A Cup of Christmas
~ By Tom Hegg ~
The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to
At last the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse
The cards were in the mail, all the gifts beneath the tree
30 days reprieve till Visa could catch up with me.
satisfaction seemed the order of the day,
Something still was nagging
me and would not go away.
A week before, I got a letter from my old
It read: "Of course I'll understand completely if you
But if you find you have some time how wonderful if we
have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea."
She'd had a mild
stroke that year which crippled her left side.
Though house bound now
my folks had said it hadn't hurt her pride.
They said: "She'd love to
see you. What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have a
cup of Christmas tea."
But boy! I didn't
want to go. Oh, what a bitter pill
To see an old relation and how far
she'd gone downhill.
I remembered her as vigorous, as funny and as
I remembered Christmas Eves when she regaled us half the
didn't want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to
be depressed. I didn't need the strain.
And what about my brother? Why
not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified, but then
before I knew
The reasons not to go I so painstakingly had
Were cracking wide and crumbling in an acid rain of
put on boots and gloves and cap, shame stinging every pore
with squeegee, sand and map, I went out my front door.
I drove in from
the suburbs to the older part of town
The pastels of the newer homes
gave way to gray and brown.
I had that
disembodied feeling as the car pulled up
And stopped beside the wooden
That held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door I really
couldn't tell . . .
I watched my hand rise up and press the button of
waited, aided by my nervous rocking to and fro
And just as I was
thinking I should turn around and go
I heard the rattle of the china in
the hutch against the wall.
The triple beat of two feet and a crutch
came down the hall.
The clicking of the door latch and the sliding of
And a little swollen struggle popped it open with a
stood there pale and tiny, looking fragile as an egg.
I forced myself
from staring at the brace that held her leg.
And though her thick
Seemed to crack and spread her eyes,
Their milky and
refracted depths lit up with young surprise.
"Come in!" "Come in!" She
laughed the words.
She took me by the hand
And all my fears
dissolved away as if by her command.
We went inside and then before I
knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose
past . . . alive . . . intact!
The scent of
candied oranges, of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers in
their military line,
The porcelain Nativity I'd always loved so
The Dresden and the crystal I'd been told I mustn't touch.
spirit fairly bolted like a child out of class
And danced among the
ornaments of calico and glass.
Like magic I was
six again, deep in a Christmas spell
Steeped in the million memories
the boy inside knew well.
And here among old Christmas cards so
A special place of honor for the ones we kids had
And there, beside her rocking chair, the center of it all
great Aunt stood and said
How nice it was that I had come to
and rattled on about the weather and the flu
She listened very
patiently then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began
to flow. I started making sense.
I lost the phony breeziness I use when
I get tense.
She was still passionately interested in everything I
She was positive. Encouraging. Like when I was a kid.
generalities still sent her into fits
She demanded the specifics . . .
the particulars . . . the bits.
We talked about the
limitations that she'd had to face.
She spoke with utter candor and
with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality of crutch and
On wings of hospitality she flew to brew the
I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years.
around at Christmas through a thick hot blur of tears.
And the candles and
the holly she'd arranged on every shelf,
The impossibly good cookies
she still somehow baked herself.
But these rich and tactile memories
Became quite pale and thin
When measured by the Christmas
Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent, But my great
Aunt was whole.
I saw a Christmas miracle, the triumph of a
triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall.
The rattle of
the china in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups, she
smiled, And then she handed one to me.
And then we settled back and had
a cup of Christmas tea.
Don't forget the Reason for
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