In search of story


December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.


That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.




Just so

Christmas at our house was a cross between Fezziwig’s party and a root canal. There was serious intent to celebrate with a simultaneous — and cross-purposed — intent to make everything just so. Take it from me: celebration and just so do not co-exist in tranquility.

To me, Christmas was the highlight of the year. Aside from my grandmother’s rages, I loved everything about it, even playing Christmas carols in the summer. (Oddly, my parents objected.) Books on Christmas crafts, Aunt Mary’s spritz recipe, the red plastic Christmas cookie cutters — delirium! transcendence! I stared at Christmas lights as I would an archangel.

But then the tree. Mom dragged me into bitter cold to tree shop under bare light bulbs that dangled in a most unstarry-like aspect over trees stiffer than I was. Only one tree in a million met her standard of just so. I have never warmed up.

Dad had to make the tree fit our living room, which was finite in the extreme. Drag it in, drag it back out. Saw. Repeat. Needles flipping everywhere. Sap-sticky and frozen, Dad was distinctly unmerry.

After they wrestled it into a militarily upright position, the decorating began. Lights with daisy-like reflectors, then ornaments, then tinsel — all according to The Rules, which were immutable for tinsel. One strand at a time, individually smoothed, gently draped at the tip of the branch, one side longer than the other — NEVER hung at the half-way point — MOM! GET A GRIP!

In the end it was, of course, magnificent. I peeked at it reverently from my bed at night. And thus was born my suspicion that the way to Fezziwig was through just so.

From the time of Just-So

From the time of Just-So