A Christmas Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moonless Darkness Stands Between

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem-star may lead me
To the sight of Him Who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure, Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning, and alway:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

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Vinnie Says: “Santa’s Coming”

Vinnie says, “Santa’s coming tonight. I can hardly wait. I’m tracking Santa. You can track Santa with me. Here’s the link: Santa Tracker

Vinnie returns in 2019

Christmas Bells ~ Poem by Henry Wadworth Longfellow

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Vinnie’s Mom Asks, “Why Me Lord?”

20

“Mom, Mom, Mom, tonight’s the night. Santa’s coming Tonight. You didn’t bake cookies for him. He’s going to be upset. Santa told me he likes chocolate chip cookies with lots of extra chips. Honest, Mom. Honest.”

“Vincent, it’s one in the morning. Go back to bed,” mutters Vinnie’s mom.

“Rupert won’t let me sleep. He’s too excited. Can I lie down in the living room under the Christmas tree so I can wait for Santa? Can I, Mom? Can I, Mom?”

“Vincent. The last time. Go back to bed. I do not want to hear another word out of you until 7 this morning. Do you understand? Answer me, Vincent.”

“But, Mom, you told me not to say another word. Am I in trouble because I just said a lot of words? Can I set my alarm for six, Mom? I promise I won’t make any noise. I promise, Mom.”

“Say yes,” grunts Vinnie’s dad.

“Yes,” says Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie carries Rupert out of his parents’ bedroom. Dexter follows them. Vinnie looks at Dexter, “Dexter is it okay if I open one present Gramma sent me? Wag your tail if it is okay.”

Dexter, believing Vinnie was talking about food, obligingly wags his tail. The trio, Vinnie, Rupert and Dexter head toward the living room.

From the bedroom, Vinnie’s mom calls out, “If you’re going to try to open Gramma’s present, I’m texting Santa and he might not stop here.”

Vinnie hits the brakes. He says, “I was only going to get Dexter a snack. He looks like he’s losing too much weight, Mom.”

“Back to bed this instant, Vincent.”

“Darn, Mom. I hope Santa didn’t hear you. Can Rupert and I sing Christmas carols when I’m in bed?”

From the bedroom, “I need help, dear. Please do something?” says Vinnie’s mom to his dad.

From the hallway, “I can help, Mom. What do you want me to do?” asks Vinnie.

“Dear God, I want you to go to bed. Turn off the light, and go to sleep. Is that asking too much, Vincent?”

“Mom. Mom. Mom.”

“What, Vincent?”

“Do you want me to answer truthfully or tell you what I think you want me to tell you?” asks Vinnie.

“Tell me what you think I want to hear,” moans Vinnie’s mom.

“I’m supposed to go to bed, turn off the light, and go to sleep. Did I get it right, Mom?” asks Vinnie.

“Perfect, Vincent.”

When the digital clock on the radio on the kitchen counter turned from 6:59 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. an ear shattering scream came from the kitchen, “Merry Christmas. It’s Christmas Eve.” This was followed by Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer being played loud enough to be heard by the astronauts in the international space station. 

Vinnie’s Mom and Dad race out of the bedroom wrapping bathrobes about themselves. Vinnie’s Mom pulls the radio plug out of the wall. The Rudolph continues to blast. “Dear, I can’t turn the radio off,” says Vinnie’s mother handing the radio to Vinnie’s dad.

Vinnie says, “That’s because I put batteries in it in case there was a power outage.”

“Why me, Lord? Why, me?” asks Vinnie’s mom in a silent prayer.

Vinnie’s mom is making breakfast. Vinnie’s dad is sitting at the breakfast table reading the local paper online on his iPad. Vinnie is in the living room staring at three stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel. Rupert is sitting on the floor next to Vinnie. Dexter is lying on the floor next to Rupert. 

“Mom. Mom. Mom,” hollers Vinnie.

“You don’t have to holler Vinnie, I only in the next room,” calls his mom.

“It’s an emergency, Mom. It’s a real emergency,” says Vinnie with urgency in his voice.

Vinnie’s mom calls, “What is the emergency? I’m making scrambled eggs, I can’t step away right now. Do you need Dad to help you?”

“Dad will only pretend like he’s paying attention to me. You know, Mom. He does the same thing to you.”

“Ouch,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“The emergency will have to wait a few minutes, Vinnie. I only have two hands and I’m not getting any help out here in the kitchen,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Huh?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Don’t you ever tell me Vinnie takes after my side of the family, ever,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Do you need some help?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Yes. Vinnie has an emergency in the living room. He says it needs immediate attention. Can you put you iPad aside for two minutes?”

