The turkey carcass is down to bones. The mashed potatoes are nothing more than a sad, hopeful, metallic scraping—some people just can’t accept that gone is gone. The pinto beans and ham are in Tupperware, divided 14 ways. The last biscuit is a memory. (Or so it seems. My mama always hides one or two away for my boy, Jake.) Over the last crumbs of dressing, old women say, “Don’t know what happened…it just wasn’t fit to eat.”
It is time for my people to gather in the living room and unburden themselves of all the fine gossip they have been holding onto since September, like money. I will be there, with them, sometimes with a half-eaten piece of chocolate cake balanced dangerously on one knee, but I will hear almost none of it.
I would rather be awake, to find out whose garden did well and whose didn’t, and whose foreign car isn’t running good—because you know they should have known better—and whose children have misbehaved. I would like to know what is happening to our kin across the state line—my Aunt Juanita calls them “the Georgia people,” like they are a new species—and who last killed a snake. They will say that the snakes seem to have stayed out longer this year, and no one will say it any more but we’re pretty sure it’s because those men walked on the moon. I want to hear it all, swirling around me, assuring me that no matter what happens in this uncertain world the things that truly matter, things here, are all right.
But the same peace of mind that settles on me as that talk drifts around the room is the same peace and comfort that tugs me into the calm darkness. My mama will look at me from across the wood floor and say, quickly, “Let him sleep.” I know this because sometimes I am not quite out, and it is the last thing I hear.
It would be all right with me if it was the last thing I ever hear.
I will blame the chair. I bought it out of a catalog a quarter-century ago, what the catalog called a British club chair, but it just looks like a leather chair to me. It is firm and soft at the same time, and there is some kind of drug in it, I swear, that makes my chin droop, and makes me begin to snore softly. The talk continues around me, and I would like to tell you what it is all about but of course I do not know. I just know I love the idea of it, of the stories being told with me and yet without me, at the same time. The old white dog sleeps, too, across the room. In human years she is…well, a miracle.
I am not a napper, and do not even sleep well at night. But here, in this chair on Thanksgiving Day, it is automatic, certain. Maybe I should steal the chair from my mama’s and take it to live with me all the time. Then, at least, I could hear all the news at home.
But I do not believe I will. They tell me sometimes I am out for only a few minutes, but that cannot be. I wake feeling restored, feeling alive and happy to be. It is almost enough to make a person believe in magic, because I know there are hours and hours worth of good things happening as I shut my eyes.