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"These are infinitesimally SmallThings, but nonetheless infinitely significant ones for me."

It's been a couple of decades now since I took up this practice. I've never reveled, as some certainly seem to, in bestowing gifts, though I mostly object to the shopping. The mind reading or the sheer presumption that someone should heed a list someone gave them, and then become the wish fulfiller. That's a spirit killer, in my humbled estimation. Humbled because there's something about shopping that utterly erases any intention I might have carried into the shop with me. I remain capable of inspiration, but usually of the distinctly lower order variety. I cannot seem to imagine what my loved ones might appreciate from me. In the old days, I'd eventually acquiesce the buy something inappropriate and not fish that vigorously for any complements afterward. I'd hold onto the receipt, too, because it might need returning to the store. In short, Christmas bored me, all sentiments aside, so after fifty Christmases or so, I decided to do the unthinkable instead.

Well, I'm still not beyond purchasing a small gift or two, but I now focus upon creating a dozen or so little tuneless Christmas songs instead, in the form of Christmas Po'ms.
At first, I insisted upon writing them between Christmas Eve afternoon and Christmas dawn, which meant my Christmas Eve was always already booked. The Muse eventually took umbrage and convinced me that the gods and elves would not punish me too much if I relaxed my standard imperative to allow composition between the Solstice and Christmas dawn. That shift might preclude that overlong Christmas night and my perennial crashing shortly after Christmas sunrise. I can now average a very comfortable four poems per four successive days and achieve my objective. I send these little works to my family and close friends, almost the extent of the cheer emanating from here this time of the year. The Muse bakes her stollen and fruitcakes. I ship them, perhaps stuffing in a small ornament I've found lurking along a back shelf in an antique store or thrift shop. New bought seems absolutely verboten.

Such are the extent of my seasonal eccentricities. By now, twenty-some years on, I have an almost voluminous catalogue of previous Christmas po'ms, though in the early years I hand wrote them directly on cards, so those are lost to the ages. Now, I spend a few days before Solstice scouring the web for possible illustrations. I find these everywhere, frequently in the public domain, and wonderfully evocative of times I, and no-one now alive, ever knew. The images seem eminently indicative, though, capable of transporting me and my pen back even before there and then. I might awaken in Dickens' time or later. The familiar fireplace chimneys, laden trees, snow-covered sidewalks, churches and the many variations of Santa Claus inspire me. I select one, give it a name, and commence to composing. I often produce a small story, one borrowing heavily from our cultural lore, usually stealing most flagrantly from poor old Clement Moore's Night Before Christmas, a bombastic exemplar of whatever I'm after. I try, sometimes with success, to evoke a little laughter with the result without resorting to outright plagiarism. 'Twas the night before Christmas has been overdone to unappetizing char.

My po'ms probably most mirror James Whitcomb Riley, a scruffy Middle Easterner who wrote in first generation after the migration dialect featuring amply apostrophes and aphorisms, many of which have become as iconic and as imbedded in our language as anything Clement Moore ever wrote. I rarely quote scripture, for while the whole idea of Christian Christmas might be loosely traced back to that source, it features too many contradictions and such ancient usages as to render it essentially useless for invoking any sincere felt sense of the modern holiday. Poems are all about evoking felt senses, the facts be damned. My po'ms come full of self-deprecating allusions to the many delusions accompanying the holiday.

My therapist thinks this practice healthy. The po'ms might prove to be a greater gift than a guy like me could ever select from even the best-stocked department store, even one offering free overnight shipping. My shipping's never free, at least not to me, but it almost always proves to be enlivening. My seasonal affective disorder takes to the way-back of the sleigh the days I'm compelling myself to pump out those po'ms. By the time Christmas actually arrives and I've come back home from my adventure, I suspect that I'm the one who gained the most from the extended exercise. I feel genuinely alive in ways I never find myself other times of the year. I've not a half ounce of bah or humbug left in me, and I feel a sincere sense of joy toward this world. I ship off my sorry little stories via email around dawn on Christmas morning and my obligation's fulfilled for another fretful year, reason enough to feel of good cheer! These are infinitesimally SmallThings, but nonetheless infinitely significant ones for me. I've exposed my silliness as well as my sincerity, gift enough for anyone, I suppose.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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