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Archive for the ‘5. Sheltered’ Category

Oh ho.  Thanksgiving is the best holiday if you ask me, even better than Christmas. We do sort of a “progressive dinner” for Thanksgiving, as they call it.  Since so many of us live close to each other, we each host a different part of the feast at different houses. So, we start at my Aunt Jean’s house. Appetizers and snacks and the parade and football on tv. It’s hard not to get too carried away with all the good hot artichoke dip and cheese on crackers and the like. All the kid cousins get together and play games and put black olives on their fingers and pretend to be frogs. Then, we bundle up, get in our caravan of cars and trucks, and head over to mom’s house for the main part of the dinner. The kids and adults alike lift their noses, the turkey smells fill the house. We stomp the snow or rain off our boots and hang up a hundred wet, cold jackets and hats and mittens and scarves and they hang all crooked and dripping in the now-abandoned entry way. Everyone is talking and hugging and laughing at once, even though we already did that, but it’s like we have started over again and are all happy to do so. The kitchen is a tornado of people stirring mashed potatoes and getting more forks and pouring wine and slicing bread. Most of us have the good sense to stay out of the way and watch, or talk about nothing in particular, as we all wait for the moment that golden-brown bird comes sizzling out of the oven. Dad has to cut it up, it’s tradition. And furthermore, we all have to stand and watch. Heck, tradition is the name of the whole day. It’s funny how we all get such a kick out of the idea of doing the same exact thing on the same day every year. As if we are all tired of the ups and downs of life, so we pick a time and place and say, ‘This day will never change.’ Weeks before, we get excited just thinking about eating the same dishes, having the same conversations with the same people, feeling the same way as last year. Anyways, the kids get their own table, and the adults take turns keeping an eye on them. As forks and napkins and plates and cups all migrate to the tables, we follow close behind, knowing that the moment is near. We all hold hands. Matt says a prayer. He starts off with the ever classic grace before dinner: Blessusourlordandthesethygiftswhichweareabouttorecievefromthybounty. (Either it just rolls off the tongue like water over a dam, or everyone says it as fast as possible to get to eating.) He then says the same prayer committed to memory- a psalm about giving thanks. Some of us hardly listen because we can’t wait to take that first bite of a forkful of turkey dipped in mashed potato and covered in gravy. I look sideways at Calvin squirming and licking his little red lips. We shout amen! and the quiet calm before the storm is over, as we rush the plates of food, a chorus of oh mys and this looks greats and I’ll have some more of thats. During the dinner, we usually go around and everyone says something they’re thankful for. Steph squeezes my hand anytime someone says ‘and a roof over my head…’

And we’re not even done yet because after everyone has gotten seconds and thirds and whined about eating too much; we clean up and prepare to make one more journey. We shove into the entry way and grab for our coats and fight over mis-matched gloves and shove into those old boots and we all slowly pour outside. It’s a shock to the system- the difference between inside and outside. Grandpapa gets a little quiet to listen to the snow fall off tree branches. Adam and Molly stand holding hands, marveling at how the white covered lawns reflect the soft window glow of the neighbors’ houses. Everyone in this neighborhood is still inside their homes, absorbed by good food and traditions. It feels illegal to be walking outside- like we are the only ones who know there’s a world out here. We only have to walk about six blocks to my sister’s house. It feels great to stretch and breathe in new air. We link arms or hold hands as the kids run a little ahead. When we arrive, folk’s glasses steam up as they cross the threshold. Kate’s dogs bark and jump, excited to see us. We beeline to the kitchen, to see many shiny pies lined up. Apple, cherry, pumpkin, cheesecake, mince meat, pecan, merengue. It’s better than a bakery. We take slices of our favorites, pour strong cups of coffee, and revel in the goodness of the day, with the pie being the icing on the thanksgiving cake. The youngest ones get sleepy and end up in a big pile of blankets and pillows and arms and legs and puppies on the living room floor. Everyone I love and the best food you can imagine, all in one day. It’s the best. Even better than Christmas if you ask me. When it’s my turn to say what I am thankful for, I often feel overwhelmed because I have so much to list off. I make sure to say thanks for the cooks, the dish washers, whoever invented tryptophan because it works better on kids than cough syrup, and the seamstress who made pants that will fit all our expanding bellies! I probably couldn’t say anything too serious anyways.

