Going Home at Christmas

by Jim Andris

I love going home at Christmas,
First there are hugs all around—
         Grandma’s bony ribs seem so small in my hands.
Sister pats my back,
         And brother tries to pick me up.
Mom always asks
         “How long do you get to stay this time?”
         “I’ll bet you’re hungry!”
So we sit and chat
over the TV;
         dad puts down his organic gardening book,
         and everyone looks at me
and smiles.
Someone passes around the cookiesandcandy
And eventually
I go look under the Christmas tree
And try to guess
What’s in the blue box with the yellow ribbon.
The porch—scuffle, door pound.
Child voices and laughter
We are invaded
by my two nephews.
Conversations break out
in three different corners of the room
and the laughter
always the Holiday laughter
orange candle flames add glow to the
blinking neon tree ball reflections
We catch up on a hundred details:
the baby’s due in March
Gladys was in the hospital
Jeffry can play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
while Joey pounds the bottom keys
and squeals.
And after a while things
quiet down.
The Smith crew departs
like a three-sectioned wagon.
Grandma gets tired and slowly climbs the stairs
bent over—
         how strange—nearly
like a fetus.
Dad goes back to his balancing act
between the book on his lap and Police Woman,
and eventually drifts off to
half-lidded dozing.
Tom and Dee pack up their gear
and leave—
Tom has run out of jokes.
Mom finishes her crossword puzzle
and she and dad go to bed.
I just sit there
with the poinsettias and potted palms
and African violets
and remember
everything that happened that evening.
The Christmas lights
a tear-streak
on my cheek.
I pull the plug,
go upstairs,
get undressed,
and pull the covers to my chin against the chill of the night.
“Five days will go so fast,”
 I think
as I doze off to sleep.