Our Age 9 post for the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge is by:
Kathy Cannon Wiechman
I love Christmas time. I always have. Its music still evokes memories from my childhood and feelings of warmth that its Ohio weather doesn’t suggest.
Growing up, our home was filled with Christmas traditions, from the way we kids helped decorate the tree, to one evening set aside to ride around and look at Christmas lights, to the piece of birthday cake we left for Santa. (My brother Bob’s birthday was Christmas Eve.) For us, Christmas never seemed to be as much about receiving gifts as about being together.
It would take pages, chapters, and books to write about all the Cannon Christmas traditions, but for this post I’ll tell about the one that began the Christmas I was nine.
That year, our own Miracle Baby was born. Mom had needed a hysterectomy the year before, but she’d postponed it when she learned she was pregnant. She was told she’d never carry the baby to term, but she did. And that Christmas, she wrote a poem and had copies printed to slip inside the numerous Christmas cards she mailed out. Between greetings to open the poem and good wishes to close it, she wrote about her family, she wrote about Us:
In February—straight from heaven—
Came Mary T., our number seven.
Such a blessing and so good,
Does everything an angel could.
In May came Mommy’s operation.
In June the only conversation
Was that week of cold and damp—
Bert’s first try at Boy Scout Camp.
But in July he won a free
Trip to Washington, D.C.
On Christmas Eve, our Bob will shout,
“Now I’m eleven and a scout!”
Pig-tailed Kathy in grade four
Writes poems and playlets by the score.
Patty’s seven, prim and dark.
In grade two she makes her mark.
Mischief Michael has turned shy.
He loves first grade but won’t say why.
Maureen, just four, would like to roam.
With five in school she’s bored at home.
Even Mommy’s never there.
She teaches second grade somewhere,
And takes three courses at U.C.
How busy can a family be?
Only Daddy is the same.
He should have a medal, fame.
Calm through all the noise and fuss,
He has to cope with all of us.
So many people commented on her poem that Mom wrote another the next year…and the next…and the next… For 35 consecutive years, she updated her Christmas card recipients on what we Cannons were up to—in verse. Not every mention was cute like that first year. She wrote about the deaths of our grandmothers (both died the same year), divorces, and my sister’s miscarriage.
The one tragedy she couldn’t put into verse was my father’s death. On the 36th year, instead of her poem, Mom wrote a short preamble and printed the poem I had written for Dad’s funeral.
For the next three years, she went back to writing about what each of us (and our families) had done that year, but in that 39th poem, she let the readers know it would be her last.
For thirty-nine years, I’ve been writing this stuff
And I think by this time it’s been quite enough.
And true to her word, for that 40th Christmas, she just sent cards. It turned out to be her last Christmas. She died in August, and on that first Christmas without her, six of us siblings received a poem written by the seventh, the youngest, that straight-from-heaven sister who inspired the first poem all those years before. Writing is also a family tradition.