THE POETIC BLOOMINGS READING ROOM #31

Today we fete self-acclaimed plain folk, David De Jong. Although his self-view is worn on his sleeve, we’ve come to know him and appreciate David as an exceptional poet and story teller, a far cry from plain. Still another man of strong moral fiber and character, a man of faith – you have no doubts who this man is. I envision a gritty cowboy, fresh from the trail who would regale us with his adventures as we surround the flicker of a camp fire. Within the body of Marie Elena’s interview, David shares “Cowpoke Poet” which embodies all of the above. I’m happy to present David, the poet – rider of the rhyme range with his poem, “Words of Thanksgiving” from Prompt #222 also labeled “Words of Thanksgiving”.

 

DAVID DE JONG

Photo by Lindsey DeJong

WORDS OF THANKSGIVING, by David De Jong

The day always began with a trip to church for the Thanksgiving service,
where we sang traditional hymns from the red or blue hymnal in the pew racks.
Pages dog-eared and tattered from countless years of use and licked fingers
from farmers, factory workers, mostly common folk, families, young and old.
Grandpa (Pake) was the janitor and always sat in the back, corner pew so he could
get up to operate the lights and monitor the doors during the services. We
generally sat in the same pew where Grandma (Beppe) would be sitting with her magnifying
glass ready, so she could read/sing along during the service. It was also normal for her
to have her Friesian Bible sitting beside her and another hymnal tucked behind her
lower back because she was in so much pain. Later in life we would get first hand
education on cataracts, osteoporosis and cancer.

The folks, two oldest brothers, grandpa and grandma were all natives
of the Netherlands, true pilgrims in a new land, we now all call home.
They came from world wars, the holocaust, rations, hiding, smuggling
Jews, or whatever else was needed. All their belongings were packed
into a wood crate and a steamer trunk that crossed the ocean on the Queen
Elizabeth. They arrived in America at Ellis Island where they received more
common names. Thanksgiving was much more than a tradition to them. It was
a celebration of life, an honor of freedom, almost sacred, a God given privilege.

Usually the leaves were already raked, burned and gone by the holiday
or just covered from early snow or the latest Midwest blizzard.
I can remember Thanksgiving mornings walking fence-lines, knee deep
in snow, trying to kick up a lone rooster and squeeze in a single shot before
it vanished into the storm. The fence and its gate would be the only guide
back home for the feast. You couldn’t see, due to the cold north wind
and blowing snow. Dad didn’t much like turkey meat, so we would eat
fresh game; pheasants, rabbits, an occasionally ham from the freezer,
or a fat broiler from the chickens harvested out of the coop earlier.
It was always a family affair, brothers and sister, modern pilgrims,
bundled up for the cold, happily walking the neighboring fields, grateful.
Back home, Mom was already busy with the everyone’s favorite pies; pumpkin,
apple, and cherry. When we got back, fresh baked bread, slice of cheese, and
some hot coffee or her special Dutch hot-cocoa topped with real whipped-cream
warmed us up. I think we were weaned on hot tea and coffee, both dark and strong,
always in a cup and saucer, with a spoon on the side, along with
sugar and cream or whipped cream on special occasions and Sundays.

Stuffing and cranberries were not on the menu, but we were definitely
stuffed from gobbling all mom’s wonderful food. It would be many years
before I ever heard of particular things, like yams or sweet potatoes
even though potatoes and gravy were a staple at our table. I can still hear
the steam whistling, escaping mom’s old one handled pot, clicking and
clattering atop the stove, boiling fresh peeled potatoes dug from the rich
black dirt of the garden during the last days of summer.

We were a little envious of friends that had color TV, ours was black and white.
colors were imagined, watching the parades, football, etc. on one of three channels.
Mom and Dad would take naps while us kids sat around the table playing cards;
rummy, spades, canasta and other games. Sometimes the whole family
would go back outside to shoot tin cans and bottles back behind the old Plymouth
in the grove. When we were done, Mom always had more pie and treats
to eat with hot tea or cocoa to warm us up again. Such a rich memory
growing up, that at the time, we just took for granted.
I am so thankful, we were blessed and loved so much.

 

David’s blog is named Rusty Midnight Ramblins

Interview of David De Jong by Marie Elena Good