Hand holding a snowman/woman couple holding a heart, labeled 2012I thought I was done with crying

Somewhere in the ninth month it occurred to me
The tears had not come in quite a while
I took solace in that ninth
Having never been certain of what comes after
If reincarnation really is the truth of it
Then nine months should mark her rebirth somewhere in this world
The thought comforts me

Then the tenth month came

While putting up the Christmas tree I found our ornament
She always bought one
A couple
Placed on the tree as one
One union
One perfect match
Now here in my hand was the last of our ornaments
She was too sick to get one for 2013
I was too preoccupied
So here in my hand lies our last special bauble
A snowman and a snow-woman embraced
Entwined side by side
Forever joined
My tears return
Nothing, after all,
Is forever


I’m told I have a good voice, but I generally don’t sing in public. I pretty well keep my performances confined to the shower or the car (when driving alone). I think my reluctance to perform publicly harkens back to my days at St. Michael’s, specifically to 7AM mass, more specifically to the choir loft during one particular 7AM mass while I was in sixth grade.

Sixth grade was a big deal for us at St. Michael’s – that was the year we got to go up into the choir loft to sing for mass during the week before starting each school day. The seventh and eighth graders got to sing at Sunday masses. We, being yet unpolished, were reserved for our classmates and the few unfortunate older parishioners who dared attend the Mass Before Class.

I was excited about singing in the choir. The choir loft had always fascinated me – it was up a winding circular staircase which was either cordoned off by a folding metal gate, or kept under the watchful eye of one of the ushers – one of those Authorized Personnel Only type of places. Now, at last, I could tromp up those steps and take a seat in a perch that gave me a whole new perspective on a church I had attended since before memory.

I was not a stand out in choir, quite satisfied to blend in with the same general undertone as all my classmates. None of us would have won any awards, but when you put all those average voices together the result is more than passable. For weeks I was quite content to meld with the rest of the crowd. As Christmas approached we began practicing Christmas carols, which I sang with more gusto than other hymns – why not, I knew most of them by heart already and I really like Christmas carols.

I also liked Gloria Zimmer, though I don’t think she even knew who I was. She sat two rows in front of me in the choir loft, the established protocol being girls in front, boys in back. One morning, just a few days before Christmas break, we turned our hymnals to P. 58 and what to my wondering eyes should appear but “Angels We Have Heard On High” – one of my favorites. We all began singing right on cue.

Knowing the song by heart I did not even have to look at the page. So my eyes wandered to the glossy black curls on the back of Gloria Zimmer’s head. I suppose my mind was more on Gloria than on world about me when we got to the refrain. I really let into it. I sang my silly heart out, belting out the long Glo..oooo..o..oooo..o..oooo..or..ria in excelsis Deo in a manner that would have made Pavarotti proud. Several of the girls sitting around Gloria tucked their heads down and giggled.

I finished the song quite pleased with myself. As Father Karlatta continued on with the mass Sister Joseph Maria wandered to the back of the choir loft. A moment later her hands came to rest, one on each of my shoulders, as she leaned down close to my ear.

“Some of us should sing more softly than others, Mister Johnson,” she whispered. She then wandered back up to the front in time to take up the organ for the exit procession – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I barely mouthed the words.

© 2011 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

Our Leftover Ham

Our Leftover Ham

I hate to admit this, but I may have actually started this little rebellion. On Monday, after having ham for dinner on Christmas, then again on Sunday, as well as having ham for lunch on Sunday and again on Monday, I told the family I was tired of ham and wanted to go out dinner Monday night. Once everyone was ready to go my wife and oldest daughter wimped out, claiming it was too cold to go out. So there I was staring leftover ham in the eye once again.

I refused to acquiesce and decided we were having jambalaya instead. I must admit I make a pretty passable jambalaya if I do say so myself, at least when I get a little help from my friend, Zatarain.® Still, my youngest daughter refused to eat it and satisfied herself with a PB&J.

We decided to save the ham for today, slice it up, cook it in Bar-B-Que sauce and have BBQ Ham sandwiches for dinner tonight. Or so I thought.

Then I got this plaintive phone call just before leaving work this afternoon. It was my wife. Could I go by Olympia and pick up some gyros for supper?

What? I thought we were going to have Bar-B-Que’d ham?

Gryos From Olympia

Gryos From Olympia

Oh please! Oh please! she begged. Seems no one at home wanted ham again.

That’s the problem when there are only four people around for big festive celebrations. We had similar problems at Thanksgiving, only with Turkey. And that was after wrestling the smallest bird in the bin from some gal who thought she could beat me to it. Amateur.

