December is always the coldest and driest month of the year in Nigeria, due to the parching dust bearing land-wind called harmattan. In some other part of the world, December is seen as a period of snows falling and a period to create snowballs or a period to shovel the snows from the road, but here in Nigeria, December is a period for lips to crack and for skins to turn white like they had been bathed with bags of cements. Snows do not fall here making our Christmas a snowless celebration. Instead the whole of the country is covered with mist especially in early mornings. Mist spreads all over the earth like smokes hanging on the sky and this makes it difficult to see what’s happening ahead. Everywhere looks dull as dust coats the whole of the earth making everywhere look dirty (but it’s not necessarily dirty). Even flowers lose their beauty because of the dust. In harmattan season, people wear socks on their feet to prevent it from getting dusty. Dust is a major feature of harmattan. Christmas is always celebrated in December so due to all these, Christmas is often dry, cold and dusty. Despite all these features, I love harmattan for I feel it contributes in making Christmas very unique.
To me, December is a time to rest. It’s a time to fall back and relax from the stress of the past eleven months. It’s a season for countless celebrations by various organizations. Many social gatherings throw parties on December to bade the year good bye forever (be it a good year or a bad year). It’s a period of eating and drinking, and a period of so many visitations from families and friends. Maybe, it’s for this reason, people become lazy, even the sun rises late, like it’s been forced out and the moon shine dully in the night, like it’s tired and weary. Sometimes, the moon refuses to shine. At night, the sky looks like it’s weaved up by threads of dust. It becomes grayish and devoid of stars. This makes me think, the heavenly bodies are planning to go on vacation for the holiday (maybe travel) since December is a period of traveling here in Nigeria. I guess it’s a period of traveling because it’s the last month of the year. Many families return back to their states to spend the Christmas holiday with their families and relatives. My family not exempted. We have also decided to travel to Anambra, the state I’m from, to spend the Christmas holiday.
In anticipation to the traveling, my mum and I went to a boutique to shop for new clothes. It’s very essential to shop for clothes on this festive season because traders export the best of clothing materials during this period. December clothings are very unique and of high quality, that’s why it’s a tradition here to get new clothes often tagged as Christmas clothes and to get petroleum jelly named Vaseline to apply on the skin, to make the skin less dry and rough. We also apply Vaseline on our lips to protect it from cracking. Even our hairs become dry and strong like sponges. Petroleum jellies and hair creams are very essential for Christmas celebration or else the dryness will make you very uncomfortable.
As I tagged along the back of my mother in the boutique, I stared at the hustle and bustle of the marketplace through the window. The market place is often crowded as people troop in and out to purchase foodstuffs, clothing materials and fowls (oh yeah! Fowls. Christmas season is the time to slaughter animals especially fowls to prepare delicious meals for Christmas).
I smiled within myself while watching people purchase various items for Christmas. Christmas this year is gonna be wonderful, I thought. I was already drafting out things I’d like to do this Christmas with my family. I had arranged various movies to watch and gifts to give to my friends and relatives but then, something tragic and unexpected happened shattering all my plans and expectations. One morning, during our normal morning devotion, my father got a call from a relative. He bowed his head the moment the call went off. We were confused and wondered what it was that made him react that way. He stared at my mum and shook his head. He then broke the news and that was how we got to hear about the shocking news of my uncle’s death. My uncle, which was my mum’s younger brother, had been a victim of cancer for three years now. He had been admitted to a hospital at India thrice for various operations and he had been responding to treatment. There was a time he and his wife came to visit our family, he looked very strong and healthy. He was even fatter and we were all glad to see that he was getting along well. Everyone thought he was going to make it out of the sickness for he was a strong man and above all, he had immense faith in God. Unfortunately for us all, he gave up the ghost and surrendered into the cold hands of the unsatisfied death.
At first, it felt like a dream, a movie, something unreal. I couldn’t believe it. I thought if I slept and woke up, everything would fall back in place and it would be a nightmare but I’ve been sleeping and waking up to the bitter truth that he’s gone forever. The reality of his death keeps dawning on me each day. I still can’t accept his death. I expected him to live longer.
