Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday blogs the corn man

I've always been enthusiastic about Thanksgiving, as a guy who likes to eat and who grew up in a large family of people who really knew how to cook. My blood family has gradually dwindled through death and divided over hateful behavior, but thankfully I married a woman who also can "burn" (as they say of a skilled cook on the block in North St. Louis).

Also this year, the Eilers are coming out to the house for the holiday, which means John Eiler will be in the house, and as visitors to the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational can attest, he, too, can burn.

So, I'm looking forward to the holiday, as much as is possible for a guy who grew up in a large, fascinating family that dwindled and then divided.
We'll also have houseguests from out of town, Candice and Praiz', who have four children. This would strike terror in the heart of many people, but not us. My wife and I both adore children, though for a number of (painful) reasons, we were able to have only one child. It overjoys us to have more children in the house, to keep Leyla company and to bring life to her parents, as children do for adults when they are properly appreciated and well behaved.

Praiz', also, is a special guy, a holy hip-hopper and music minister - yet another in a long line of St. Louis' (especially, black St. Louis') most gifted sons we were not able to keep. He lives and works and worships in Tallahassee now. I very much look forward to spending a few days on end with him and treating him Friday night to see The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, which (I am certain) will open up some new avenues in his own music.

My daughter, at age five, has a ceremonial touch, much more than her father has. She has been clamoring, for some time, for her family to have "sit-down dinner," rather than serve ourselves and eat at our various work and play stations. She also is a dedicated and serious maker of occasional cards. I drew these ears of corn at her insistence. She was making a Happy Thanksgiving card for the children of Praiz' and Candice, and insisted that I do the same for the parents. How does a daddy say no to that?

I drew this picture from my favorite coffee table book in the history of time, The Horizon Book of the Elizabethan World by Lacy Baldwin Smith (which is out there on Alibris for next to nothing). I was attempting to copy what may have been the first ever European sketches of corn. It's a trip for this armchair farmer, whose relationship to his food is (to say the least) alienated, to be reminded that corn was innovated on this continent and only spread elsewhere through sea-borne travelers. I know, I know - I, too, went to elementary school - that this is the fundamental lesson of the Thanksgiving myth, as it is handed down to us. Still a trip to me, all the same.

In Ghana, by the way, where half of my wife's family lives, white people are known as "Kwasi Buronyi." "Kwasi" is the name for a boy born on Sunday, which was given to European Christians because of their focus on Sunday as "the Lord's day," which was very strange in the eyes of people who were, at the time of contact, polytheistic animists; in the words of a wise man friend of mine, they had "to worship all of the gods, all of the time."

"Buronyi" can be translated as "corn-colored person." Of course, it describes the bright flesh and blonde hair of many Europeans. I combine these rough translations to think of myself, when in Ghana, as "Sunday Born the Corn Man," a name I mean to lend to a novel one day, if I ever get back the guts to face the wrenching loneliness of writing another novel, in a world of readers for whom even this blog post will be far too long to read to the end.

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