Until we’re all together again

I want a Christmas with my mom and dad
and sister home from school.
I want to go out and cut down a tree
and argue, once again, about putting up the decorations
because—good Lord!—who can ever get enough of that?
I want to go buy the presents that I’ve worried over
and dithered over and saved over and agonized over
(and then agonized some more)
until I glow with the knowledge that each is perfect
and is exactly what they wanted, or needed,
or will at least say so once opened.
But before the new clothes at midnight,
and the cold and the choir and the Mass,
before cracking open the Gordon’s Dry Gin
(to get the good children to go to sleep)
I want to wait, just wait in the darkness
and sit there, looking at the lights
and listening to my mom’s favorite carols,
letting it all float around me
just as it did those many years ago…
every mayhem filled, loud, laughing, wrapping,
poking, hiding, opening, crying, cooking, praying,
yelling (and of course yelling back)
drinking, eating, talking, card playing and arguing
moment of it, joyfully, once more.

I wrote this poem in 2012 as a present to my sister, Cindy, and my father, Jack. Alas, my mother, May, is passed on and is no longer with us.

Christmas was a magical time for my family. What I wanted to capture was the joy and love that I grew up with. Our house was always chaotic but also a place of refuge, security and love. I no longer remember many of the presents that I received back then, but I will always remember the joy of being together.

Everything in the poem, is true: my sister and I arguing over putting up decorations, agonizing over getting the ‘perfect’ gifts, going to midnight mass and singing in the choir, coming home and opening the gin to make a pitcher of Tom Collins, a gin based-drink. For my sister and me it was made sweet and mild, just strong enough to calm excited children down. I was married with children before I realized the purpose of that drink was my parent’s sneaky way of getting us into bed!

But it is the music of the season and the lights on the tree that I remember the most. Well, that and being together. That’s no longer always possible but it is always the best thing I remember in my young life.

Thank you for reading Until we’re all together again. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry

3 responses to “Until we’re all together again

  1. Cindy

    I can’t type, my tears are blurring the screen. The one memory missing is after having our bath, sitting on the kitchen table warm and secure in iron warmed PJammies, wrapped in our own mom made quilt listening to the radio ( as we had no TV at the time) and the CBC radio show “. Johanathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “. I was always secretly jealous because I thought the story was about you, John, and you got to go to the moon without me !!!!!! Now you are my moon and my stars.

    Thank you and love always


  2. Barbara C Minor

    I had forgotten just how much the magic of a child’s Christmas remains in my memories of so long ago. While reading your poem I discovered It is still there, as bright and exciting now as it was then. But, somehow you knew that could happen as our eyes soaked up the words and sent them to that divine warm heavenly place in our minds; drifting off with a smile for we are indeed together again, in this very moment.

  3. Barbara,

    That is so sweet of you! Thank you! You know, it’s probably not the best technical poem I have ever written, but I never wrote anything with more heart. And it was meant as a present for my dad and sister so I can be forgiven for a slight lapse in the meter. I would have been 12 or so when my sister first went away to school and I remember waiting for her to return for the Holidays to REALLY begin in our home.

    As a Baha’i I know it is important for us to establish our own religious celebrations, but as one of those caught in the transition, I must confess to my love for the non-commercial side of Christmas, and especially the lights and the music. I can honestly say that everyone in our family had the most fun because what we gave as presents was far more important to us than what we received.