My uncle (my Santa Claus), chose to leave us on December, a period of celebration, to an unknown land. I call him my Santa Claus become every Christmas, he always dress in a Santa Claus attire (red cap upon red attire, a fake white beard, a ball hidden under his shirt to make his belly protrude). He would dance around just to make us laugh. He loved children but never got the opportunity to have one to call his. His wife had once took in but lost the child in a miscarriage. Those who saw him before his passing away talked about the lingering pain in his eyes and unspoken words in his silence while laying on the hospital bed fighting for life.
I don’t know what my uncle expects of us now. I don’t know who he wants to decorate the christmas tree now that he’s gone or who he wants us to call father christmas. I can still remember how he sang some christmas songs for me and my brothers last Christmas. I guess we’d be singing an elegy for him in return The gay and mirthful season of Christmas has become so gloomy and moody in my house because of his death. My father has called off the traveling, so I’m stuck here at home wondering how my Christmas will be. Will it be joyous and fun like every other Christmas? Or will it be mournful with lips humming an elegy? I’m yet to find out.
Why I Lost My Job - a Christmas Plea
Christmas was coming
when I lost my job
well, I didn’t really lose it
I knew where it was
truth is that I quit
well, that’s not correct
I really was fired
for absconding with funds
punching the boss
spitting in coffee
taking personal calls
cussing at clerk
knocking fellow worker
out of his chair
didn’t meet deadline
(a line to the dead?)
was late six times
or could it be eight?
Can you relate?
Called in sick
Went to the track
Pick any of the above
Or maybe all
I didn’t deserve
To lose my job
please give it back
I promise to be good
“He can see us,” one of them squeaks.
I never believed they existed, but this one is staring right at me. It looks like one of those walking sticks you find in the woods – well, maybe not this time of year since they prefer summer. Still, Christmas Eve or not, there’s an army of walking stick insects performing some kind of science experiment on my older brother.
“What are you doing?” I whisper-scream.
Drew stirs under his covers. Like ants caught red-handed, all their motion ceases in a split second. Drew and I would’ve done the same if Mom had caught us in the pantry after midnight.
“Told you he can see us,” squeaks the one staring at me.
Six of them are propped on my brother’s pillow, holding a glass beaker near his face. The pear-shaped vial looks like something from chem lab. I have to wipe my eyes to be sure, but there’s some kind of bright, transparent goop floating in it like a dead jellyfish. I see another three stick bugs holding a syringe to Drew’s ear while a fourth pulls on a microscopic handle. I have to look past their surgical instruments to notice a platoon of them spread atop his blanket and bed covers, holding clipboards and notebooks. Another two dozen are on the wooden floor, passing messages along in an elaborate game of telephone, their line trailing off into our closet.
“What are you…?” I start to repeat.
“Shhh!” one of them protests, waving twig arms thinner than dental floss. Do I see miniature bifocals and a small puff of white beard on its face? “We dare not hurt the lad.”
I know it’s my hearing, not my sight, that’s failing me now, but I rub my eyes aggressively with closed fists anyway. As my vision comes into focus again, I see only a handful of the walking twigs with their chemistry equipment. The others must’ve scattered back into the closet.
“Dreamsnatchers are shifty critters,” Grandpa used to say. He’d share the same long-winded myth every Christmas. It’s been a couple years since he passed, but I can still see him sitting in his favorite recliner chair, the one grooved uniquely for his robust form.
“Their work is precise,” he’d say. “In and out quicker than a flash and just like that, your childhood dreams are gone. Dreamsnatchers! Thieves in the night.”
“It can’t be…” I sigh without thinking.
Drew stirs again, threatening to turn completely around.
“Cease and desist, boy,” the bearded twig begs me.
“He’s critical, Doctor,” says the twig next to him.
“Doctor?” I repeat to myself.
“We can’t have you wake the lad,” he says.
If Gandalf were a stick, I think to myself.
“Did we extract the requisite volume?” Dr. Gandalf asks.
“My estimates show eighty percent,” one replies.
“I concur, Doctor,” says another.
“Are we able to proceed without completing the procedure?” Dr. Gandalf asks again, rubbing his chin with his twig arm. The beard looks like the snow-smeared bark on the redwoods outside.
“I wouldn’t wager it,” one says from under the syringe.
