The perennial middle child


Know what prudes don’t like? Short-shrifting months.
Know what short shrift means? To give little consideration to.
Know where it came from? A shrift was the penance imposed by a priest to provide absolution.
Death row in the good old days of jolly old England didn’t last for years.
Usually one went from the trial to the sentence to the gallows.
So they only had time to perform a short penance, or shrift, before facing the hangman.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

The short-shrifted month to which I refer is, of course, November. Squeezed right on the back of Halloween, most participants in November are too sugar-dazed with trick-or-treat candy to notice its arrival. This year it has the ignominious distinction of being the first day when the sun set before Sunday brunch was digested.

Poor November grew up believing its real name was ‘Only a few dozen shopping days till Christmas.’
The typical middle child. Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.

November isn’t much to look at, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere. October is a flamboyant exhibitionist, with its “look at me, everybody!” attitude.December gets grace and affection and enough twinkle lights to give Jupiter a migraine. But the eleventh month is drab and modest and unmemorable. It shies away from weather extremes. Every few years it works up a doozy of a blizzard, or a few balmy, halcyon days, but they are soon forgotten in the gray chilliness.

No matter what November does, its reputation is set. It is the awkward, frumpy month. Occasionally it can be found huddling with March and grousing about ingratitude and kiss-up months like May and June that everyone likes even though they have no major holidays to commend them.

November may be disgruntled at times. It might indulge in spates of self-pity and drizzle its misery all over our windows, but it still has reasons to hold its head high. Cheer up November. Look what you’ve got to offer!

Veterans Day
After a shameful period beginning about 50 years ago, when the armed services were treated with disdain, veterans are finally, in some quarters, given the homage due them. November is the perfect month to recognize these men and women. Humble enough so as not to obstruct their honor under a plethora of picnics and three day weekends. Sturdy enough to support them on matching 11/11 legs.

Deer Hunting Season
While the season has been extended so far that Pilgrims are now applying for licenses, its apex is November. The quiet sky (bereft of birds that have sought out the warmer fraternal twin of November somewhere ‘down south’ ) is filled with the ringing of shotgun blasts. The drab woods are brightened with jackets, vests, hats and pants in that glowing color affectionately known as ‘blaze orange.’

The shining jewel in November’s dowdy crown. The holiday that exempts us from buying gifts, sending cards, and untangling two hundred miles of twinkle lights. The holiday that only requires us to cook our turkey till it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, include at least one menu item that vaguely resembles a vegetable, and watch football games through a poultry and carb-induced stupor.

November is waving its unprepossessing hand and wants to say something.
Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to articulate the thanks. If you have the breath of life in you, there is something to be thankful for.
November remains out of the limelight and lets Thanksgiving take center stage, and Thanksgiving will gladly step back and showcase what really matters.
Gratitude. Hearts filled and overflowing and bursting with so much thankfulness that voices are raised to God and hands outstretch with shared bounty.

Never give the middle child a short shrift. A meek nature can hide a heart of gold.

12 thoughts on “The perennial middle child

  1. Love it! I like November. I was telling Ben on November 1, that it looks like November, and he replied, “that is because it is”, and I would said again, “but it looks like November”, “that is because it is”. I love Thanksgiving! Thanks for sharing, I miss your regular blogging.

  2. “Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.” That’s awesome! And I’m another November lover, I suppose because I’m always for the under-dog! Ha
    Thanks, Prude.

  3. Let us not forget November begins with thanking God for all the saints who have gone before us and forged the road of our faith by following Jesus even unto death. It is also the month we exercise our right as citizens and vote. Add in Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, and I think November is a proud month of observance and reasons to express thankfulness from beginning until the end..

  4. As usual, I loved this from beginning to end. But it leaves me with a couple of questions:
    -Where did you find the word “unprepossessing”?! I like it – altho’ it may be too long for Scrabble…
    -Are you a middle child? I didn’t think so but I always learn more about you by reading these posts…
    Like the rest of your fans, I wish you could post more often. Maybe we should all pray that those creative juices get flowing – in between times with grandchildren, of course!

    • Hey Beth, thanks a million for your encouragement. ‘Unprepossessing,’ I’m sure, came from some outdated book I’ve read. And—after being the youngest child for five+ years, my younger brother and sister were born, the same year my oldest sister (12 years my senior) graduated high school and moved out of state. So I went from youngest to oldest overnight, and technically I am a middle child. No wonder I can barely remember my name 🙂

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