One of my friends is a poet. She uses words to mark and make the meaningful moments of her life. Like all great poets, she has tremendous depth of feeling and a need to express those feelings in words. Sometimes she has to borrow a phrase and customize it to her own experience. For example, from the movie Dead Poets Society, she learned the phrase “Carpe Diem!” which is Latin for “Seize the Day!”
Well, this poet friend loves to wake up early and head out with a newspaper and map to shop garage sales. When she pulls into a stranger’s driveway and sees their garbage laid out on saw horses, her heart fills with anticipation. She springs from her car and shouts “Crape Diem!,” which translates loosely to “Seize the crap!”
From time to time I too have had tremendous depth of feeling and had to put those feelings in verse. When I was a child I wrote a poem about Christmas decorations. My mother’s annual trip to the attic to retrieve her Christmas boxes was a joyous occasion for me, worthy of poetry. It was the beginning of the most magical time of the year–surprises wrapped in paper and bows, my dad’s almond rocha and caramels, my mom’s bonbons and marshmallow logs, a candlelight turkey dinner, caroling, games and Santa.
As an adult, I don’t feel poetry so often as I used to. This December I had a particularly hard time summoning the magical feelings of Christmases past. When I looked at my tree, all I could think was that it needed more ornaments. Out of necessity, I sewed some new stockings, but I had nothing cute to put on my mantel. The baking I limited to a single batch of gingerbread cookies–I wasn’t going to spend time and money on something that would make me fat. And as for the presents, I never did get that joyous temptation to buy more than I had planned. Everything under my tree was crap. I know because I wrapped it.
On December 23rd, I regretfully realized that my children hadn’t even bought a present for their dad. I dutifully loaded them in the car for a trip to the thrift store to buy him a mug. I herded them into the store, the wind whipping against our faces as I scolded them for refusing to wear a coat. Christmas shopping just isn’t what it used to be, I thought, remembering family outings to malls strung with sparkling lights, carols coming through the sound system, and remote-controlled puppies in the toy store. Is there any Christmas magic for adults? I wondered. Will I ever again find any poetry in the season?
My daughters wanted to buy their dad a pink tin canister, but I helped them find a large Christmas mug. The price tag said $1, but the cashier rang it up as 50 cents.
“Is the Christmas stuff half off?” I asked. She pointed to a pile of grocery sacks.
“All the Christmas stuff you can fit in a sack for one dollar,” she explained.
Her words were like a sacred message from the Ghost of Christmas Past. Or maybe it was angels singing over my head. It seemed they were shouting a mighty chorus, “Crape Diem! Crape Diem!”
“Give me that mug back!” I demanded and ran to grab a sack. My daughters ran with me, eagerly snatching darling, dusty Christmas things and stuffing them into our bag. “Can this one be special to me!” they cried again and again as they found ornaments, figurines, candles, tinsel, socks, and other treasures for our home. A grin on my face, the angels sang their borrowed poetry in my head, “This one can be special to you! Crape diem! Crape diem!” With three bags bulging, we went back to the cashier and forked over three dollars.
All the way home, through our second round of tree-trimming, and long enough to see me through some major grocery shopping, I heard the Christmas angels. The next day the angels were still singing when we sat down for our candlelight dinner. We ate turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, salad, rolls, sparkling cider, hot cider, eggnog, whip cream, fudge, almond rocha, chocolate-covered pretzels, pumpkin cake, and Dove caramels. When my daughter asked for some whip cream in her water, I felt a new depth of Christmas magic in the air. I could not help but write some Christmas poetry of my very own. Springing from my chair to get the Reddi-Whip, I shouted “Crape Etum!”
Dear Readers, if this year you have struggled to feel the poetry of Christmas, feel free to borrow mine. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Crape Diem! And Crape Etum!