“We’ve had success from ninety percent extraction, but no less,” adds another from under the jelly-filled beaker.
“It’s a risk,” contributes a third. “Not one we should take. We owe it to our people to collect as much as we can.”
Their high-pitched debate continues, but it’s Grandpa’s raspy bass that I hear, like an echo from behind a curtain I can’t see. The nostalgia puts his ghost in the corner of my bedroom. I can see his kind blue eyes hiding behind thick-rimmed glasses. I can see his Einstein hair and the white stubble on his chin and cheeks. I can smell the cigar smoke infused in his sweater.
“It happens to everyone,” Grandpa would tell us. “One day, we are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed children chasing far-fetched dreams, confident that anything is possible. The next, we’re wondering how to escape our grown-up routine. We become weighed down by the burden of adulthood. It’s not the dreams that have changed, it’s us. And why’s that, bumpkins? Because the Dreamsnatchers take them!”
Drew and I never believed Grandpa could be telling the truth! Wasn’t it just a fairy tale that grandparents told their children’s children on holidays? Some way parents could explain away their growing up? I look to Drew’s bed and see the small squad of walking twigs preparing to reinsert the syringe into his ear!
“Stop!” I cry out, careful not to be too loud.
“For heaven’s sake,” one of the Dreamsnatchers say.
“I know what you’re doing,” I say with timid accusation
Today hadn’t exactly been a textbook Christmas Eve. Drew went off to the Boy’s Academy last August, the first time we were in separate schools. Every student in the Academy chooses an emphasis, but Drew didn’t know what to focus on. Dad pressured him to choose something reliable like he had back in the day: science. But I grew up next to Drew. He never liked numbers or formulas or laws. Drew plays the fiddle better than the tavern musicians. He writes stories better than Grandpa used to tell. Drew’s an artist. He came home today, much later than everyone wanted him to – after all, the Academy’s winter recess started two weeks ago. Well, Dad found out that Drew chose creative writing. Their Christmas gifts ended up in the trash bin. Let’s just say today would be the worst day to have his dreams stolen.
“Please don’t,” I say with a shaky voice.
Dr. Gandalf peeks at his neighbor’s clipboard.
“Andrew Joseph Edmonds,” he reads aloud. “Age fifteen?”
“Yeah, but I’m fourteen,” I call back. “Take mine instead. Drew needs his still.”
“Gregory Stewart Edmonds?” Dr. Gandalf asks.
“That’s me,” I say, nodding.
“You aren’t due for extraction yet. Not for another twelve months, at minimum.”
“So what?” I can feel my heartbeat quicken. These Dreamsnatchers may be small, but the sight of them terrifies me. And even more than how they look, it’s what they do that sends a chill down my back. “Drew needs them, please don’t steal them.”
“We’re not thieves!” cries the one who caught me staring.
I can tell now that it’s a female, and a lot younger than Dr. Gandalf. A few of them dart to my bedside with remarkable speed.
“Take it back!” she yells at me, pointing a twig arm so close to my nose, I can almost feel its prick.
“Nurse Gwen,” Dr. Gandalf says, trying to calm her down. He turns to me, poking his bifocals further up his twig nose. “Take care not to accuse too hastily, Gregory. Despite what you’ve heard, we don’t take dreams from children.”
“But Grandpa told me…” I start.
The wise Dreamsnatcher raises his arms to silence me.
“I know very well what he told you, but it wasn’t the whole truth. We don’t take dreams away, we rescue them.”
It takes a second for the big reveal to sink in. Even so, I still can’t grasp what Dr. Gandalf is trying to say.
“Human beings are the greatest wasters of dreams in the known universe,” Dr. Gandalf shares. “Most adult humans choose a path of security, wasting the limitless potential they had as children. Every child inherently understands the inspiration of what surrounds them, the magic of what it means to be alive and to live while you’re alive. Somewhere along the way, life chips away at that raw childlike awe. Then, there comes a pivotal moment of no return. The dreams don’t come back after that.”
“What are you talking about?” I ask. “Drew’s chasing his dreams. He just declared an emphasis at the Academy. He’s going to be a writer!”
“Is that so?” Nurse Gwen shoots back.
