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.


Combating Commercial Christmas in a Seasonal Church

As the season of Advent approaches, a reflection on the true meaning of Christmas from one Christian’s point of view.

The Holidays. Some people love them; some people hate them. I, personally, navigate them in much the same way that I navigate baseball, basketball, and football season. Sports and the holidays mean everything to a lot of people. They throw their heart and soul into the appreciation of them. I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun, not to mention the fact that being critical of these practices can get you quickly dropped from any number of social calendars. I just try to go with the flow, and manage to find some things to enjoy in all the hubbub. So I’m not exactly Scrooge and I’m not exactly Charlie Brown.

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Like, Bridge over, Troubled Waters

Bridge as a healing force in a time of division.

I breezed through my freshman year at Marietta College. I carried five subjects—math, chemistry, physics, English and geology, 18 hours of credit—and ended up with a 4.5 average. Naturally, I emerged from that experience just a little bit too cocky. I also had decided to be a GDI and not pledge. As the next fall rolled around, I acquired a freshman girlfriend; I’ll call her Debbie. I discovered bridge through Debbie, and I went wild. I did love to play cards, but bridge was not a game that came with my family. Those games were canasta, poker, and pinochle, games at which my parents, uncles and aunts were masters. Unfortunately, Debbie went home to the East Coast at the end of her first semester, and I was a contributing factor in that eventuality. Decades later, I would encounter her on TV by chance channel surfing, and I was glad to see that for all appearances, she had made a successful life for herself.

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Old Age Ain’t for Sissies. Oh, really?

A reflection for the International Transgendered Day of Remembrance

About ten years ago, I was in the lobby of Barnes-Jewish Hospital going to my car from a visit with my spouse, Stephen, who was recovering from an operation. Crossing my path on his way into the hospital for tests was an old friend and former colleague of mine and his wife. We exchanged greetings, brief “catchings up,” and the reasons for our presence there in the lobby. I’ll call this colleague “Roy.” He says to me, “Well, old age isn’t for sissies.” Irrepressible as I am, I stepped back slightly and turned my hand in a gesture of self-display and said, “Oh, yes it is.” And I laughed. He and his wife did, too. Perhaps for each of us, it was a bit of a nervous laugh. I mean, a couple of decades before that, my gay activism had been on display at the campus on which Roy and I then taught. I was known to Roy as a gay activist, a hard-working and competent university professor, and also a man in a long-term same-sex relationshp.

Continue reading “Old Age Ain’t for Sissies. Oh, really?”

In Case We Lose

I am a peon. It’s interesting to look at the English Oxford Living Dictionary for the definition of this word:

  • A Spanish-American day laborer or unskilled farm worker.

    1. North American A person who does menial work; a drudge.
      ‘racing drivers aren’t exactly normal nine-to-five peons’
    2. historical A debtor held in servitude by a creditor, especially in the southern US and Mexico.
  • B (in South and Southeast Asia) a low-ranking soldier or worker.

    1.  An attendant or messenger.

It’s hard to be honest about my situation, because my male white privilege has shielded me from the blunt truth: despite my academic skills, acquired through decades of study and sacrifice, despite my somewhat sedentary 33 year career as a professor, despite the fact that, in retirement, I carry no debt, despite the fact that I, a sometime gay activist,  have always kept more than one foot in the straight world, despite all these things, I am a peon. I work for the man. The man lets me live.

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Happy 108th Birthday, Dad

agawa-4October 22, 1910. Clarksburg, West Virginia. My dad, Fernand Andris was born a first generation Belgian immigrant. March 9, 1909. New York City. My grandmother arrived in this country from Belgium with my dad’s two older brothers, Louie and Alphonse. She joined her husband, Arthur, already in Clarksburg. My grandfather, Arthur, came first in November of 1908 with his two young teenage sons, Arthur and Amie, from a previous marriage. He had found a job as a glassblower where his older sons could also assist and find employment. Arthur was to be, in fact, the last in a line of 10 generations of glassblowers. Finally, in June, 1911—with the arrival of Julia, the daughter by a previous marrage of grandmother, Victorine “Torienne”—the family had stretched itself from Europe through the black hole of the Atlantic Ocean and emerged still together on the other side in America.

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Unlocking Gender Prison

Begin shameless liberal/progressive/Democratic rant.

The Republicans are ruling the roost now in the executive and legislative branches of the U.S.A. They are in almost complete control, and they want to rule the roost in the judicial branch too. We can already see their program at work: reduce the power of the federal government so that it functions to make the rich richer. But they also want their most powerful rich to be straight white men, unambiguously defined as in control of and superior to women, LGBT people and people of color and “divergent” culture.

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