So tonight we had gyros. I have to admit I enjoyed them much more than I would have the ham.

But there is still something of the pork persuasion lurking in my fridge. Waiting. For tomorrow.


Ralph cocked his head, listening, then shook his newspaper straight and folded it. “Carolers coming,” he said, setting his paper aside.

Janet looked up from her knitting, turned her ear toward the door. A smile crossed her face. “Yep.” She tucked her knitting into her basket and they both rose and headed for the front door. The carolers were a very old tradition in the neighborhood, one the Millers looked forward to every year.

“Best put on a sweater, momma,” Ralph advised. “You don’t want another bout of pneumonia.”

Janet gave her husband a slight scowl, but went to the front closet and grabbed two jackets. If he was going to mother hen her, she was going to mother hen him right back. He took it without argument. By the time they were zipped up they could hear the carolers quite clearly, singing next door at the Johnson’s. They pulled the front door closed behind them as they stepped out onto the front porch.

The Johnson’s bid the singers Merry Christmas as they departed. The group made their way around to the base of the Miller’s front steps singing ‘Here We Come A-Wassailing‘ as they maneuvered along the sidewalks. After warm greetings Ralph and Janet snuggled into each other to listen to a set of five songs. They joined in on the ones they knew well. Ralph had a fine baritone — they were forever pestering him to join the group. And Janet had a sweet voice in her day. Now she sang in whispers.

They exchanged season’s greetings after a rousing round of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas‘ and the carolers moved on to the next house. Ralph hung up the jackets then resumed his seat, humming along to the songs being sung next door. Janet resumed her knitting.

“You know,” Jack mused as the sound of the carolers faded down the street, “I didn’t see Bill Praut in the group. Hope he’s OK.”

Janet looked at him with a curious expression on her face. “Bill died.”

Ralph looked at his wife in stunned disbelief.


He and Bill were not all that close, saw each other only occasionally – knew each other well enough to say hi in passing and ask about the kids. But he had always kind of liked Bill Praut, and his wife, Amy. How could he be dead? Surely he would have heard about it.

Janet set her knitting in her lap. “He had a heart attack.” Then she realized why Ralph didn’t know. “It happened in October, when you and Larry took that fishing trip. I’m sorry. I thought you knew.”

Ralph leaned back in his chair, mouth agape. Good lord, he never even sent Amy a card.

“I sent Amy a card,” Janet said as if reading his mind. “Had three masses said.”

He blinked, surprised to find moisture in his eyes. Then without warning he got up and went to the front closet.

“Where are you going?” Janet asked.

“I’m going out to join the carolers.”

He only wished he had done it sooner.
© 2010 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.


I roll my lips together to even out the lipstick. Bistro – not exactly my shade. But Jane Crandel gave it to me last week and will be hurt if I don’t wear it to her Christmas party. Maybe I can add a scarf as an accent to mute the effect.

“You ready, dear?” Henry calls from downstairs. He’s been dressed for about a half-hour already, no doubt pacing by the door.

“Just a sec.” I root through my top drawer and find a scarf I think will do. I tie a loose knot and head down the stairs. Henry wanders into the hall from the kitchen and I stop dead in my tracks.

“What?” he asks, knowing something’s up.

“You’re not wearing that sweater?” I ask.

He looks down, surveying himself. “Why not? Red’s a Christmas color.”

He’s wearing a bright red shirt and a maroon sweater vest. I love the man dearly but he has no sense of fashion. This is the man who jogs in shorts, white trainers, and black socks.

“It’s not red,” I tell him. “It’s maroon. They don’t go together. Honestly.”

“They’re both reds.”

“You have that nice green sweater,” I say. “Why not change into that?”

“And look like an elf?”

“What says Christmas more than red and green?” I ask.

“No way.” But he comes up the stairs. As he works his way past me we exchange a quick kiss. “I just don’t get it,” he says.

No truer words were spoken. This is the man who tried to wear a brown shirt with khaki slacks to work – could have passed for a UPS driver. All he was missing was the name tag. A few minutes later he comes back down wearing a sleeveless black sweater.

“Does this go?” he asks.

I nod. Black goes with anything. How festive.

As we are heading up the walk to Jane’s I notice Henry’s left shoe is untied and point it out. He stops at the porch steps and hikes his cuff, revealing his yellow socks.


“Yes, dear?”

“If your shoe comes untied this evening, don’t tie it in public.”

Jane comes to the door bedecked in red and green, looking remarkably like an elf.

© 2012 Mad Utopia Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha