Dirty Silverware And Other Casualties Of Christmas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The smell of roasting ham permeated the kitchen as I reached for the third drawer down. Not the second drawer, mind you, but the third. The second was reserved for any other day, for meals of meatloaf and three-bean casserole. The drawer yielded stubbornly and revealed the treasure within its grasp. You know it's a special occasion in my household when you use the third-drawer silverware, and this day was certainly a third-drawer day. It was Christmas Eve.

Like polished silverware reflecting and curving its environment, the Christmas season distorted priorities, routines, concerns, and even emotions. Eggnog and fruitcake made a sudden comeback at our dinner table. Poinsettias and mistletoe seemed to grow from the cracks in our front sidewalks. Saturdays watched the construction of elaborate strings of lights, tying our trees to each other. Even the M&Ms in the candy jar on our piano changed suits, becoming red and green with Christmas spirit. We kids became rabid authors, writing wish lists that were volumes in length. Meanwhile, our frantic parents hurried through toy stores in futile attempts to fill these demanding orders.

By Christmas Eve, however, my parents moved a little easier. Like the star that presides atop the tree, the Eve was dominated by tradition. The day was born by resurrecting the old, plastic Christmas tree that 51 weeks out of the year was buried in the attic. While the record player spun classical music through the house, stockings would be set grasping the banister awaiting the burden of candy, fruit, and small toys that would come in just a few hours. Nearly set afire by the candles that shone from every window, the house became a celestial body, separate and above the gray alleys surrounding houses and the cold night air. Later, an enormous feast would accompany the singing of carols and reading of the Bible. Finally, the day would burn itself out with a tour of Lansdale to see our neighbors' Christmas displays. As always, our van would be seen ambling through the borough, admiring the lights, wreaths, reds, greens, and luminous Santa Clauses.

On this Christmas Eve, a chill, dry evening greeted me as I danced out of the house. The windows threw oblong rectangles of brilliance that sparkled off the frozen lawn in our backyard. In some distant yard, a dog barked madly, as if trying desperately to fight off the silence. My siblings and I hopped and sang like bursting pieces of popcorn. Our movements swelled with the energy of anticipation. I could hardly contain myself. My ten-year-old mind had long since determined that there was only one night's rest until Christmas Day. Wild with the thought of new toys, I tore into the small lot where our van idled, but what my eyes beheld evaporated all thought and arrested all movement: a huddled mass, a sniffling, shivering young woman, slumped against a barn on the other side of the alley. She must have noticed our little party because she withdrew into the shadows a little more. Am I the only witness to this broken woman, I speculated. My heart stepped on my stomach and wrung my throat. It felt as if our house, once solid and rigid, had just fallen and collapsed onto itself behind me. Swallowing hard, I steadied myself, but made no vocal notice of her - my dirty little Christmas secret. Inordinately aware of gravity, I pulled my heavy head and limbs into our van. I kept my eyes on her as we retreated into our small town to complete our merry-making. Illuminated by the muted red of our brake lights, her figure seemed to get lost with everything else in that wide alley. She melted into a hazy, abstract memory under that feeble light, but the sight of that broken alley still conjures her spirit, still induces pangs of guilt in my temples. A half-waxed moon, aglow and extinguished at the same time, lit the way ahead.

That night my consciousness wandered from the ignorant glow of Christmas lights into that clear moonlight. Under this new sun, I wondered about our dirtied third-drawer silverware that waited at home. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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SickImage said...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm
Very wonderful =]
 
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