Christmas tree of chrismons and Garfield and Kermit, kid cut-outs and pictures of Christmases past, mechanical wonder ornaments and antique hand-made-hand-me-downs. Animals, angels and paper. My Christmas tree’s got cheer and love and sarcasm. Disappointments and sad memories right next to delight. Tye and I decorated it while drinking eggnog and bourbon and listening to Kenny Rogers sing Jesus manifest with a candle for Hecate burning by the door.
This is my house.
Do you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Eid Milad-un-Nabi? Maybe Yule. Maybe Bacon Day. Maybe Kartik Poornima. Maybe something else. The year’s almost over. For myself, it has been all and only transition—from the Appalachians to South America and then my home state of Georgia again. When I left New York I had no inkling that I would sit thirteen months later in a house in Savannah that I would rent with money from a job I didn’t know existed. I have a routine now, but I am like a sailor who has come into shore; I am still unsure of the ground.
It is ill-fitting to be back in the day-job fold, with good manners and a compliant schedule. I trade my time—my life, the hours of my life, as you do too—for that grease money, those man-faced dollars that we all agree are worth more than our freedom. And I get it; it’s efficient, this thing we call an economy and the exchange of goods, and it is useful and has a purpose, but back when it wasn’t working for me, when I was a heretic, it was easier to see it for what it is: a tacit agreement, a great Church with its own rules about sinners and sin. Wall Street has its saints and martyrs, the same as the Vatican. The only difference is that our new consecrated are dressed in suits and immortalized in professional portraits rather than icons. I think, then: how mediocre—have we no awe?
At last: a chill on my skin as I walk beneath Savannah’s moss-draped oaks. I remember winter evenings by the East River, alone and wrapped in scarves and two coats, embattled against the harbor wind and looking fresh upon the city lights, waiting for some truth to come upon me in the darkening shade. I stood on the coast where Whitman shouted his enthusiasm at the passing gulls. I listened to their descendants to forget the boundaries of my skin and become at last something full and anchored, far from the home to which I was born. I thought I had arrived, but I was only walking a section of the path.
I go to the soil. Friday night after Thanksgiving I strolled from my grandfather’s house to the high school football stadium where my father was a drum major and my mother played saxophone in the marching band. The team was in the state play-offs again and everyone was ready to see them onward. I read the season’s program and wondered how different my life might have been had I grown up there. My parents’ lives took them and my sister and me to other geographies, even as we stayed connected to that place through visits to my grandparents and the stories we heard about their lives. Mom and Dad had no idea of me or Hannah when they were teenagers on that field. They had no idea of what would come.
And nor do I, now. It is no secret that I vacillate between conviction and fear. I wish I could hibernate for a while or stop listening to what poisons me, but I have responsibilities, and I know the sun is going to come up whether I admit its light or not. There is no time out. I will enter the new year unready and tired. Driving through the marshes between the mainland and Georgia’s barrier islands, I stare at the clouded horizon and conjure a semblance of hope—still fragile—from within. Hope, like love, is a choice. My solitude whispers a benediction:
you have all you will ever need
you carry it with you
you are your own home
Laura Jean Moore’s poetry, essays, and stories have been featured in VICE, [PANK], the EEEL, FLUX WEEKLY, ENTROPY, the Brooklyn Rail, Corium, the Cobalt Review, and Change Seven, where she is a monthly columnist. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Reed College. http://laurajeanmoore.com/
Read All Columns by Laura Jean Moore:
- The Streets Are Full of Blood
- On Vice(s)
- What Gets Missed
- Low Country
- A Dark Graceful Wilderness
- Before and After
- On Greatness
- Whiteness, A Study
- New York
- American Dreams
- Body Talk
- Habits, Simple and Austere
- On Love