“I’m afraid that’s not altogether accurate,” Dr. Gandalf says. “The note folded in his journal will confirm that he elected medical science. Andrew will be a doctor, and a good one, too.”
“How can that be?” I wonder.
As if talking to walking sticks isn’t already hard enough to accept, I have a harder time believing that my brother and best friend chose to follow Dad’s footsteps. I tip-toe gingerly across the room to find the journal buried in his book bag. When I remove the folded paper from inside the front cover, what I read confirms Dr. Gandalf’s statement. Drew probably lied about his emphasis today because he was lashing out. Maybe, he resented Dad for forcing him into something that wasn’t his dream.
“But he wants to be a writer…” I mutter.
“So did your father.”
I turn around, wide-eyed. Only Dr. Gandalf and Nurse Gwen remain on my pillow, the other Dreamsnatchers and their surgical tools gone from sight.
“My father wanted to be a writer?” I ask, thinking I may have heard wrong.
“He would’ve been one, too,” Dr. Gandalf explained. “But when his mother passed – your grandmother – he forewent his heart’s desire to learn more about the sickness that took her life. A noble choice indeed. After that, I ordered the extraction of his dreams myself. Our people use this dream energy for wonderful things. It is our lifeblood. We only extract them if and when the adult foregoes them of their own choice. Andrew, like your father, made his choice.”
“But, but, but…” I struggle to find words.
“This is the natural course of life, Gregory,” Dr. Gandalf explains. “Human beings grow up. They pass their wisdom and knowledge to their children, who eventually grow up themselves. There is beauty in that.”
“But Drew doesn’t want to be a doctor,” I say. “He just wants to make Dad proud. Isn’t there anything you can do?”
Dr. Gandalf stops to consider my request.
“Are you thinking…?” Gwen asks in her high-pitched squeal.
“Hush, Gwendolyn. Perhaps, an experiment is in order.”
The wise twig pricks my nose so quickly that I barely see his arms move. I don’t even feel the needlepoint pierce my skin before everything goes dark.
* * * * *
It’s a bit harder to open my eyes than it usually is on Christmas morning. With gifts ripe for the picking, I’m usually sitting by the large pine before the sun rises. But after that strange dream pulled me another level into sleep, it takes extra effort to get out of bed. Drew’s bed is empty, but what do I see poking out from under the frame? It’s an envelope. I have to squint to see the writing on it:
We couldn’t undo our work on Drew, but you had plenty of dreams to spare. Don’t fret, we only took what little they needed. Merry Christmas. – Dr. Q.
I walk through the hallway, wondering how small that pencil must have been, when I hear a sound that had become foreign in these walls. Is Dad laughing? When the Christmas tree comes into view, I see Dad sitting on the couch with Drew on the ground in front of him.
“Not bad,” Dad says, waving a small pamplet in his hand. I'd recognize Drew's composition notebook anywhere.
“Really?” Drew says. “I didn’t know if you’d like it. Sorry I overreacted last night.”
I half expect Dad to begin one of his preachy sermons, but there’s almost a reciprocal apology in his face. Then, he says something I never thought I’d hear in a million years.
“Did I ever tell you I wanted to be a writer once?”
What is ’monia anyway? Why can't grownups make up their minds? Is it a sickness or is it a cleaner? I wanted to ask Doc Schaeffer if he was saying it wrong cause how could I be sick with the stinky stuff my mother wipes the bathroom with? That makes no sense. Am I stinky too? Will I make Santa and the reindeer turn around and ruin the whole entire Christmas for all of them? I said that to Momma and she laughed and said not to worry. She said it is definitely a sickness and Santa will definitely still come, but I'm not so sure.
All the candy canes I want. That's what Momma said. If I wasn't sick, that would make me very very happy, but right now even a million billion trillion candy canes won't make me be happy, because how am I supposed to be happy sick and alone in my room and besides my stomach and throat say no. Oh Momma will come up. She's been coming up alot. She even cried a little when Doc Schaeffer told her I must keep away from my brother and my sisters. He used another funny word that Momma said means she has to keep me separate from them. I think it starts with a q and we all know q words are hard. My brother and sisters were nice and made me a pretty Christmas card that said very nice things about me, even about love. The sparkles are pretty but I don’t like it that they stick to my fingers.
