So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
from November for Beginners, Rita Dove
The past few mornings have begun with gray sky that sometimes led to rain, sometimes to wonderful blue skies polka-dotted with the most pristine clouds, sometimes never changing. I woke this morning with the feeling that I was in high school, my final year, the year that John Kennedy was assassinated, the murder that had to be followed by those of Bobby Kennedy and many years later John Kennedy, Jr.: no trace of the male bloodline that betrayed the mobsters and teamsters could be left intact. John Kennedy’s murder was the first great shock in life for me, more so than my own father’s and grandparents’ deaths many years earlier; those were internal deaths, closeby, anticipated; they dulled the spirit: they came before I had optimism and could anticipate. Kennedy’s came from nowhere, a thunderbolt tossed by an envious Greek god or goddess, one that pierced the soul. It came the year of my first love, the year I was accepted to college, a year of great optimism and expectations. I remember spending much time at my love’s house talking to her family that weekend of Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, John-John and Jackie. My family had no use for Democrats and Catholics and didn’t want to talk about loss. Or maybe it was a different type of conversation that took place, less intellectual, less cognizant of the many forces at play that weekend.
This change in San Miguel light preceded and surrounded yesterday’s Day of the Dead which came, of course, after the American Halloween. Halloween was always a troubling holiday for me, more so as I approached and became a teen. I never had ideas for costumes, didn’t want to attend parties, was greatly envious of those whose cleverness included the ability to dream up and assemble or make an original costume. Halloween was the holiday on which I most wanted to hide, to not be seen, and I managed to do that for several years…Many trans people view the holiday with great glee as they can freely play; for me it only made my reality that much more painful as I realized how far my body was drifting from its desired destination, especially during the junior high school years. My younger sister and mother prodded and cajoled me to go out on Halloween, even suggesting when I was idea-less regarding a costume, that I dress as a girl, which, of course, only made things much worse.
Hundreds and hundreds of images flash by, triggered by this November light: of living rooms and discussion and flickering gray light from televisions; of cheerleader uniforms and serious young men’s faces on the football field as the season came to a close; of leaves crunching underfoot on long slow walks hand-in-hand; of walking beside Manhattan buildings grayer than the sky, on sidewalks grayer than the buildings, the buildings’ windows not yet lit with the sparkle of Christmas merchandise; of Thanksgiving dinners with family crowded into our living room, cigarette smoke clouding the ceiling.
Living room. An American term to chase away the concept of parlor, the room where the departed lie, replaced by funeral parlors, then funeral homes, then … I don’t know what.
As the month progressed one anticipated the cold and snow of December, one marked the last warmth for the year, the end of soft earth as the cold dug deeper each night and leisurely walks in the pine forest, pungent with the aroma of needles and the leaves of an occasional oak. Morning frosts punctuated this reality, sparkling in the rising sun, as the frost melted during the walk to school it made one’s shoes wet. A small price to pay for the glory of a morning.