Christmas in South Dakota
Summer days fade, I wake to a chilly fall dawn
I dig out my warm sweaters and pull them all on.
In rows of brittle stalks, we spy bright orange vests.
Bird dogs stir pheasants up out of their nests.
My mind enters a place ‘round about now each year.
I can’t help but to think of the season I hold dear.
The holiday music starts playing in shops.
Green, red and gold adorns the rooftops.
I find it hard to collect every memory and reason,
just an overwhelming love of the whole Christmas season.
It’s the day we go out and chop down our own tree.
We can wander for hours to pick one that’s just right.
Then Daddy cuts it down and ties it up tight.
Hoists it up on the roof of our family car
while we pile in the backseat like pickles in a jar.
Once at home, disembarked we dash for the cellar
retrieving our sockings and all last year’s treasure.
it’s the first of so many of our warm glowing nights.
There is cake and ice cream and we all sing along,
“Happy Birthday, Daddy” is our family song.
As each ornament’s unpacked there’s a memory to impart
of who made it, or gave it, each small piece of art.
Wow what a mess, what a beautiful display
is our Christmas tree laden with candy, glitter and clay.
there is one last job to be done.
Dad lifts me up to put on the star
because I am the youngest one.
and home-made gift making.
The smells and the tastes
and the hours we waste.
Laughing in the kitchen over cocoa and snacks,
scaling the roof tangled light strings and tacks.
we scuttle through snow in the winter night air.
At the church we give praises to the new baby King
while the candle light twinkles and everyone sings.
Silent Night, Holy Night it’s the time honored song.
Eyes are damp, hands are held as we all sing along.
Back at home is the smell of warm milk and butter,
in which oysters are dropped by the dozen and smothered.
Tiny crackers and pepper flecks rise up top all afloat,
just the thought of that stuff tightens up my small throat.
And the opening of presents came with one stipulation,
eat the soup, choke it down with much anticipation.
Then all huddled and waiting Mom stalls and Dad tries
to deflect all the impatient whines and cries.
We read, “The Night Before Christmas” and “Rudolph” and such
but there’s nothing that quiets us all quite as much
as the story of Jesus born here on the earth
and the angels proclaiming his heavenly birth.
Once again, I’m the youngest which means I’m the first
to tear in to the present which taunts me the worst.
or the tiny square box Mommy placed in my lap?
One by one they’re ripped open and the chaos ensues,
“Hold it up, oh, how cute, that one’s perfect for you.”
Exhaustion and pleasure send us upstairs to bed.
Stockings hung, carols sung, evening prayers are all said.
And the part I like most on that last night before
is the peace and the quiet that creeps ‘cross the floor.
It cushions our home like the snow does the streets.
We drift of to sleep under down and warm sheets.
From our beds to the hearth is our path at first light,
There our stockings all hang full of goodies packed tight.
And the rest of the day and the week for that matter
are spent lazing and playing while our bellies get fatter.
As our vacation from the world slowly slips through our fingers
the love and sweet memory of home often lingers.
As a child or a mother or grandmother too
I reflect on the season with something that’s new.
A new recipe, ornament, child or song
but the greatest gift that I know has been there all along.
Keep Christ in our home, in our days passed together,
keep Christ in this holiday for now and forever.