At this time of year, when I confuse the wind on dry leaves with rain drops and rain drops for ice, and ice for silence, I wonder about the death of a holy day.
Can holidays die? We act as if they are immortal. Culturally, we've adopted the Dr. Seuss religion that they can't be taken away. But I wonder. I think that story is clearly for children who associate a holiday with things, and food, and decorations. What of us who are older, who define the holiness of these days by the person who made them everything to us? What of us who have seen those people die, become forever absent in the landscape of our lives? The Grinch didn't take a person away. He only took things.
I remember my maternal grandmother so well. I can still hear her voice, feel her touch, see her in her kitchen which was the heartbeat of Thanksgiving. It was not Thanksgiving unless we were in her house, the strange gold-clothed roll warmer plugged in, the colonial wallpaper wrapping a small room that seemed to expand to five times its size when we all arrived at Lindy Road.
Those of us who were there are still here, most of us. My grandparents are all dead and gone. And we see now, like you can only see things when they are absent, that they were the connection and the meaning and the purpose of our holy days. They are dead and buried and cannot be returned. And I ask myself with sincerity if this holy day is dead and buried now, too. If it is not all a charade now that they are gone, and now that our tribe is flung to the four corners of the earth, most by our own strong desire to go.
Go to a place where no one is missing yet from that place. And to struggle with what may still be holy.
Elizabeth Gaucher earned her MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan College. She lives with her family in Middlebury, Vermont. www.elizabethgaucher.com.