Dave Hughes: Christmas Morning

We would sit huddled at the top of the stairs,
under the strictest orders,
“Don’t leave the landing!”
but inching forward,
we would declare the first three stairs fair game.
From the third step and a lean,
I can just see the avalanche of gold and red.
Presents spilling forth from the tree,
we would quiver with anticipation,
fidget in our pajamas.
Earlier my Da had thundered
“For the love of Pete”
“Stay outta here til 7”
We’d sent the littlest one into the bedroom to check the time,
then realized the littlest one can’t tell time.
We’d discuss sending the littlest one back into our parents room,
the sacrificial Christmas lamb.
Surprisingly, I can still feel the stair carpet under my scrunching toes.
Feel the warmth of my siblings crowded on the top stair.
But there is much I no longer feel.
I have lost the urge, the desperate bond,
we shared those mornings.
A time when Christmas wasn’t a word,
it was something I could taste in the air.
when Christmas Eve meant fighting,
to stay awake and fall asleep simultaneously.
When the air crackled with the pagan magic of the season.
It was a time when I would wake on winter mornings,
roll to the window beneath which I slept,
and use my fingernail,
to write my initials in the frost that had formed on the inside of the panes overnight.
It was a time when the cat having kittens beneath my sisters bed
was nothing more than normal.
When the simple walk to the coal shed,
was like the Bataan death march.
Marked with the possibility of attacks by creatures.
When the occasional stray hidden Easter egg, could be found well into summer.
When spending our bus money on Cadburys chocolate,
constituted a wise investment.
It is, time that lives,
like a golden bubble in my memory.
A time, when neither pride or geography,
affected love of family,
because it was what we breathed.

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