My Christmas Childhood

Christmas Day

When I was six years old my father died and my mother was left a widow with five children, ranging from age seven to one year old. The boys: Donie, myself, Chris and the girls: Josephine and Anne. My father had been a commercial traveler and also had a butchers shop in 5 North Main Street Naas. This my mother converted to a toy shop. Christmas was vital, having a family to support with the only income from the shop.

The following poem reflects my memories of Christmas Eve in the Shop.

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Christmas Day

At five o’clock on Christmas morning
We were awakened
By the running yahoos
Of my young sisters
Down at the Christmas tree
The wild cheers
As they found the dolls
Naming the new arrivals
Just christened

At eleven o’clock mass
The Parish Priest’s High Mass
His Polyphonic choir
Of Christmas carols
Of the mass in Latin

Ad Deum qui laetificat Juventutem Mearn

The choir sang
Gloda in excelsis Deo

My eyes fixed on the Tabernacle
My heart sang with tears
The crib
Christ the new born baby
The star of Bethlehem

When the choir sang
Credo in Unum Deum
The old woman
Biddy Brockell burst into song
Her voice shrill
Casting high pitched notes into the choir
Taking the congregation with her

Father Doyle stopped the proceedings
Left the alter
And down the church Isle
His vestments polishing the floor
His shoes tapping the silence
Calling the woman to be quiet
Then returned
His step faster and determined
Commanding the Credo
When the coir got to the Visibilium
She burst out again
Taking the choir with her
Everything stopped
The priest down the church
The lads at the back scampered
His outstretched arm
His finger pointing the door
Ordering the woman out

Christmas breakfast
A boiled egg
Out treat
After breakfast
My mother took the turkey out
Attacking it without apology
We stood around her
Like students watching a surgeon
Educating us on anatomy

My Mother’s shop opened
The only shop on Christmas Day
For young cowboys buying caps for their guns
For little girls looking for dolls soothers
For smokers queuing for fags
The shop was hectic
For Christmas dinner
There was always a stranger
Down on his luck

After dinner we were allowed out
To play cowboys and Indians
I wearing my Torn Mix outfit
A cardboard hat
That would disintegrate in the rain
My lasso and a pair of guns
The crack cap guns
Rang through the deserted
The battle where everyone
Claimed victory
We rescued the damsel
Tied Kevin Kelly to a tree
Went homev His mother was frantic
And all hell broke loose