“It’s been a long day, dear and it’s only ten after seven in the morning,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“It only seems long right now. It’s going to be really, really long before Santa comes,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“Why don’t I take the family out for breakfast and get pancakes?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“After I made these scrambled eggs. Who will eat them?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

From the living room, “Dexter will, Mom. Nobody but you and Dexter like scrambled eggs,” calls Vinnie. 

“They’re healthy for you,” says Vinnie’s mom defensively.

Dexter is already standing by Vinnie’s mom. He has an intuitive feel for potential food sources.

Vinnie’s dad walks into the living room, “Alright, Vinnie. What is the big emergency?” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Look, Dad. Look,” says Vinnie.

“What am I supposed to look at, Vinnie?” asks Vinnie’s dad.

“Dad, you must be blind. Sometimes you wear glasses. Do you want me to get them for you?” asks Vinnie.

“No, I can see fine. I only wear glasses for real fine print,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Dad. Dad. Look at the mantel. There are three stockings hanging there for Santa.”

“I see three stockings hanging off the mantel, Vinnie. I think Santa will fill them while we are sleeping,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“But, Dad. Where are the stockings for Dexter and Rupert? They’re people too,” says Vinnie.

“Dear, do you have two extra stockings, one for Rupert and one for Dexter? They’re real people, too,” says Vinnie’s Dad.

“Dear Lord. Are you giving me my heavenly crown while I walk on Earth?” mutters Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie Tells His Mom They’re Just Alike

17

“Dad, Dad, Dad,” hollers Vinnie.

“You don’t have to shout, Vinnie. Dad is sitting next to you. What is so important that you haven’t taken a bite of your breakfast?” asks Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie turns toward his mom, “This is between Dad and me, Mom. You have to put your fingers in your ears so you don’t hear.”

“Can’t it wait until after breakfast?” asks Vinnie’s mom. She instantly realizes Vinnie is always all in to the present moment and whatever thought is racing around in his brain.

“Dear, it’s probably best if you listen to Vinnie,” says Vinnie’s mom.

“What is so important, Vinnie,” says his dad.

“Dad, why are you reading your iPad? Mom always says it’s better not to have digital stuff at the table,” says Vinnie.

“I wanted to see the scores of the basketball games, that’s all,” says Vinnie’s dad sheepishly. He clicks off the iPad and turns it over. “Is that better?”

“Yep. Mom, put your fingers in your ears and keep them there until I tell you to take them out.”

Vinnie’s mom puts a forefinger in each ear. She smiles at Vinnie.

Vinnie hollers, “Can you hear me, Mom?”

Vinnie’s mom shakes her head no. 

Vinnie says, “Thanks, Mom. I know you can’t hear me because you never lie to me.”

Vinnie’s mom thinks, Vinnie really takes after his dad’s side of the family. She wonders if she’ll ever see a sign of her DNA in him. A passing thought runs through her mind, ‘Could the babies have been switched at the hospital?’ She shakes her head no, impossible, but then again.

“Why are you shaking your head, Mom? Never mind, you can’t hear me,” says Vinnie turning his attention toward his dad.

“Dad, I need to do my Christmas shopping. I have to buy you and mom and Rupert and Dexter presents. I want to get all of you stocking stuffers. It’s going to take me all day and part of the evening. Can I miss the living nativity tonight. I don’t think I’ll be finished?”

Before Vinnie’s dad responds, his mom says,”No.”

“You were listening, Mom. You were listening. You said you couldn’t hear me.”

Vinnie’s mom is as fast on her feet as her son. She says, “Mom’s have selective hearing. I turned everything except for anything you might say about the living nativity scene.”

“Wow, Mom. We’re just alike. I tune Mrs. Navis out all the time. I only listen to what I want to listen. I take after you, Mom.”

Vinnie’s dad starts laughing.

Vinnie’s Mom, her fingers now out of her ears, says, “What are you laughing at?”

“You always wondered how Vinnie favors you.”

“Don’t go there, dear.”

“Go where, Mom. Where don’t you want dad to go. I’ll make sure he doesn’t go there. Honest. I’m on it, Mom.”

“The stores open at ten. Why don’t you two men take off for the day. I am going to the spa. Dear, buy Thai takeout, I don’t want to cook. We’ll leave at 6:30 for the live nativity scene.”

“But, Mom, it doesn’t start until 7. Can’t we leave at 7?” asks Vinnie.

“No, Vinnie, we will leave early so you can be at the nativity scene tonight a half hour early.”

“Mom, I don’t like Thigh food.”

“I said Thai food.”

“I still don’t like it. How will I play the donkey on a stomach filled with food I don’t like?”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph please pray for me and Sister Janet,” utters Vinnie’s mom.

