Christmas Lights on a Snowy December Eve

Our apartment looks out
on the parking lot of Montefiore–
that place people go
in their final days.
 
Most days people come and go
all hours of the day and night
to visit their loved ones–
those they fear may not last another night.
 
Tonight it is unusually quiet at Montefiore
at two o’clock AM
on this eleventh day of December,
just two weeks before Christmas
 
I watched the snowflakes helplessly fall
in the light of the parking lot lamp posts.
They glided and swirled in unpredictable circles,
like tiny determined ballet dancers.
 
With delight
my eyes caught sight
of a single string of colorful Christmas lights
in a resident’s second floor window.
 
My mind raced back to a similarly cold December eve
more than fifty years ago
when I hung a single string of Christmas lights
around my grandmother’s bedroom window.
 
Oh how she loved looking at the lights, and
watching snowflakes dance outside her window,
while humming her favorite Christmas carols
as I sat quietly and held her soft warm hand.
 
I knew in that fleeting instant
just how special that string of lights must be
to the resident in that second floor room
just across the parking lot.
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Snowy, Snowy Christmas Memories

Snowy, snowy Christmas Eve
In Santa Claus we believe
Even now that we’re old
Before our eyes, miracles unfold

Snowy, snowy Christmas morn
Twas the day Christ was born
Though long ago and far away
All remember that magical day

Snowy, snowy Christmas night
Full moon sky, candlelight
The tree aglow, oh so bright
Never such a beautiful sight

Snowy, snowy forests and fields
Sparkling beauty nature yields
In her arms in peace we rest
Nestled close to her warm breast

Snowy, snowy village square
Wreathes and trees everywhere
Shop windows beckon, call us near
Inside our hearts, Christmas cheer

Snowy, snowy sleigh ride home
The sky above a star-lit dome
From chimney tops puffs of smoke
Sweet smell of slow burning oak

Snowy, snowy Christmas carols
Sweet blackberry wine aging in barrels
The smell of cinnamon mixed with pine
A nip of brandy tastes divine

Snowy, snowy morning after
Happiness lingers, holiday laughter
The fireplace crackles and sparks
The dog asleep, never barks

Snowy, snowy windowsill
By the fire, our hearts do fill
God is good, God is great
Till next Christmas our hearts await

Nam Christmas

No perfect world
So very far from it
Yet here we are
This place called Vietnam
It’s almost Christmas, again
And we’re still here

Not a place we dreamed of being
When we were kids
Hardly could we find it on a map
But we’re all here
Somebody else’s home
Courtesy of…the US of A

Here we are
Hoping, waiting, doing what we can
To survive each day
Outlast what belies us
What eventually unravels us all
Hidden in these hideous forests, swamps

After a while
You forget the reason
Why you signed up
Why you forgot
A razor thin line
Separates us all from life and death

Christmas Eve has just landed
Give thanks to God
No more incoming fire
Just dead silence
If only now there was some sign
There will be a tomorrow

A Special Christmas in 1958

I was seven
Though big for my age
Still believed in Santa Claus
That wizardly wise, white-bearded jovial old man
Gifting the world each Christmas
With toys, candy-filled stockings, other things
Of which childhood dreams are made

We lived at 919 Indiana Street
In Martins Ferry, O-hi-o
A large two-story tan and gray house
With an old coal furnace
Warding off winter’s frigid bite
Belching smoke and soot
All about the snow-covered roof and yard

Christmas fell on a Thursday in 1958
So Santa made his long-awaited visit
On a Wednesday night
Prayer meeting night, as we knew it in my family
A special late night candlelight service was held
Honoring the Christ Child’s birth
That went on well past 11 PM

I was deathly afraid Santa would skip our house
On this particular Christmas Eve in 1958
For Dad’s blue ’52 Ford wouldn’t start
In the cold, snowy, now empty church parking lot
The old V-8 refused to turn over
That onerous clicking sound
Only a dead battery can make

My sister Diana howled in tears
The very thought we’d miss Christmas
Mom mad as a hornet
So many loose ends to tie before Christmas morn
Dad’s frustration showed in his face and hands
His dark hair blown in all directions
By the blustery winter wind

At precisely twelve midnight
Dad proclaimed we must walk home
Back then, no cell phones to call a friend
And so we did
We walked and walked
One dark street to another
All good children fast asleep in their beds

At first I thought I was hallucinating
The sound of sleigh bells
Bright lights coming directly our way
Mom exclaimed it was an apparition
A sign surely we’d die this unbearably cold Christmas Eve
Dad hushed us to be quiet
Look past our fear, see reality he said

No sooner had our outbursts stopped
When a horse-drawn sleigh pulled to the curb
A tiny little man, no more than five feet tall
Descended the sleigh, calling out to us “Merry Christmas”
I watched the two large horses’ frozen breath
Spout from their large flared nostrils
As Dad talked with the strange little man

Then with a single motion of his hand
The little man waved us all into the sleigh
Where a heavy burlap blanket awaited us
Which we promptly pulled over our heads
The little man, it turns out, a widower
No children to his name
Asked us to call him “just one of Santa’s friends”

I peeked from under the blanket
Catching an occasional word or two
That either Dad or the little man said
One thing I remember was their talk about real gifts
Those one man gives to another
No expectation of anything in return
All for the joy of just giving

Fifteen minutes later
The sleigh pulled up to our house
Our tree lights still shining in the front window
The neighbor’s cat perched on our front porch
Dad tried to give the man some money
He refused, saying give it to someone in need
Someone who needs the money

As Dad opened our front door
I watched the magical sleigh drive away
And as I fell fast sleep that Christmas Eve
The little man, his horses, and the sleigh bells
Danced through my head
Somehow I knew, deep down inside
I had already been given my best Christmas present

Merry Christmas, Words Coming Close

The Holy, born within us
God’s seed resting, and awaiting
the right moment to open

Starting as a dream, bubbling up
filling us, and then
enveloping our being, like golden sunshine

His promise, now ours to keep
and grow through our lifetime
Not in one way, but all ways

In His likeness, we grow
Wedded to something higher
Something Christ-like

Ever-present, ineffable
Always there, lifting up our spirits
just when we need it

Perfectly unlimited, beyond words
but one said so many ways comes close: Merry Christmas
Èestit i sretan Božiæ, Christhu Jayanthi Nalvaalthukal
Nollaig Shona Dhuit, Kreesmasko shubhkaamnaa
Noheli nziza, Eid Milad Majeed
Froehliche Weihnachten, Joyeux Noël
Felices Navidad, Bon Natale

Christmas Memories

Memories, Christmases past
Fond ones, childhood fantasies
Sugar plums dancing through our heads
Magical ones, dreams materializing under the tree

Not just about things, but people
Those we love, family, friends
Surprise, a heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve
Blanketing earth, silencing the daily clamor

Wonder, the Christ Miracle, wrapped in story
Unfolded, enacted, over and over again
Finally, engraining itself in our souls–
Its purpose in the first place

Learning to give, of ourselves, to others
Family, hearts tethered together
Those loving us most, and
Giving to us before themselves

Beauty in color, rainbows donning evergreens
Wispy gray smoke, spirits drifting across rooftops
Bright reds and greens, blood and life eternal
Rosy cheeks, Jack Frost nipping at our toes

Special sounds, sleigh bells in the snow
Christmas carols, Silent Night
Hearty laughter, tears of joy, and
Best of all, hovering golden silence

Christmas, always going beyond ourselves
In so doing, finding our true selves
Christmas, the magic inside us
Christmas memories, remembering life is a gift