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Yeah, it can be hard sometimes.  But again, that’s what’s great of having so much family nearby.  Calvin spends a lot of time at his Grandmama’s house, and often with his cousins at my brothers and sister’s houses. The weekends are great.  Right now there’s a lot of yardwork, so me and Steph and Calvin spend time in the yard.  As she pulls out the dead flowers and mulches the roses, he and I rake the leaves.  That is, I use the rake and he throws the leaves everywhere, repeating why why why.  We explain why the leaves fall down and why the winter is coming and why it’s important to take care of the yard.  He stops to listen for that minute, and then goes back to making his leaf mess. We wave to the neighbors, one of ’em’s got a kid about Calvin’s age and they shyly look at each other across the street. Steph goes right over and chats for a while.  I wave, but stand my post in the yard. I turn around and watch my son humming and making some sort of costume out of his mom’s garden gloves and the trowel.  I think having a sibling will be good for him.  Shoot, good for us too!  I hope to give him the experience of growing up in a big family like I did.  The preparations for our new little one have already begun; I have started building a rocking chair, Steph is working out finances.  The fall is a good season for us- I’ve got a lot of work, Steph’s job gets busy, so we’ve got good solid income.  And the holidays are always great- Calvin wants to be a pirate for Halloween, so his mama’s putting together a really great little costume. We’ll arrange a trick-or-treat party with his cousins and some of their friends.  From growing up here, me and my brothers remember the best neighborhoods to get the most candy. Our wives give us worried looks to say ‘we don’t need the most candy in our house. Our babies teeth, and your teeth will rot out.’  That’s what holidays are for!
           On normal days, when I’m home from work I love to spend time teaching him things.  He’s only three, but you can tell he’s paying attention.  I’ll fix a shovel or fiddle with my tools in the garage, he’ll just sit on the workbench with his eyes wide open and watch.  I have similar memories of me and Mike, watching my dad.  Sometimes he points and asks why (his favorite question these days).  I’ll explain what I’m doing, and lord if it doesn’t seem like he understands every word.  Even when I say things like two-stroke engine, and fulcrum of the lever…his eyes and ears just kind of soak it up.  Shoot, maybe he’ll be a mechanical genius some day.  Like his uncle Mike for example, he spent more time in dad’s garage than even I did.  As a kid, Mikey took apart the vacuum cleaner to see how it was put together. (Mama didn’t like that one so much.) And for his fifth birthday, he had asked for a real toolset. “Not the plastic toy kind, dad,  a real one!” He got to work right away; his first project was to start sawing off the legs of the dining room table.  (Mama didn’t like that one either.) But Dad was impressed.  He said, “Look here!  I never taught the boy how to use a saw.  He figured that out darn quick!  Smart kid!”  And now Mike works on cars- he’s the best mechanic in town.  He listens to Car Talk on NPR, and when a caller asks a question, Mike will turn down the volume, proclaim the answer, and then turn it back up to hear that he was right on the money.  Smart kid. 

 (Do you hope your son will someday follow in the family business?  Become a roofer like you?)

I’d sure love to teach him everything I know.  But I’ll tell you: I’m awfully grateful to my parents for never pushing a career or anything onto us kids.  We were told we could do whatever made us happy, so long as it put food on the table and didn’t cause trouble with the law.  I will definitely say the same for mine.  Just looking at him laughing in the yard and learning about the world…I sure can’t imagine limiting him in any way.

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That’s easy.  The most important thing is family.  Maybe that’s a plain and predictable answer, but then, I guess I’m what you would call a plain man.  My name is Christopher, but most folks just call me Chris. I work as a contractor at a roofing company.  I am married to a woman named Stephanie, and we have a son named Calvin, with a baby daughter on the way.  We live in the plains, where my family and Steph’s family and our family’s families grew up.  We are excited for our family to grow because we both come from big ones ourselves. My parents and most of my relatives live here.  We all go to church on Sunday.  And we all have dinner together on Wednesday nights at my mom’s house.  I love that I still eat  dinner in the house I grew up in, with the same old warped linoleum floors and dad’s threadbare recliner and the dusty 15th edition Encyclopedia Britannica that no one ever references.  I love that my kids will grow up knowing that house.  And proud that the roof I put on it will keep everything safe in there for a lifetime.

(Is roofing something you’re passionate about, or do you find your job  to be a means to an end?)

That’s a pretty frank question.  I guess I like that.  No dilly-dallying. So I’ll shoot straight back. Roofing is a day job, sir, and I do it to support my family.  I didn’t get an expensive college degree like Steph did.  But I like what I do well enough.  I like the idea of keeping folks’ heads dry as they eat their dinners and sleep in their beds.  I’m proud to say I’ve roofed every house of the Correnson clan.  And then some.  I guess Steph has enough passion for both of us.  She works at a homeless shelter in town, some big title like Official Events and Programs Coordinator for the Municipal Low-Income Population.  A big title to go with her college diploma.  Since we’re being frank here, I’ll tell you that I don’t much like her job.  She spends all this time and energy feeding people she don’t know, people who just come off the streets, abandoning their homes and families, not even bothering to wash their clothes or sleep in a bed.  What I mean to say is, she takes care of people who don’t even take care of themselves.  It’s not like my cousin Sarah who works in an old folks home- those people can’t take care of themselves.  This is different.  I don’t see much sense in it.   Steph keeps talking about how Jesus served the poor people, so maybe she just understands better than me. She’s always elbowing me and Cal to sit up straight and pay attention in Church, but it’s mostly over my head.  Too much talk about heaven above, but the way I figure, most everything I know is down on the ground.  I like that Jesus was a carpenter though.  I picture his calloused hands working with the grain of the wood.  It’s about the closest thing I have in common with the son of God.  Working with two by fours.

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