Vinnie Thinks His Dad Is Afraid of Sister Janet

8

“How did everything go at rehearsal, Vinnie?” asks his dad. “Well? You seem pretty quiet. What happened? You don’t look happy? Why the frown. Don’t tell me you are going to be the sheep again?” 

“Dad, I didn’t think it could get worse and it got worse,” says Vinnie shrugging his shoulders.

“What could be worse than being a sheep?” asks his dad.

“Dad?”

“What, Vinnie?”

“Can I say a word you might not want me to say? I don’t want to get in trouble with Santa and you, Dad.”

Vinnie’s dad glances over at Vinnie, “Is it a curse word, Vinnie?”

“I don’t think so, but I think Mom might not like it if I went around saying it,” says Vinnie.

“You can tell me,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Promise not to tell Mom?” asks Vinnie.

“Promise,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“I’m going to be a jackass,” says Vinnie and he starts laughing.

“A jackass? What do you mean, Vinnie?” asks his dad.

“Oh, Dad. I’m going to be the donkey. I have to lie on straw at the foot of the manger. How dumb is that?”

“That’s pretty dumb, Vinnie. I have to agree with you.”

“Will you tell Mom I don’t have to be in living nativity?” asks Vinnie

Vinnie’s dad pretends he’s concentrating on driving but he’s thinking about what he wants to say to Vinnie.

Vinnie interrupts his dad’s thoughts, “Dad you don’t have ask, Mom.”

“Thanks, Vinnie. Mom’s heart is set on you being in the Nativity. It’s only one night. I know it’s a lousy role, but suck it up. Santa will really appreciate it. I’ll email him and tell him you got stuck with a lousy role but you’re going to do it anyway.”

“Thanks, Dad. Dad?”

“What is it, Vinnie?”

“Will you also email Santa and tell him not to leave Sister Janet any presents. Put Mary Avery’s name on the list.”

“Why?”

“Because Sister Janet is mean. She’s meaner than the Murphy’s German Shepherd. And, Mary Avery stuck her tongue out at me. Besides, Sister Janet let Mary be Mary. If it were my choice, Mary would make a very good snake.”

“I don’t think there are snakes in a living nativity scene, Vinnie,” says his dad. 

“What about a cockroach?” suggests Vinnie.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cockroach in nativity scene,” says Vinnie’s dad wondering how long this will go on.

“I think I’ve seen a nightcrawler, Dad. I really think there was one at my feet when I was playing the sheep last year.”

“I remember that, Vinnie. Do you remember how that got you in trouble?” asks his Dad.

“Okay, so I dropped a gummy worm in front of Joanne.  She screamed. It was very funny.”

“Mary is not supposed to scream in the living nativity scene, Vinnie.”

“Oh.”

“Will you tell Sister Janet to change the roles? I want to play a wiseman because I am very smart.”

“No, I’m not going to tell Sister Janet anything,” says Vinnie’s dad.

“Are you afraid of Sister Janet, Dad? I didn’t think you were afraid of anyone.”

“There’s Mom waiting for us?” says Vinnie’s dad trying to change the subject.

“Well, Dad?’

“Yes,” says his dad.

“Yes, what, Dad?” asks Vinnie.

“Yes, I’m afraid of Sister Janet.”

Vinnie’s dad pulls up to curb. His mom opens the passenger side door and slides in. She turns toward the backseat, “How did practice go today, Vinnie?”

Vinnie smiles, “It was great, Mom. I don’t have to be the sheep. I get to be the donkey and lie at the foot of the manager. I can’t wait for Wednesday night.”

“I am so proud of you, Vinnie,” says his Mom.

Vinnie’s dad looks in the rearview mirror and makes eye contact with Vinnie. He says, “Vinnie was so excited after practice. He told me he’s going to be the best donkey ever. Right, Vinnie?”

“I’m on it, Dad. I’m thinking how I can make my role come alive.”

Vinnie’s dad feels his stomach take a small backflip. 

Vinnie’s Doesn’t Tell His Mom Everything

2

Vinnie walks into the kitchen. Dexter trails close to his heels. Vinnie picks up Dexter’s food dish and carries it to the pantry. Dexter runs in front of him and barks at the pantry door. Dexter believes the space behind the door holds an infinite supply of food. Dexter has a reoccurring dream of being locked in the pantry with its endless supply of food. 

Vinnie rubs Dexter’s ears. He says in a cheerful voice, “You’re such a dumb dog, Dexter.” Dexter wags his tail. Vinnie laughs.

Dexter’s tail looks like a metronome beating out 16th notes. He barks again and steps back away from the door.

