I knew that I loved you people.

Dear Feastlings,
Birds of a feather flock together, and all that, and I’m cheered and delighted at those of you who wrote me back about your own love for Kurt Vonnegut, so I’m going to tell you one more little story, an inconsequential but true one, a little bit about him, but really more about minor disappointment.
As it happens, my grandfather, who is still dear to me in a way that few people ever will be in this world, worked for General Electric. He worked there engineering cranes that put containers on ships and took containers off of them, and I imagine did much more as well. He did it for his entire career, as people once did, and he did it at GE in Schenectady, New York, where you may or may not know, Kurt Vonnegut worked as well. I couldn’t say how it came up, but after my relentless high school consumption of Vonnegut’s books, at one family gathering or another, it came out that my grandparents knew the Vonneguts. They weren’t particularly close, but my teenage brain,
the one that was coming untethered from taking much interest in hanging around with my grandparents when it wasn’t obligatory, and which had never been tethered to imagining their lives before my own limited life span, was agog. I wanted to know everything, and the conversation with my grandparents included about twenty seconds, thirty, tops, about Kurt Vonnegut. “Yes, he used to come to the company picnics,” was more or less what they had to say about him. It was his wife, Jane, my own grandmother’s namesake, about whom they waxed rhapsodic. “She was SUCH a lovely girl,” they said, “you wouldn’t find a nicer person.” “She was just DARLING.” “She was an EXCELLENT cook.” And on. And on. And on. They went on for what seemed like half an hour in a reverie I wasn’t included in but was only a witness to, talking about Jane Vonnegut, and any time I attempted to redirect the conversation toward him, they’d say, “Oh, yes, he was nice, too. Kind of quiet,” and then it was back to
So there it is, a brush with fame brushed off like so much lint.
I sulked and walked away disappointed, but not without an awareness that still simmers on the back burner in my head, now more than it has in years: that every one of us leaves with others a little something, whether we live under the shadow of someone else’s notoriety, whether we do great things or horrible things or do nothing of note. And my grandparents’ impression of the Vonneguts only amplifies the bit I mentioned yesterday about courtesy prevailing, so here’s another chunk of Vonnegut for you, from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which I now intend to reread:
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
Here’s hoping that whatever it is you celebrate, you do it well this year, and hoping
that you do it with gusto. Here’s hoping that you be happy and safe, and that you do something kind for people, and that one of those people might be someone you adore, and one might be someone you don’t know, and that one might be yourself. Happy holidays.


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