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The Red Sled of Christmas

There is always that one perfect memory of Christmas that we hold warmly in our hearts. That one memory can turn even a Christmas that is going badly and ‘oh so sadly’ back into the joyous event that we expect.

I have memories of cookies, and sparkling ornaments. Memories of stockings hung empty over the upstairs banister; filled to bursting on Christmas morning. The smell of cinnamon. The scent of pine. The sound of wrapping paper and Christmas carols. The feel of snow, and the sweet taste of everything dancing on my tongue. Yet those things are not the core memory, the one that makes my heart burst with joy.

My Christmas magic is from a Christmas when I was 8-years old, and still believing in the magic of Santa. I did understand that Santa could not deliver just anything; it had to be a reasonable request. Santa was magical but rather practical. Which made me wonder if Santa was really the man of the legends. Maybe Santa was more ordinary than I had been led to believe.

Still I knew that one had better ask if one was to have any hope of getting the present that was wanted. Desired. Dreamed of at night when the stars twinkled wishfully overhead. So I wrote my letter to Santa with the help of my older brothers.

Dear Santa

Hope you are well. And Mrs. Claus too. I have been a good boy. I listen to my mom and dad. And I do what they ask me to do. Most of the time. I do not listen to my brothers cause that would get me in troubles. I make my bed. And clean the room. And I wash the dishes but not the sharp knives. If you have not picked out a present for me I have some ideas.
I would like a BB gun like my older brother has. He keeps saying I will shot my eye out. My brother made me write that. A cap gun would be great instead.
I would like a book with adventure stories. And a book about how to make a kite. And I need new boots because mine hurt my feet. Also they smell bad because the boots belonged to my brother last year. His feet stink.
And most of all I would like the red racer sled at the hardware store. It is at the back of the store and I think it will be super fast down the big hill at the end of the road. I think we would go so fast and so far we would fly over the creek at the bottom. That would be fun. My brother says it is a lot of money but I have some I could give you to help get it.

Thank you and Merry Christmas
Stephen

I gave that letter to my Mom, and she read it over to make sure it was neat and spelled correctly. She made me re-write it, and then folded it neatly into a small envelope. Then we placed the letter in the wood stove so the smoke and wind would deliver my words to Santa.

I also remember regretting mentioning I had some money saved because my brothers decided they should be able to borrow it. That was the last I saw of my almost $5. And no it wasn’t ever repaid.

That was 2-weeks before Christmas. My Mom did say that Santa might not be able to afford the sled. Still I hoped and dreamed, and wished on every star that spun by my window. When we went to the hardware store I would go look at the sled, and stare. The man at the store would tease me about the getting the sled all wet from my mouth hanging open.

The week before Christmas the sled disappeared. I didn’t know if I should be happy. Or sad. Mostly I was just afraid. The sled could have gone anywhere, and it might never appear before my eyes ever again.

In the next few days things were busy. My Mom always wanted the house cleaned and gleaming by the 21st of December. While us kids did the cleaning and polishing she was cooking and baking and decorating. She made sure we had clean and crisp Christmas outfits for Midnight Mass.

Meanwhile she kept hinting that sometimes Santa had to give certain gifts to other children. And we couldn’t always get what we wanted. My heart became more afraid, yet I still hoped. Still dreamed. The last few days spun by much too quickly.

Then it was Christmas Eve. The day we would go out with my Dad to find a tree. Just after breakfast we would head out and look for a balsam fir just so high, and just so wide. Perfect for the corner in the large living room. We would head in to the woodlot across the road, my father making a path through the deep snow for our small legs to follow him. Around we would go enjoying the wonders of winter. A chickadee here, and sparkling ice and snow there. Then we would find our tree and take it home.

The tree would sit in the mudroom to thaw for the afternoon, and then it would be brought into the house for decorating. Us children banished to the upper floor to stay out of the way. And then around 8 PM a bell would ring silver and clear calling us down to see the wonder of the tree all decorated. And the feast our mother had been working on all ready for us to enjoy.

