Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

By: Laura K.

“Here, take these to Nicole?” Mom hands me a dozen cookies, iced gingerbread and pfeffernusse, and a glass of eggnog (the boring kind). Mom is always super-sweet to them, like they’re not being paid thirty-one dollars an hour (Dad mutters) to be here.

Nicole (my favorite) works nights. She’s in the foyer of the townhouse (our third “home” this year) (fucking doxxers), pistol holstered on her hip. There’s a tree, but no ornaments (in storage). 

I am proud of Mom, but courage and feminism and stuff fucking suck, sometimes.

Nicole lifts the glass to me, a toast.  “Merry Christmas, kid.” 

300,001

By: Laura K.

My grandfather died yesterday, of COVID. He was ninety, but not waiting to die. He used to fly planes into hurricanes and he adored his great-grandkids. 

There will be no funeral, no looking at pictures with my aunts. 

Over in the next universe, there is a hell of a party, with ice cubes in the white wine and everyone acting Midwestern stoic but elated, except my sister, who is just giddy. 

No invite to that party, yet. Instead, I feel guilty, but take my ‘bereavement leave.’ I buy some Christmas presents online and go for a walk.  And….that’s it. 

The Jig is Up

By: Lauren Spagnoletti

At five and a half, my son came to me.

“Santa’s not real, right? It’s just you guys leaving gifts while we’re asleep?”
“Did someone tell you that honey?”
“No,” he replied, “I just thought about it.”

I couldn’t keep up the ruse. I sat him down and explained about the magic of Christmas, and how he could help us create that magic for his little brother. He was on board, excited to be a part of the whole thing.

Five minutes later he came to me again.

“Mommy, does that mean there’s no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either?”

Meditation on a Christmas Tree

By: Megan Cramer

Deepak Chopra would be proud (I’m nothing if not a teacher’s pet…). 

My meditation began purely: tree lit, Netflix fireplace ablaze, Alexa providing peaceful music, “Forest” candle aromatically wafting. I stared at the Christmas tree in silence for 15 minutes, studying the quality of light, the bristly branches, the individual ornaments with all their respective stories of origin. 

But then Chris Cuomo butted in, needing to share some news… and then a few emails needed responses… “Warnock Your Ossoff!!”… my feet got cold and I had to pee. 

The tree would have to wait for tomorrow’s meager re-attempt at self-actualization.

Bubble Lights

By: Lauren Spagnoletti

There was a magic to it. The tree was so green. When the room lights went out, the bubble lights on the tree were particularly bright. (What were they filled with? And considering it was the 80s, were they even safe?)

My mother would spray a Christmas-scented room spray from Crabtree & Evelyn. (Christmas decidedly has a scent.)

My father would blast Christmas music from our stereo. If my mother had her way, it was Mannheim Steamroller.

There is a sadness about it all now. Those memories are a flash back to a time before it all crashed and burned.

They Stood

By: Ed Dzitko

They stood, the three of them, staring at the stump.

“It’s a shame we’re going to have such a lovely tree, and we’re leaving this where it used to be alive,” one of them said.

“A moment of silence,” said another. And they stood, longer and quiet, the sun casting a long shadow amid their legs.

I saw one brush a tear from her cheek. I watched longer, as they stood longer.

“Time to go girls,” their Dad yelled. I could hear the collective sigh.

“OK,” said the one who hadn’t spoken yet. And off they went, home to decorate.

The Stand-Off

By: Lauren Spagnoletti

We had been dating just a month. It was getting serious, and important elements of life kept creeping into our conversations.

At lunch, he joked that maybe I could convert to Judaism. I laughed. He wasn’t joking.

He said he would never, ever want a Christmas tree in his house. He didn’t understand why anyone would want such a huge piece of the outside to be inside their home.

I probably looked horrified at the suggestion that I never have a tree again.

We married about a year later. And he carried the huge tree four blocks to our apartment.

The Phone Call

By: Lauren Spagnoletti

“He’s dead,” my brother said, as the phone in his hand slid into his lap and he reached for his brow, his head bowed. My face went numb, and then my whole body felt warm. All my organs twisted, and I was aware that the first stage of grief – denial – was descending upon me.

He’s can’t be dead, I thought. I didn’t say goodbye.

Freefalling while sitting in an armchair is possible.

There was no flashback of life’s most precious moments. Just a void. And the slow realization flooding my veins that I could never call my father again.  

She Rage

By: Melissa Ratliff

The storm in her veins was raging and nothing she did would quiet its call. She needed the trees to root her and the sun to give her life renewed. Her pace quickened. Soon she was running, propelled by the urge to leave it all behind. Could she outrun it? The judgment, guilt, what ifs, expectations, imperfections, heartaches, never good enoughs? Reaching the summit, feet firmly planted on the rocky ledge, she let it all out. Her roar – long and fierce – called forth the winds and rains. Lightening sizzled from her wild hair as the earth trembled from her power.

*Painting by Sara Goodyear

Acknowledgy

By: Steve Fite

I’ve invented a word.  It’s called an “Acknowledgy.”

It’s when someone is supposed to offer an apology, but falls just short.  In fact, it sounds like an apology, but really they’re only acknowledging what that did.  

Let’s say, for example, you’re at a restaurant and the bill comes, and you see there’s a whiskey and potato skins you didn’t order adding another $25.  You point it out to the waitress and she looks right at you, not blinking, and lets you know that she did it on purpose, hoping you wouldn’t notice.

“Oh!  Yeah, I did.  Be right back.”

Acknowledgy.

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