December 19, 2014
Gentle Readers, have you gotten your Christmas on yet? I hope so. Hate to say it once again – but you never know how many chances you’ll get so I encourage you to dive in.
Don’t wait until next year. As Creedence Clearwater Revival once sang, “Someday never comes.”
Today is my last night of shooting on this project and yet I didn’t want to neglect a post. We’re so close now to the end, you and I. I’d like to make this last week of our year without Mum count.
So, the message is one from my mother. You can still jump in and ride the holiday cheer.
Before last Christmas, before last year’s Bad Christmas Eve, Mom spent another holiday week in the hospital recovering from surgery. In order to guarantee that the entire family would have the perfect celebration, she made her hospital room Christmas Control Center. Dressed in red flannel pajamas covered with tiny reindeer and an antler headband, she barked orders over the phone.
“Get the green starched tablecloth with the red runner on the table. I want you to use the Spode china – the set with the bears on it. No, not the ones with the snowy trees. That makes Dad think he still has mashed potatoes left. I don’t want them scratched! I like the cut glass goblets and you can also use them for shrimp cocktails. We have enough. You are having shrimp, aren’t you?”
The menu? She didn’t need her cookbook.
“Do the mashed potatoes with the skins on – the New England way – not peeled. The skin is where the taste comes from. Use heavy cream, not skim milk! If people want to cut calories, they should stay home. And don’t forget to do a small ham for Jessika in addition to the turkey. You know she loves that honey-baked ham! And do not get that Paula Dean ham. I’m still pissed at her. What an idiot!”
All the while she continued writing out holiday cards. And she demanded we bring all of her framed Santa photos to her bedside.
Not the ones of us as kids.
The snapshots of Olivia, her little dog, sitting on the Pet-Smart Santa’s lap and baring her deadly little teeth at the photographer.
She refused to allow us bring the dinner to the hospital rec room so we could share it with her.
“Oh God, NO! I am not eating my dinner with all these sick people staring at me! Eat at home. Then bring me a slice of pie on a plate with a nice fork. And don’t forget to bring Olivia. I laid out her Christmas dress for you. Now get out of here. You’re WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE!”
Because that’s what we do in my family. We make do with what we have and keep moving – staying one step ahead of our Irish fatalism.
I have a feeling some folks feel as if they don’t have enough time. Or enthusiasm. Or money. This has been a tough year all around. But you can still jump in. How do I know this?
There’s a legend that circulates in whispers through transient communities tucked away in invisible spots across the country. It’s a tale of those who have little material goods but an abundance of Christmas spirit. I’ll retell it. Read it once and then you decide if you want to sit back or hop on the sled.
Because if these folks make it work, you really have no excuse.
the winter touched down real fast
here in our trailer park.
birch trees are stripped of protection
and now wait, sensing cold, ready to shiver
at a moment’s notice.
the pregnant sky, her huge belly snow-full
and ready to drop, shifts and groans.
down below, in our trailer park
the inhabitants prepare for the inevitable.
satellite dishes are tied down and pets tied close.
lawn chairs are strapped to concrete blocks.
blankets tumble out of small closets,
operated by stockpiled batteries.
and coolers of beer, devoid of ice,
sit outside, next to the metal front doors.
it’s the time of year to depend on heaven
to cool down the budweisers.
there is a run on wool socks and batteries
at the local k-mart, twenty miles away.
some even drag shiny new generators
out of pick up truck beds.
the power may go out, but ain’t no one
gonna be out of cable tv for sure.
young genevieve wrapped gold tinsel
all around the satellite dishes.
even if it transmits bad news,
it’ll look real festive.
across the roofs of trailer houses
the twinkle lights sparkle
like deep blue cubic zircons.
the good kind from the home shopping channel.
better’n real diamonds, says big jim.
the big fir tree is decorated,
scrubbed orange juice cans on monofilament
and bedazzled with plastic stars.
someone mounts a tin lean-to over the bbq pit
so no matter how much snow falls,
big jim can be out there cooking.
just before dark, they gather.
boom boxes, portable tvs, liquor and food.
they swaddle themselves warm.
black miss green and her husband white hank
wear their matching christmas sweaters and
haul steamy pots of simmering bbq sauce,
like they made before their place burned down.
saul tosses ears of corn wrapped in tin foil
into the pit for roasting.
verdell makes homemade butter from cream
and sour cream in a bucket.
and in no time at all
steaks are grilling, and the music is good.
dr demento’s christmas favorites.
the pilgrim dances a jig with cheech
and everyone claps.
down below they see the town
decorated with enough lights
to attract a ufo.
i seen one once, jon dark says with a wink,
and it stole my baby away.
the others nod seriously.
these things do happen
to the folks in our trailer park.
that town down is shut up tight
afraid of the cold and the winter,
they wait only for the malls to open
and the sales to start.
but here in our trailer park
we wait for santa, as we have all year.
like children and with our children.
he’s come and we’ll see him go.
finally it’s time for the sleigh bells.
the battered airstream creaks
and the bright red door swings open.
santa comes through, rumbling and scratching,
pulling at his long red underwear
and rubbing his eyes.
he drops into a rusting beach chair.
to wait, like the rest of us, for christmas.
after a while he groans and grunts and whistles.
he checks his watch once, then twice.
just like that ufo, jon dark says, and points.
past the moon, like a rocket, come the reindeer.
the sleigh dips and drops gracefully
and glides across the snow
the reindeer hockey-stop in front of us.
santa kills his beer as rudolph paws the ground,
all impatient like.
old genevieve brings the red suit from her dryer.
santa sighs and pulls on his uniform, his boots.
then hops in his sleigh and smiles.
i’ll be back in a flash, he yells.
bring cash! we all answer. our annual tradition.
he dashes away and we wave and settle in.
for his return.
santa always saves the best for last so,
we don’t mind waiting.
jon dark cranks up the music
and we rock around the christmas tree
at the christmas party hop.
here in our trailer park.