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“December 25, 1969”


This poem was written in response to prompt #105 on ReadWritePoem: use any or all of some supplied prompt words. The prompt word used below is moved.


,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,DECEMBER 25, 1969
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,That evening my sisters were still playing out
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,their storybook — go nestle, stay snug in your beds —
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but in nightgown and slippers I crouched at the top
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,of the stairs, listening to my parents below,
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,wishing I could taste my father’s Thunderbird wine
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and wear sheer stockings like my mother.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I imagined that they talked about more than
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,sugarplums, told tales about the dangerous lives
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,of next-door neighbors — how they fought and why
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,they failed to hide it — stories more grown-up than
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the plastic record player left for me that morning,
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,so much smaller than what I had asked for.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I could barely hear their voices so I moved
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,down step-by-step, still hidden by the wall,
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and then I caught the few words that
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,whisked me like a driverless sleigh toward
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the land I would have to grow up in, with gifts
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,of disappointment arriving oftenDon’t you think
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,she’s getting too big to still believe in Santa?
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,by Therese L. Broderick
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,(A writer’s statement appears as the first comment.)

About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

23 responses »

  1. WRITER’S STATEMENT – (“A workman may be pardoned, therefore, for spending a few moments to explain and describe the technique of his trade. A work of beauty which cannot stand an intimate examination is a poor and jerry-built thing.” — Amy Lowell, “The Poet’s Trade,” on

    This poem is autobiographically accurate to the extent that I can remember (with a few embellishments). The first time I remember being disappointed with a gift from Santa was when I received a record player that wasn’t as deluxe as the one I had asked for. I learned that there was no Santa when I eavesdropped on my parents from the top of the stairs. I have two younger sisters. In 1969 I was ten years old, still believing in Santa.
    Details added to this scene which are justified because factual in other contexts or because highly probable: My father often drank Thunderbird white wine. My mother looked nice in stockings. I may have worn a nightgown (I use “nightgown” to depict a girl’s transition out of childhood pajamas). The quote from my parents is, of course, not verbatim, but reconstructed in context. I remember my mother talking about neighbors with marital problems.

    Disappointment may be a gift in life for this reason: it teaches us how to deal with loss, with little losses that prepare us for the biggest losses. If you believe that everything good or bad in life is a “given” rather than the alternative nothing, then everything is a “gift.”

  2. The Thunderbird wine was a nice touch. An excellent Christmas poem.

  3. Nice movement between your childhood disappointment at the gift received, the desire to try the out-of-reach grownup things (wine and sheer stockings) and, then in the next moment, inadvertently learning a key piece of grown-up knowledge. Nicely shaped, Therese.

  4. What do they know?
    A great sense of disappointment in this.

  5. I liked this. I could feel the hurt at hearing those words and the disappointment. How violent the first transition into adulthood. You depicted it well. Thank you for sharing.


  6. Hi Therese,

    Such is life! My big sister once pointed out that she had been sixteen before she had seen the presents being set out for we younger ones. Although reality had come to her earlier! The period when one is not quite sure is “difficult”.

  7. I’ve never been a fan of Santa, myself… what good is he? There’s no love in what he brings you, just judgment. “Oh, you were good enough to deserve this. And I didn’t put any thought into picking it out or anything.” Gee, thanks, SANTA.

    Anyway, that aside: this is wonderful. :) It’s nice that you included the details, it gives a clear picture of the scene. And your take on disappointment is a thoughtful one: if every day were a good day, there’d be no good days.

  8. Ah…Thunderbird Wine…what a nice touch…

    I have found the gift of disappointment to be a gift of value at times. It also becomes a gift of more knowledge and opportunity.

    So well done. As usual…

  9. A sleigh full of truth. I enjoyed this finely tuned ‘turning the corner’ piece.

  10. The disappointment is tangible. (my larger than the record player was a horse. I got it later, but the folks just never understood that whole magic thing)

  11. Beautifully crafted; you’ve captured the moment of growing up perfectly.

  12. I really like how the wish for adult knowledge (with its “forbidden fruit” overtones) precedes the discovery of what adult knowledge is all about. The details and language which embellish this are strong (e.g. “driverless sleigh”, and the plastic record player, with all the phony and uncommitted qualities associated with the word plastic). That the voices overheard follow the phonograph’s description is a deft touch, as it suggests the smallness of the sound, the rehearsed quality of the little white lie told children about Santa, and ultimately the (childlike) powerlessness of adults (to really protect or explain at the profound level), a final heartbreaking discovery for children. The path into adulthood is a stripping away of one myth after another, and there is either the urge to replace it, so often unfulfilling, or to go without, which is a harder, braver road.

  13. T’was the night before Christmas gone wrong.As
    someone else said,the sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment is palpable .I discovered that there was no Santa when I was snooping through my mother’s
    wardrobe and saw my Xmas gifts when I was seven.I kept the pretense going for years because I thought my parents would be so disappointed if I knew.Hmmmm!

  14. ” listening to my parents below,
    wishing I could taste my father’s Thunderbird wine
    ,and wear sheer stockings like my mother.”

    Those details make it singular and compelling although it is a familiar story.

  15. I’m always interested in the autobiography/fiction question in poetry, and so I thank you for the explanation to accompany this one. I can feel your disappointment and heartbreak at having your childhood taken by an overheard comment. You did a fine job of creating the picture of a girl on the edge.

  16. Gift of disappointment is poignant. My older boy approached Santa like a epistemologist while my younger is more of a fantasist.

  17. This is a very powerful poem struggling for a feeling of connectedness. The time of life when you are no longer a child, but not yet an adult, is a discovery time. You nailed that idea! My plastic record player was red and white that year. I don’t know what happened to it but I still have some of the 45’s I used to play on it. I love this poem. Thank you for sharing it, Therese!

  18. You have a gift with words. You turned something negative to a great poem.

    ode to percy bisque silley

  19. It reminded me of the fears I felt one year when my parents and their friends who had gathered all got drunk on Christmas night. Drinking has always and probably will always frighten me. I shivered in the attic stairwell, praying for safety.

  20. This captures with real skill the intensity of the child’s experience of Christmas and the payoff line manages both wry humour and a sense of the devastation of those revelations that, bit by bit, unmake the child’s world. All of this without recourse to metaphor and simile. Delightful.

  21. The sense of longing for being grown-up contrasted with the disappointment it inevitably brings really resonates with me, especially this time of year. Wonderful. Thanks.

    My poetry drafts are on a new password protected blog now: You can email me if you’d like the password.

  22. a gift of words…xmas gift…thanks for this

  23. I think this beautifully captures that moment where we’re caught between wanting to be all grown up and yet still see magic in the world with our little kid’s eyes. We all have our own stories of early disappointment and this is spot on.

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