Johnny said he wanted to sneak up to my room and sit with me, but Momma always figures everything out and she won't budge. She says I have germs and I know germs are something not good. Maybe Santa will know about the germs too. Will germs keep him away? Johnny said germs are stupid and Momma says that's a bad word. Momma told me not to be sad, and I don’t want to be sad, but how do I stop feeling sad when I can hear Jimmy singing Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells with Ashley and Monica and not me.
Every year all of it is the same, cept this year will be different cause I will be in bed and Nana will not come. She went down in the dirt and I didn't like that one bit. When I asked Momma if Nana was scared to be down in the dirt all by herself, Momma said that's a silly thought, cause she can't feel anymore now that she's passed. I passed my math test and I can still feel everything, especially this ’monia. Why is Nana different?
All of it is happening; all of this Christmas time without me. Who will hang my baby ornament that says Jane's first Christmas? And Daddy said last year I hung the tinsel better than all of them and then he even let me light a match for the fireplace. Monica doesn’t get to light a match. She always screams like a baby when the burning wood cracks and she’s bigger than me. Not me. Johnny and I like fire and we laugh at Monica together and that's why I know he likes me best. Momma said I couldn't have the cocoa neither. She said it would make me throw up and I don’t think so. It's not the kind from the packet. Momma makes it on the stove, real slow, stirring around and around till it's just right. The marshmallows and whipped cream on top are the best part and Momma says for me to take my time with the best part. What good is it, she says, if you don't make the best part mingle with the whole cup. She never likes it one bit when we waste. No, this Christmas will not be the same for me, not for Nana neither, cept I'm above the dirt all alone in my bed.
Maybe Santa hears wishes like Jesus hears the prayers. If so, Santa, I am really wishing that you will still come ‘round and make Christmas special like you always do. I am a little bit mad and maybe a little bit bad, because I don't listen when Momma says don't be sad about ‘monia, because I still am, and not just about missing all the fun for me. If you don't come ’round for them on account of me, that will make me a whole lot a bit sad. Like a million billion trillion sad.
Are supposed to be a time of joy
To celebrate resplendently with
Friends and family
So why is it
That everyone seems so unhappy
Grumpy shoppers mowing others over
Stressed out parents struggling to make it work
Relatives meddling where they shouldn't be
Significant others creating drama
Where is unnecessary
I always thought the holidays
Were supposed to be a season of glee
To appreciate all you have in life
So why is it
That these things keep happening?
Take notes, Jerry....please...
Jerry never takes notes. I have to force him to write anything in his notebook.
new vocab? don’t need.
new sentence structures? don’t need.
needless to say that I practically need to be on top of him to make sure that he even writes something to remember the homework assignment.
I guess the pen he’s got is really heavy.
In anticipation that we will have a special Christmas lesson today, the homework assignment that Jer got last week was “Find out about Santa Claus, and explain how do you think he is able to handle such a miraculous workload of delivering presents to everyone in just one night. I was hoping to get someting about elves and robots. maybe a time-worp thing. Jerry loves superhero stuff.
So the kids are sitting at my office, they have a box of mini sneakers bar each, that I bought them. there is a small christmass tree on he table...
We just finished the reading comprehention bit. Now we get to oral exercise. The fun part.
“So...Jerry..Let’s start with you.. are you ready for your homework? talk about Santa?”
“Yes. no problem , I am ready to talk about her”
“Her?” I ask. it could be a simple mistake. pronouns in English are confusing...
“Yes..she...I..mean..her..her!” he says and smiles.
maybe a post-modernist thing? is Jerry a Feminist?
Fine. I’ll play along.
“Ok. Jerry, Let’s have it.”
“Well...Santa Claus is a beutiful woman. She lives with her stepmom and her three evil stepsisters. ”
hold on buddy...I think that you are either the most imaginative twelve-year old in history, or there is something wrong here.. but I will not interrupt him again. I must make sure that I remember it all so I can give him comments later.
“Santa, She lives with the sisters. they make her clean the house, do the laundry, feed the animals, cook. while the mother and her stepsisters just sit around. poor girl...”
