Christmas, 1984 (a poem)

A scene from Cajun Night Before Christmas

Christmas, 1984

It was the most memorable Christmas,
Albeit strange and slightly disturbing.

In all honesty,
We had taken the orphan, baby alligator skeleton
From the marshland
Bleached bone white by the sun,
And brought it home.

I wanted to keep it.
It’s long, pointed snout
Intrigued me.

And, at that time, I didn’t know its true fate.

She later tied a bow around it’s neck
And straddled it’s wee legs
Across the tree branches.

We walked in the door and gasped.

Alligator ornaments with antlers
Made of clay
Hung on the humble branches
And stared back at us
With beady eyes.

And then, the Tabasco bottles…
Gleaming, small, round glass bottles
Reflecting white Christmas lights.

She wanted us to feel
At home
After our trip North,
To see our father.

She read us ‘Cajun Christmas’
In the thickest cajun accent
She could rustle.

(And, she would know how to,
Having been raised in New Orleans
Since she was a girl.)

And yet,
Their divorce hung over us
Like an empty sky
Howling with winter cold.

My mother’s efforts
At reclaiming her life
Were much like the determined twist
She gave Christmas
That year.


There were few presents
Under the tree
That year,
But I wouldn’t remember those anyway.

All I can remember is
The fragile skeleton…
The small Tabasco bottles…
The Mississippi mud alligator reindeer…
And my mother’s attempts at mastering
The cajun accent
As if cajoling it out of the recesses
Of her memory.

She had found jazz city
She had brought us there
So she could land on her feet
Just down the street
From her alma mater.

But, her girls, we were new to this city
And still trying to find our place
Among the pavement,
Cafe au lait, and crawfish
She was so familiar with.

So, that was us…
A tangle of a family
Tripping over holidays
And fumbling for meaning.

A single mom
With two girls
Suburban living
Near the pulse of
A troubled city
Teaming with life
And some kind of stubborn potential.

…twas de night before Christmas and all t’ru de house…
…dey don’t a ting pass not even a mouse…

by Lindsay Kolasa ~ December 19, 2021

4 thoughts on “Christmas, 1984 (a poem)

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