After a satisfying feast of anything and everything you could dare want for a Christmas Eve feast, we would be sent off to wash-up and get on our Christmas outfits. Then packed into the station wagon we would head off to midnight mass. And while we where at midnight mass – Santa would arrive!

Knowing that Santa would be arriving made Midnight Mass seem like it went on for hours. The sermon seemed to go on and on and on. When we finally left the church, the choir still singing Carols as we wandered out into the night, and large fluffy flakes drifting down it was still a long drive home through the dark country lanes. Yet it is also a magical memory of listening to Carols on the radio, while us kids all imagined what things Santa had brought.

My Dad had barely stopped and we were running for the house, and into the living room. And the presents. I remember there were incredible presents. Wonders of the time – a wind-up robot that walked, an Apollo Command module all set to go to the moon, and an airplane that made engine noises and had flashing lights. But no red sled. Santa has not delivered.

My brothers both tried to cheer me up by letting me play with their toys, and then our mother and father was sending us off to bed. Up the stairs we went, my legs heavy with sleep and disappointment. We hung up the stockings for Santa’s return trip. I fell asleep and dreamed of the sled – and of going so fast down down the big hill we flew high up and over the creek and even touched the moon.

Now you are saying – how can that be the best memory ever of Christmas? Because the story isn’t over my friends. No not at all because you see the next morning was still Christmas morning, and my brothers bounced onto my bed to get me out of bed and to the stockings. The stockings were full of all sorts of goodies and small toys. I was kinda feeling a little better since my other toys were kinda awesome.

My brothers then raced me down the stairs – and there at the bottom was the wondrous Red Sled. It turned out Santa hadn’t brought it. My brothers had bought it for me – using their money (and the money they borrowed from me). And really in the end it was something we would all take turns using on the big hill. They laughed and teased me, and I hugged them as I cried with happiness.

And then we were out the door and down the road as our mother yelled at us to zip our coats and wear our hats. And together we tried to make that Red Sled fly as high as we could make it fly. Not sure we ever did touch the moon, but you know I think we came awfully close.

Merry Christmas.

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After the Ice Storm

ICE STORM 016

The ice crisp trees
go snap, crackle, pop!

Silver Night

hello Night I see you
changing the world slowly
drip by shivering drop

your cold whisper makes clouds
weep a thousand icicle tears
locking the world in silver

hard shelled delicate branches groan
begging no more of this sparkling glory
so dazzling by flickering streetlight

SNAP

your brilliant cold beauty
is much too hard to bear.

SNAP

your unexpected gift of beauty
is now ruined summer glory

CRACK

chattering trees fall break
tumbling us all
into wintery darkness.

Solstice

Winter solstice

every circle around the sun
feels smaller than the one before
every moment moves by faster
as the seconds slip away
my days are ever shorter
my darkness deeper longer
a cold lingering shadow
that chases away the light

come hold me closer
on this longest night
let us make a spark
feed it gently
coax it slowly
until it burns with heat
so delicately brilliant
springtime must blossom
from warmth of our breath
and the mingling entwining
fueling our desire
to be living flame.

Touching Stars

English: Pleiades Star Cluster

Twinkle twinkle up above
we wishful watch them shining
standing deep in winter slush
while waning moon is climbing

stars glistening bright with hope
peeking past cold lonely clouds
dreaming that up we might float
escaping earth and all her crowds

What we need are happy thoughts
then we would fly straight away
free from wants and needs and locks
second star and on our way…

Ah but my dear it’s not real
those stars are beyond our reach
yet here we stand in this field
with stardust inside us each

Perhaps that is why the stars
pull us towards the heavens
calling us back to our source
bright sparks of our obsession

But if I cannot reach them
then it is you I would touch
caress your skin and attempt
to stir the stardust in you.