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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


[12/17/21] When I woke this morning, a week before Christmas Eve (and on my late husband’s birthday), I found myself feeling nostalgic for holidays of yore, all the way back to snowy childhood holiday seasons. This led me to remembering the years I taught Thornton Wilder’s play, "Our Town," and this poem emerged. ________________

A Week Before Christmas

The barometer points down on the wall gauge, and my aching wrists agree. It’s a week before Christmas, but here the weather’s unseasonably warm, rain’s in the wings, and a white Christmas is a fantasy.

In the play "Our Town", after dying during childbirth, the main character Emily misses her life. She finds she can go back and revisit any day, live it again, and she wants to choose a happy day, an important day!

But the dead who wait on the hillside for the past to burn out of them and the eternal to emerge, tell her to just pick an unimportant day, any day will do, and that seeing herself living it will be painful enough.

Still she chooses a birthday, her twelfth, sees her family going about their usual morning routines---her father calling, "Where’s my girl, my birthday girl?" her mother coming down the stairs to make breakfast.

"So all that was going on and we never noticed," she says, finding it too painful to continue. "It goes on too fast, and we never look at one another," she sobs, wanting to return to the chair by her grave, leave her earthly life behind.

Yes, all this is going on, and though we’re drawn back by many memories of times gone by, we need to ask ourselves what is going on today, this gift a week before Christmas? What do we fail to notice, appreciate while it lasts?

Today’s sky is gray, rain in the wings. Wrapping paper, bows, and tape litter my office table, presents wait in shopping bags to be wrapped and addressed, and in the kitchen a pot waits for me to make raisin oatmeal. Amen!

© 2021 Penny Harter

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