“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line, by Leo Tolstoy
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
“Those Winter Sundays” from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, ©1966.
This is another poem copied in my journal during my high school years. The first time I saw it, it was on a pop quiz where we were supposed to identify themes or some usual English teacher-y thing I can’t recall. I do recall I that I cried as I took the test – which isn’t actually all that unusual in high school, but I wasn’t crying because I was unprepared… This poem resonates with me still because it reflects a conflicted parental relationship — being so grateful for the sacrifice of someone getting up early when their hands must be just stiff with cold, to coax the house into warmth and life before you have to rise — but also being unable to voice that gratitude, or even find it very often, because of “the chronic angers of that house.” I knew those too well.
Gratitude is just as good the day after Thanksgiving – so I will say I am really appreciating the conversations I am having with some of you who are brave enough to espouse a point of view on ethnicity and race and young adult literature. Thanks for your thoughts. If you’d like some poetic musings, the fun today is at Susan Writes.