Ginkos and Band-Aids. And Thanks.
November 27th, 2014
Well, like turkeys on the table, here’s something familiar this week. Many of you seem to like this column this time of year so, with a couple of updates to the recipe, here you go.
I just hope you don’t think it’s a turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.
As published in The Daily News, November 28, 2014, and in The Memphis News, November 29-December 5, 2014
LOOK FOR THE WONDER. REPEAT.
I write about it every year. This year, just last week, it happened again.
Right outside my window is a ginkgo tree, and another on the other side of the house. Every fall they engage in an ancient mating dance, a spectacular competition for attention. So exhausting is the effort, it doesn’t last long. So intense is the result, it’s explosive. And then it’s gone, leaving only a memory.
One morning they’re both green, a bit less green by afternoon. Overnight, they turn. The next morning, they shed light, a brilliant yellow so bright it shines through window shades and burns off gloom, a yellow that turns every other yellow green.
And the next day, it seems, it’s all gone. Their leaves fall as one, leaving the host naked and alone, covering the patio and everything on it with their loss.
“Watch your step out there,” Nora said, “the dogs just left a message in the ginkgo leaves and I got it.”
So it goes. One day, it’s all beautiful. The next day, it all turns to crap. Or maybe that’s not the message at all.
My family has been visited by death, near death and deadly threat, by deceit and heartbreak, by cancer in varying form, by Alzheimer’s and plain old dementia, by diabetes, alcoholism, kidney disease and kidney stones, emphysema, bankruptcy, divorce, blown dreams and blue toe, broken bones and torn muscles, curved spines and crooked deals, stupid mistakes and senseless loss, rejection and reflux, gum disease, blood disease and general disease.
And I’m due for a check-up.
But we’ve also been visited by each other, by shared experience and gained appreciation, by children and grandchildren, by a lot of friends and a lot of delightful silliness, by unforgettable moments and uncontrolled laughter, by faith and hope, and love. And by waking up today.
We’ve been visited by the privilege of life, the gift of perception, and the opportunity of choice.
The Thanksgiving my three-year-old granddaughter was one, she bled on everything and everybody as she screamed her way around the room, a fountain of misery, her fingertip nipped by errant fingernail clippers. A bit later, she was wearing her first Band-Aid, grinning as she held it up and waddled across the room to show it to her grandfather.
Ginkgo trees are regarded as living fossils, literally writing their history in stone dating back almost 300 million years. And they’ve done that dance every year a billion times around the world, and right outside my window. To see the wonder of it, I only need to look.
Ginkgo trees don’t leave you with a memory; they leave you with the promise of their return.
Early this year, my grandchildren took their parents and moved out of town. This week, they’ll be here for Thanksgiving and while I’m less sure of more and more, I’m sure of the joy I’ll feel in the smiles I’ll see. I only need to look.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m thankful.
If you don’t read it, I’ll read it to you.
The book is available in print online and all over town and now in audio online at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, read by the author – columns, comments and character references for a city filled with it and often absolutely full of it. Take a look or a listen.