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The Seven Days of Christmas

The Seven days of Christmas is a humorous memoir by Author Robert Knox of a his families trials and tribulations during the Christmas season.

The Seven Days of Christmas

Christmas is only half over. Today may be the last day of the year 2018, but it’s only the seventh day of Christmas. As the song says, those days number twelve.

Last year the first day of Christmas did not begin auspiciously.

A brief flurry was in the forecast, with some more substantial snow, maybe a few inches, predicted for further south than our small city just outside of Boston. But just as the four of us were finishing breakfast and packing for the mid-morning drive to make a ferry reservation to cross the Long Island Sound, the sky clouded over and those brief flurries turned into a blizzard.

I have subsequently been assured that this was “a fast-moving storm.” And in fact about the time I had given up on making that ferry and re-centered our hopes on finding an unreserved spot on a later ferry, the puffball snow-drop shut off as if someone had turned a spigot, and the sun came out to take a good look at the clouds’ recent accomplishment.

“We’re going!” I declared, authoritatively.

After all I was the driver, wasn’t I? Anything was possible.

Making the ferry reservation was at best be a long shot. The trip to Bridgeport, Connecticut is a two and a half hour dash under normal conditions. The interstate might not be fully plowed, or plowed at all. But — as I said — that fast-moving storm had moved off to freeze the fish after doing what it could to louse up Christmas dinner at my brother’s. And now, the sun shone brightly, as if to mock the cold.

The interstate was, in fact, far from fully plowed. At one point we were trapped behind a trio of enormous snow removal tractors, one for each lane. And even when we had left the snow zone behind (Connecticut barely had a sugaring), all the traffic that had been unable to get off as early as planned because of the snow — like us– was now jousting for road room. When we reached the Bridgeport exit, I declared an “optional traffic-laws zone,” blithely ignored a half dozen red lights — I mean why wait for lights if no one is coming? — and arrived at the check-in only a few minutes late.

With the ferry still in plain sight at the dock, I was told by a kid with a radio, to get in line behind a half dozen cars pulled over against a fence.

“Do those cars have reservations?” I asked.

The kid looked at me before admitting, “No.”

“We have a reservation! For that ferry!”I pointed.

“You’re late.”

Was this a reincarnation of my gym teacher?

“There was a snowstorm in Massachusetts,” I explained, with considerable calm. “That ties up the roads.”

“You’re way over cut-off time.”

Cut-off time? The phrase was new to me. I pondered it.

Is that the time when I cut off his ear?

But my wife was elbowing me in the side, and since arguing would probably do no good, and driving past the kid to find my own way in the good-to-go line would probably lead to considerably more grief, I got in line against the fence like any other obedient, pissed-off customers.

“Christmas cheer,” I thought, la-la-la.

Somehow (despite being way over ‘cut-off’) we made it onto the boat, the last of the small cars in the small-car spaces, our back bumper licking salt from the Long Island Sound. We didn’t rock the boat, but the boat rocked us, lifting its flanks to the sky from the swells produced by that fast-moving storm.

Still, we reached our destination in reasonably good time, had a great Christmas dinner at my brother’s house, sang the all old carols…

And this was only the first day of Christmas. So, all in all, what was the day like? It was sort of like a partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas we drove from Suffolk County, on Long Island, to the Riverdale neighborhood at the northern tip of the City of New York . My son handled this drive without any egregious encounters with the bearers of cut-off times. Although traffic was typically city-hellish, it was pretty much a vacation day for me.

Anne’s parents were waiting for us in their townhouse, perched in comfortable armchairs like two turtle doves.

We ‘ordered in’ for dinner that evening, in the understanding that ‘nobody cooks in New York City,’ from a Chinese restaurant and a sushi place. I have also noticed that no group of American diners numbering more than two (and some fewer) can agree on eating the same thing. A couple of years ago we watched an endless parade of bike-riding delivery guys streaking down Lexington Avenue to bring Saturday night chow to all the apartments on the East Side.

For entertainment we watched, for maybe the 20th time, an incredibly sweet and clever short film version of Dylan Thomas’s witty, nostalgic and brilliant memoir, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Sometimes, it appears, family groups are able to watch the same thing on a screen.

On the third day of Christmas (and the second day in Riverdale) a longtime family friend of my wife’s clan, a world traveler and bearer of tidings, paid a holiday call to Anne’s parents. A trio of their house guests, my wife, daughter and self sat in on this visitor’s report on the state of the world and brooded over his mixed conclusions (family growing; cities sinking) like — you’ve guessed it — three French hens.

On the fourth day we were on the road again. Departing New York after the morning commute but lingering a bit too long, we arrived back in the Boston sphere of commuter influence at an hour we hoped would be early enough — on Christmas week! — to escape the evening traffic. But no, evening starts early (well before the hasty departure of the negligible winter sun), and plenty of that metro-traffic was waiting for us. We arrived home in time to sense a deep New England freeze coming on. I was surprised to find our bird feeder not completely empty.

Indeed, if there were four calling birds about the place, I did not see them.

On the fifth day of Christmas, we went back to our daily routines, a work day for my wife and me and a visit to the gym afterwards, even though the ancient span of holiday celebration still had a full week to run.

What did we have to show for the day? Enough to buy five gold coins? I’ll have to check the prices.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the weekend had arrived, but the glowering sky and persistent cold kept us from whatever festivities might be on offer. Our outings were of the acquisitive short. After searching for movies and TV series at the library to satisfy our screen appetites, we paid a visit to the healthy (i.e. expensive) food store, where the accumulation of “farm-fresh eggs” suggested the presence of at least six geese-a-laying. Omelettes for din-din?

On the morrow the punishing and enduring cold promised to leave us all swimming upstream in the search for appropriate festivities. Not only was it a Sunday, but the widely celebrated folk holiday known as New Year’s Eve, though of course what truly mattered to me was the Seventh Day of Christmas. We ventured out despite the cold to dine with a friend. As our children were back in their own lives, we were four short of necessary seven. However, if we stayed up late enough to watch the silly descent of the celebrated ball, we would no doubt discover more than enough celebrants swanning through the crowd to make up our seven swans swimming nicely through the holiday season.

“Look!” I pointed out to my mate, “They’re waving to us.”

Christmas season short stories


Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet and fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Poet AuthorVanzetti case, “Suosso’s Lane.” The first full novel written about the famous case since Sinclair Lewis’s “Boston” (published in 1930), “Suosso’s Lane” centers on the life of anarchist and Italian immigrant Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Plymouth, Massachusetts, before his 1920 arrest. Published by Web-e-Books, the book has received good reviews and been praised by readers. It’s available at: www.web-e-books.com/index.php#load?type=book&product=suosso

His short stories have been published in periodicals. “Lost” was excerpted on the Massachusetts Cultural Council website after he was named a finalist for a fiction fellowship and published in The Rambler.

His story “Marriage” placed in a Words With Jam competition, published in the anthology “An Earthless Melting Pot.” His stories have appeared in The Tishman Review, Lunch Ticket, and 3288 Review, among others.

As a contributing editor for the online journal, Verse-Virtual.com, his work appears regularly on that site. And his chapbook “Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty” was published in May of this year. The poems in “Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty” discover a universe in a perennial flower garden. A reporter and a novelist, Robert Knox’s poems are as immediate as today and as universal as the weather.

Website: robertcknox.com

My second poetry chapbook, “Cocktails in the Wild” was published


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