“And one day, they get an invitation to the ball..”
Oh. that’s it. I had enough.
“So..Jerry. are you sure you know the homework? the one for today?”
“Yes. Talk about Santa Claus. ”
“Talk about Santa Claus...right..”
“And..and..she goes to the ball..with the help of the fairy godmother”
“And..she loses the glass slipper?” I offer
By this time, Tiger, who is Jerry’s study partner, can’t keep it together any longer and informes Jerry about the big mistake in Chinese. Jerry does not give up. he will not admit defeat.
“Yes.... She loses her glass shoe.... but....but since then, she goes every year, along with the the fairy godmother and deliver presents for all the kids.” he says. and smiles in triumph. I can’t get him down. he is a Macgiver of storytelling. Just whip out that metaphoric Swiss army knife and get to work. He will go far with a mind like that..
“And then?” I prod him. At least let’s have some fun. see how long he can go. Tiger is going crazy.
“She goes around from house to house. She checks that they all have their shoes. if they don’t, she gives them shoes.. The bad kids, get bad shoes, the good kds get good shoes. sometimes she goes through the window, sometimes she takes the elevator. ”
“And the fairy godmother?”
“She lives in the north pole! she gives glass shoes to kids that do a good homework”.
After the fun is over and the tale is spun out and stretched out as far as it could go, I check Jerry’s notebook. He only wrote in Chinese, and not even a full sentence. This guy is impressive in a way. But I really need to get him to actually work. check new vocabulary and stuff like that onine... prepare. So, for next week, I ask them to give ideas for recycling plastic bottles , with an eye to what to do after we got a lot of junk from the Christmas party.
But this time, I made sure that he wrote exactly what I wanted, and verified with Tiger that he wrote the homework assignment in Chinese as well. God knows what he would tell me if I didn’t...
It seemed like there was never enough in the foster home. Enough money, enough food, enough love. But at Christmas, my own mom came and snatched me away, a rare visit I hadn’t even known was coming.
The foster mom watched us drive away with folded arms, her brows heavy over her eyes. I tried not to think about what would happen when I had to go back.
In the car, I sat watching her drive. Her eyes on the road, she reached out often to touch my hair, my hand, my dress. I saw tears fall once, but she only glanced at me without explaining, dashing them away with her long, slender fingers.
My own hands were small, my fingers still chubby with childish roundness, and I wondered if they would be like hers, when I grew up. I examined them to keep from staring at her. She was so beautiful and she smelled like something exotic I couldn’t name. It was probably right that I should be in a foster home; I was nothing like her with my fat cheeks, and my hair that refused to be corralled. I shed my own tears there in the car, but I hid them so she wouldn’t see. My tears made me tired so I leaned over and fell asleep with my head on her lap, as she drove into the darkness.
I woke to the sound of her singing, her soft voice mournful as she poured her heart out. She sang of loneliness and regret, the pang of separation so intense, she could taste it. She sang of lying wakeful in the night, wondering how I was and if I missed her too. She sang of the fear that I would forget her. She shuddered with sobs and caressed my shoulder with one hand, the other still firmly on the wheel. I snuggled into her lap and went back to sleep, smiling. My mother loved and wanted me, missed me like I missed her.
Waking again to silence. I sat up and saw her standing outside the car, the golden rays of the sunrise framing her before them. I crept out and slid under her arm and we watched the sun come up together from a horizon frothed with waves.
“Where are we, momma?”
“At the beach, baby.”
“Whose house is this?”
“It’s our house, sweetheart.”
I clutched my hands to my chest. Dare I hope?
“I live here, too?” My voice squeaked out. She laughed as she gathered me in, picking me up like a baby and cradling me against her body. I grabbed onto her, a surge of joy building in my chest as she swung me around.
“You live here too.” She assured me. “Merry Christmas, baby.”
The way that people
Stop underneath what is essentially
Weed to share a romantic kiss
Is quite baffling to me.
The way that people
Walk through aimless
To introduce their children to Santa
And make them sit on his lap
Is quite mind boggling.
The way that people
Drive themselves into
Just to show their kids that they
Love them with all of their hearts
Is confusing to my brain.
