those things you can’t exactly “put your finger on.” It’s clichés. It’s indie rock. It’s gangsta rap. It’s hate metal. It’s invention. It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s commercialization. It’s big planes and steel buildings. It’s being thoughtful and compassioned.

Above all else, it’s remembering even if you weren’t there. ◼

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