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.


Riding the Train in Sedalia: It Takes all Kinds

I miss the long overdue train to St. Louis, have an engaging interaction with an unlikely fellow, but it’s all ok.

IMG_6154(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

My most fascinating yet challenging experience in Sedalia had nothing to do with the ragtime festival. Even though I had had a spectacular time on my own, the two days in town had flown by quickly, and I found myself getting off the bus a block away from an Amtrak terminal near downtown an hour early.

I felt a bit intimidated. There was no one in the station, no agent, no passengers. The train just slows down and stops very briefly to drop off or pick up passengers, and then it is gone. I thought of a line from the poem I had memorized in high school, Ozymandias:

“Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Continue reading “Riding the Train in Sedalia: It Takes all Kinds”

Riding the Bus in Sedalia: a Window into a Community

(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

I knew I would enjoy all the ragtime virtuosity that is almost continuously on display at the International Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, but an unexpected adventure unfolded for me on Sedalia streets. It all went back to my decision to take a train ride. Stephen and I moved to Kirkwood, Missouri in April of 2017. The downtown area of Kirkwood, which includes an Amtrak depot, is less than half a mile from our home, and so I found myself walking there often. One day, quite unexpectedly, the idea popped into my head: Before I die, I want to take the Amtrak train from Kirkwood to Sedalia for the annual ragtime festival held there in late May.

Continue reading “Riding the Bus in Sedalia: a Window into a Community”

Sometimes things seem to be upside down

Jym copes with political phone calls and door calls.

Sometimes, things can just really be complicated. I had returned from shopping the other day, and was parking in the handicapped spot in front of our yellow brick 1895 townhouse in Fox Park. I noticed a guy distributing political doorknob hangers on my block, just starting on the other side of the street. I was listening to one of the hourly news briefs on public radio, and so I just kept watching him. Nice looking black man dressed well, but casually in slacks and a sweatshirt, modest colors. Maybe he’s in his fifties. Now he’s crossing the street and going straight past me and up the steps to my place. Stephen is home. He rings the doorbell, which is a video system. Stephen is not answering. He comes back down the steps after a while, just as I am exiting the car and gathering the groceries.

Continue reading “Sometimes things seem to be upside down”

Un encuentro en las tiendas, Take Three*

I’m pulling up to the Schnuck’s at Grand and Gravois once again around noon on a beautiful August day. My feelings are divided about this, because recently Mike made me aware that Schnuck’s replaced all the union workers at their Bridgeton warehouse with nonunion workers. I have been seriously weighing this issue. But today, here I am on South Grand already right by this familiar shopping place, and I only have three items on my list. I know right where they are here, and the place is nearly always a learning experience.

Continue reading “Un encuentro en las tiendas, Take Three*”

Un encuentro en las tiendas, Take Two*

So this time, I’m shopping at Schnuck’s South City at Grand and Gravios. This is my closest supermarket; it’s where I go to when I just have to get a few things. I long ago gave up trying to figure out how to get into the fastest moving lane. In fact, I have told people, if you don’t want to get into the slowest lane, watch where I am, and then definitely don’t pick that line.

It’s packed this afternoon, but I spy the handicapped line with only one guy with a very full cart. Zip, I am right there, past two uncertain shoppers. I don’t even read People magazine any more, I just patiently wait.

“You better try another line,” the checkout woman says calmly.

Continue reading “Un encuentro en las tiendas, Take Two*”