Sidney, Montana, 2002

For though his sins were scarlet,
the white that was the snow
covered them,
preserving them—
that dead body of evidence.
The wife of the man in the snow
thought he’d killed himself,
his children,
abandoned them.
And so it was a silent night,
a lonely night,
the perp freezing in the lake
as the vic thawed in the woods.

The Day after Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas,
when all through the world,
everyone lay a-sleeping,
exhausted from too much holiday keeping.

The Northern Lights are like a cloud of magic
beckoning him home to the North Pole,
the reindeer leaving behind lumps of coal.
It has been a long night of noshing,
crawling up and down fireplaces in snowy wonderlands,
and in and out of windows in rainy summerlands.

He was an old man—
this giver of gifts—
when he was given everlasting life
almost two thousand years ago.
With the help of his elves,
he crafted the cradle
for the Baby King in the manger;
his wife, Ella, had sewn the blanket
He was wrap’t in—
a shroud of Bethlehem.

When he and the Missus
had touched the Babe’s head,
death was swallowed up whole,
and they were given a task—
to be not the masters,
but the servants of the least among them.

He feels his light fading at times,
for fewer children believe now,
but the younger ones do,
for the Kingdom of Heaven
is made up of such.

All the families, he knew by name—
the ones who leave rummy eggnog in punch mugs
and brandied fruitcake on tea plates;
the ones who leave reindeer treats,
and sugar cookies shaped like stars and snowflakes;
the ones with nothing to give
but letters of wishes and thank you cards
and handmade keepsakes.

It wasn’t till centuries later that
the young Norman had captured his essence,
for the boy had caught him unawares
the year he’d left him a box of colors
with which he’d painted the world—
capturing the spirit of Americana,
of happy times and auld lang syne.
Norman had brought him to life through memory—
imagination filling in the rest,
capturing the awe and wonder
so many children possess.

As Santa nears home,
the reindeer skating over the ice,
he whispers to the midnight clear,
“Happy Christmastide to all,
and to all, a Happy New Year!”

Travel Tips (for those who don’t travel much)

downtown pb

My husband, daughter, parents and I just took a Christmastide trip to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to visit our extended family–some of whom we hadn’t seen in over ten years.

P.B. is about 600 miles from Pensacola, and the thought of being cooped up in a car for twelve hours has always discouraged me, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more content.  Though I can spend hours reading, unless there is absolutely nothing out there, I can spend hours just watching the scenery.

It was an interesting ride, what with my mother yelling at my father most of the way (my dad calls her “high-octane”), but he is quite a skitzy driver who freaks out whenever he’s trying to make a turn and someone is behind him.

I say, I learned quite a lot about what NOT to do concerning travel.

  1. If you have a baby and are making hotel (or motel) reservations, always inquire about the availability of a crib.  Even if they say one is available, pack up the playyard just in case.  Three out of the three places we stayed in (two there, two along the way) did not have a crib.  We had to use our suitcase.
  2. It is NEVER worth getting up early for the continental breakfast.  In America, they are all !@#$.  The only decent (and by decent, I mean delicious) continental breakfast I’ve ever had was at a Ramada Inn in Saskatchewan.  It was a breakfast buffet with actual meat and fresh squeezed tangerine juice.  It’s been over ten years since I ate there, and I still remember it.  It was that good.
  3. Check the hotel room before checking it, and don’t forget to check the bathroom.
  4. Don’t bother bringing a cooler filled with sandwiches (no matter how great they are).  Everyone will prefer a hot meal at a fast food joint.  However, a cooler filled with beverages (especially water) is a good idea.  And don’t bother with a coffee thermos.  You can’t get away from a McDonald’s.
  5. Try not to eat at places you can eat at at home.  Make the most of where you are.  I (along with my parents) was quite upset when Spencer’s Barbecue (a local joint in P.B.) was taken over by some sport’s bar, so we went to Dexter Queen (Dexter is a smaller town just outside P.B.).  One of the major differences between Missouri barbecue and barbecue down South is that they put dry slaw/cabbage on the sandwich, which is delicious.
  6. Get an early start.  It’s no use getting to your hotel room at one in the morning and having to leave at eleven.  You need time to unwind after driving or wishing you were driving.
  7. Don’t forget to bring a book.  Being the cherry-picking Luddite I am, I’ve fought against e-books for years, but I’ve finally found a love for them as you can read them in the dark.
  8. If you don’t own a portable music device and will be borrowing someone else’s, test-try the earbuds.  My husband’s felt like tampons shoved in my ears.  Quite uncomfortable.
  9. Rent a car.  Don’t put all that wear and tear on your own car.
  10. Rent a big enough car.  Better yet, rent a minivan.
  11. Try to have as many drivers as possible.  My parents (because my husband and I didn’t have a credit card) were the only ones who could drive the rental.  I don’t get it, because it seems the more drivers there are, the better rested each driver will be.  It’s way too easy to go on auto-pilot.  However, most places will charge you for a third driver and so on.
  12. Don’t forget the camera and bring all the cell phones (just in case the battery dies in one).  Best thing about bringing your own camera is that you don’t have to worry about being tagged in a “fat pic” in a Facebook status.
  13. Don’t forget to put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door.
  14. Maximize your stops.  Whenever you stop for gas, use the restroom.  When you stop for food, use the restroom.  Whether you have to go or not.
  15. Eat a big breakfast before you go.  You will last longer.
  16. Bring a pillow.  I ended up balling up my sweater, which worked, but left behind more hair than a long-haired cat.  My husband said when we brought it back home, he’d take it out and shoot it.  I just put it in it’s cage, er, drawer, upon returning.
  17. Don’t take advantage of the computer facilities.  It feels SO much more like a vacation when you don’t.
  18. And if you have a baby, don’t forget to bring the paccie, blankie and favorite stuffed animal.  Keep snacks and a bottle and/or sippy cup up front.  Keep baby as comfortable as possible.  Comfy baby=sane parents.