“The poems make it special. That’s what we have that you don’t have.” This was stated to me years ago by a solid Dutchwoman. By a solid Dutchwoman, I mean a no nonsense, count the pennies, buy cheap and reasonable, don’t expect much from your purchases type of woman who often wears unflattering horizontal stripped sweaters and somehow they seem slightly sexy spread across her broad chest and shoulders. Those garments happen to remind me of the old fashioned chore of milking cows. People, I’ve heard say, work for weeks on the poems, sweating out the days up to December 5. Every present must come with a poem, one that rhymes. The presents don’t have to be worth a lot of money, just well presented themselves with a thoughtful poem. Imagine it, a cozy family evening where everyone gathers round and listens to little poems, funny, touching, clever, mundane about the mysterious gift under the wrapping, adding a little extra special sparkle to a pair of socks.
Long ago I too had my share of these evenings, except they were not particularly warm and cozy. My hostess, the godmother to my now ex, was an alpha female type of woman. Mother of three sons, she ruled the roost and didn’t like any female competition. Her three sons got around this problem by 1. refusing to marry all together and live with his long term girlfriend who was brutally honest to the point of painful and therefore didn’t get along with his mother but didn’t mind or notice, 2. marry a foreigner who didn’t get the culture or speak Dutch 3. sleep with a series of potted plants and settle on the fern type. As the godson’s wife, I was classified in category 2.
All women who entered the house suffered on December 5, like the one time our hostess went to a sex shop or perhaps it was a naughty kitchen shop and bought us all tasteless aprons representing us as sex objects in a variety of diminutive underwear bits strewn on the naked body printed on the large plastic covering. We had to line up in them and get our picture taken. Oh how she laughed…..and we didn’t.
It was Son Number Two who was the most fun to watch during these evenings. He had a slight problem with substances, and holding his rum and Coke, the fourth of the evening, swaying in a corner, he’d surreptitiously tear off the poem and throw it behind the couch. He didn’t want to hear another rhyming poem about crashing his mother’s car total loss, having to pay for a replacement tree, getting out of jail, another failed business plan, and how many of those water filters remained unsold in his parents' garage, etc. Usually his mother, doting but feeling it her duty to try to curb him, ended the poem on a hopeful note.
That’s a nice touch, the hopeful note. Recently an idea was brought to my attention, one in which at the beginning of the New Year you fill a jar with notes of events or ideas you’d appreciate in the coming year and after 12 months you open it up and make little piles depending on the results. I’ve been thinking about this a bit, a kind of positive projection. I think it would be wise to take in consideration careful wording, like when making up a magic spell. For instance, when it needs to rhyme:
Wisps of lost association
Make for a better location
Or perhaps no rhyme necessary:
A new tea pot,
One that doesn’t leak