Winter's Eve, December 26 - Shadows In The Banquet Hall

To family dinner Christmas night
We’d cross the river shipyard lights
Before the heartbreak and unknown
Today I strike out on my own

-Toy Soldiers

 

In truth, this gathering was always the day after Christmas, December 26th, for the Privett side of the family.  

This year, I went to Christmas Eve service,  and then started driving around town, seeing the lights, turning over the old stomping grounds in my mind.  Remembering.  

While on Brambleton Ave, my hands jerked the wheel hard right, committing me into the midtown tunnel, across the Elizabeth River and onto the bridge towards Portsmouth.  

This was December 26 for us every year.  It was the route to either Grandmama and Grandpop's, Aunt Dolly’s or Aunt Sissies for the Privett side of the family gathering, depending on who’s year it was. 

They’re all gone.  My grandparents finally sold the place in 1990 after mostly retiring down into Hatteras increasingly each year.  It had been so long since I’d been back...we were always in the back seat.  I had real trouble finding it.  Google didn’t pull it up because they have since renamed it from a ’Terrace’ to a ‘Road’. 

I found it.  I hadn’t been back or seen the place in 30 years.  It looked very different - much improved - but I recognized the house next to it, which hadn’t changed a bit,  and then the old blueprint emerged easily in my mind and I just let out a gasp and muttered, ‘yep…yep. That’s it.’  

I was running around every room.

I drove down the street and circled back.  The plot next store to the right was still an empty field(!)  It butts up to a small piece of the western branch of the Elizabeth River,  so it was dark.   I parked and walked down the field and creeped around a little, looking at the house from what safe angle I could from next door.   The woodshop my grandfather built was still there.  It used to have a dog run for Muglsy.  The new folks added a back porch to the house.  

It's a sublime feeling, knowing that a family of strangers lives there, and yet you could walk through their house blindfolded, if you needed to.

Ghosts.

 
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carbonleaf_christmas
 
 
 

TOY SOLDIERS

Today I strike out on my own
The dog is dead.  The kids have grown
I fell asleep in my writing chair
I dreamt I'd found my childhood stare
To family dinner Christmas night
We'd cross the river shipyard lights
Before the heartbreak and unknown
Today I strike out on my own

Hi-diddely-o, didn't ya know?  
You fade once you glow  
Didn't ya know, child?  
After the rhyme, high time
diddely-o, didn't ya know?  
You fade once you glow
Didn't ya know, child?  
After the rhyme, high time

The families gather but we're all
Mere Shadows in this Banquet Hall
I'm begging mom, will you understand?
I'm begging dad, will you hold her hand?
To play outside was all I'd known
And Christmas lights on every home

Hi-diddely-o, didn't ya know?  
You fade once you glow  
Didn't ya know, child?  
After the rhyme, high time
diddely-o, didn't ya know?  
You fade once you glow
Didn't ya know, child?  
After the rhyme, high time

We find the people of our dreams
We find that they're not what they seem
I've learned that people come and go
I've learned that families break and grow
Toy soldiers brave away those tears
Toy soldiers hope for better years
Today I strike out on my own
The dog is dead.  We kids have grown


 
 

RED PUNCH/GREEN PUNCH

Nothing says Christmas like
A party out at my great-aunt’s
Out on the front lawn
Some things never change...
A manger scene, Wise Men and
A herd of sheep so fantastic
Hard colored plastic
Blinking in the yard

Red Punch/Green Punch
Brach’s Holiday Mints and peanuts
The more things stay the same
You know, the more they stay the same
Red punch/Green punch
A silver bowl of mints and some peanuts
The great-aunts of the world
You know, will never change their game

Figurines like memories
Ceramics pulled from the basement
Fire-glazed in 1963
Silent Night music box
Travel back in time when
Christmas always shines

Red Punch/Green Punch
Brach’s Holiday Mints and peanuts
The more things stay the same
You know, the more they stay the same
Red punch/Green punch
A silver bowl of mints and some peanuts
The great-aunts of the world
You know, will never change their game

The Poor Years, the War Years
The ‘50s and the ‘60s, then-I’m-born years
May Christmas in the ‘70s
And the early ‘80s never fade
Red punch/Green punch

I never thought I could miss it so much
The more things change, you know, I think
Some things should stay the same
Red Punch/Green Punch
A silver bowl of mints and some peanuts
The great-aunts of the world may come and go
But may they never change their game

carbonleaf_christmas

Elizabeth Fuqua

South Of Belmar, 3821 Wolff Street, Denver, CO, 80212