Vinnie steps into the pantry, knocks over the large bag of dog food, kicks the loose dog food out of the way and out of sight. He fills Dexter’s bowl leaving a mountain peak on top. He closes the door to the pantry and whispers to Dexter,  “Don’t tell Mom. I’m doubling your helping. I’m hoping Santa will see how generous I am with you.”

Dexter barks whether in agreement or in anticipation of eating, only Dexter knows. Vinnie carries the overfilled bowl to a corner in the kitchen. He sets the bowl down, spilling a quarter of its contents. No problem, Dexter is on it and any evidence of a spill is gone within ten seconds. 

Vinnie fills Dexter’s water bowl with fresh water and sets it down next to the nearly empty food bowl. He calls out to his Mom, “My chores are all done, Mom. I fed Dexter and changed his water. Want to hear what happened to me at school today?”

Vinnie’s Mom rises out of the sleeping baby poise on the yoga mat in the living room. She says, “I only have the downward dog to do and I’ll be right there. Don’t leave. I want to hear all about it.” 

“Okay, Mom. I’m going to make out a list of the things I want Santa to bring me. It will take me a while. You can watch your program,” Vinnie says, getting a notepad and pen off the cabinet.

His mom says, “I think Santa already knows what you want. He’s pretty smart, you know.”

Vinnie, busy writing, says, “I think the blood is rushing to your head in the downward dog poise, Mom. Santa’s smart, but he can’t read my mind.”

The soft spoken women on the YouTube yoga video, stops speaking and Vinnie knows his mom turned the TV off. His mom walks into the kitchen. She sits down at the table next to Vinnie and says, “Let me see what you put on your list?”

Vinnie quickly turns the notebook over, “This is between Santa and me, Mom. If Santa brings these things to me, you have to let me have them.”

Vinnie’s mom stares at him for a long moment, “If you’re asking Santa for a large drone so you can spy on Mrs. Navis at her home, forget it.”

“Awe gee, Mom. Why can’t I have a big drone? All the kids are getting a big drone this year. It’s the in present. You don’t want me left out, do you? Anyway, how did you know I wanted a big drone? Wait a minute, did Rupert tell you?”

Vinnie’s mom wonders whether she should tell him she overheard him talking to Joey about it last Sunday. She says, “I’m not saying where I heard it. I asked Rupert and he said he promised you he’d keep it a secret. He didn’t tell me.”

“Phew,” says Vinnie wiping a hand across his brow. “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t trust Rupert with my secrets. 

“Instead of a drone, can I have a body cam to wear to school so you can see how mean Mrs. Navis is to me?”

“Is that on your list to Santa?” asks his Mom.

“No, but I’m trying to think out of the box like you and dad always tell each other,” says Vinnie. 

“Let’s forget about Christmas presents and your list to give Santa. Tell me the exciting news about school. Then I’ll tell you the exciting news I have for you,” says Vinnie’s mother.

Vinnie looks at the apple slices covered with peanut butter that sit on a plate in front of him. He glances up at his mother, “Mom, why can’t I have chips, or cookies, or brownies like all the other kids when they come home?”

“Because this is a healthy snack. I don’t care what other children eat. I only care what you eat,” says his mom.

“Okay. Thanks for watching out for me, Mom,” Vinnie feels pleased with himself for sucking up to his Mom. Rupert told him it was the perfect strategy before Christmas.

“Thank you, Vinnie. Now about school,” she asks.

Vinnie finishes off an apple and peanut butter slice, then he says, “Mrs. Navis told me she was very proud of me today. She never told me that before.”

“That’s really nice, Vinnie. Did she tell you why she was proud of you?” asks his Mom.

“Probably because I’m really trying hard,” says Vinnie. Vinnie realizes if he told his mom the real reason was because he didn’t get put in time out for the first time in two weeks his Mom may get upset since she knew nothing about his being put in time out for ten straight days.

“She must have had a reason,” says his Mom.

Vinnie, eager to change the subject, says, “What’s your big news, Mom?”

Vinnie’s Mom smiles at him and says, “You’re going to love this. Remember last year when you were in the living nativity scene at church? Well, you get to be in it again this year.”

“I don’t want to be in it, Mom. I was a dumb sheep last year. Do you know how stupid I felt in the sheep’s costume? Very stupid. Sorry, Mom. I’m busy,” says Vinnie picking up another piece of apple. 

“You’re in it, Vincent. No more arguments about it,” says his mom.

“I protest. I am not going to be a sheep. I’ll be Joseph,” says Vinnie.

“You’ll be whatever Sister Janet says you will be,” says his Mom.

“If you make me do it. I’m going to tell Santa on you and Dad and you’ll see. Santa won’t bring you any presents,” says Vinnie.

“Vincent!” says his Mom.