The way that people
Can be different in that some
Truly enjoy this season and some
Dread it with such intensity
Brings comfort to me.
Maybe its it’s the scrooge in
But sometimes I find more value
Making sure that those around
Are cared for on Christmas.
That brings me joy.
If I could trade a million dollars
And use them to care for my
Rather than give them useless items
Then I would go to the ends
The earth for them.
The way that people
Love each other slightly more
In December compared to every
Other day is quite bothersome.
There should be no day to day
#christmas #challengeoftheweekcv #christmastime #december #perspective #contrarypoem #poetry #poem
I nudged Fred. "Can I wake up now?" I nudged him again and this time his eyes opened a bit. "Can I wake up now?" I repeated.
He looked at me like I was from outer space and then he remembered and pushed back the window curtain to see that it was almost light outside. "Yeah. Gimme a sec."
He rubbed his eyes and then went to pee while I sat on his bed in my pajamas. When he came back, he put on his robe and handed a flannel shirt to me and said, "Here, put this on. It's cold." My brother was like that.
"Do you think he came?" I whispered.
"I heard him! Didn't you?" he whispered back. He looked straight at me, so I said, "What did you hear? When? Tell me!"
He thought a second and said, "I guess I heard the hooves - sometime in the night, maybe 3:30 or so."
"What are hooves? What is that?"
"Their feet. On the roof. Clump, clump clump. You didn't hear it?"
I thought about that and said, "Maybe I heard it," but I was impatient and whined, "You ready yet?" He was looking and looking for his slippers but finally he put heavy socks on instead. I already had my slippers.
"Yep, " he said. "Let's go."
We tiptoed across the hall and started down the stairs. I held Fred's hand on my left and the railing on my right. When we got to the landing, he squeezed my hand and whispered, "Merry Christmas, Peg!"
We could see the Chrismas tree with the packages piled in front of it from there, so we raced to it. Fred got there first, but I didn't mind because there was a Chatty Kathy doll for me. Oh, yes there was! I pulled her string and she said, "I love you," and so I said, "I love you too, Chatty Kathy!" There was a baby carriage for her too, so I tucked her in it, then pulled her string from behind. She said, "Take me with you!" so I pushed the carriage as far as I could going one way across the room and then turned and went the other way across the room. The carpet made it hard but I was so happy with my gift!
Fred got the new electronic basketball game that he wanted, too. He opened the box and got it all set up - it had baskets at both ends so it looked like a real basketball court. He wanted me to play it with him but I didn't know how to work the levers so the ball could aim at the hoop, so he played it by himself - he was both teams.
Then Fred dug around and found some other stuff - socks and underpants for both of us. He found our stockings - each one filled with walnuts and an orange and a candy cane. We didn't have any way to open the walnuts and it was too early for a candy cane - even for me - so he peeled an orange and we shared it.
We had gotten up so early that we were both really tired. We collapsed back on the underwear-socks pile and stared up at the tree. Fred had plugged in the lights and since the living room was still dark with the drapes closed, it looked nice. You could hardly even see the fishing line Dad had to use to tie the tree upright on each side, or the branches Mom had shoved into the bare spots.
There would be other Christmases - the ones with Dad too drunk to put up a tree and Mom too angry to buy presents with Dad in jail. There would be Christmases filled with yelling and screaming and times when the cops came. There would be Christmases where Mom was just too broke to buy anything so we both got soap on a rope which is like getting toothpaste, so it doesn't really count as a Christmas present. By then, of course, I'd know that Santa Claus was just a story somebody made up.
But for this Christmas, for me, Santa was very real.
The pallidity drifts
Over ragged stone
The edges of my windows
I can no longer abide,
And for which
I can no longer atone.
A life measured in winters past
So many faces,
A startling whirlwind of warm embraces,
Nestled within the endless chances of
Vibrant hands knocked
Upon my door
To be greeted with a smile that would,
In this late season,
Shatter my fragile maw.
Would carry their laughter,
Feint memories echo through
This barren hall,
And all is dust now.
Lost springtide’s pall.
A treacherous path so few care to traverse
Dry bones a barrier,
Dry minds a curse.
A hollow chested heart beats,
Than a forgotten chime.
And still it snows,
Is this my time?