Christmas Day 2019


“Merry Christmas” 2019 Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC

I inherited Dad’s round shoulders


I inherited Dad’s round shoulders

that barely filled his army jacket

when his 117-pound body became adult.


Later, he shouldered our family,

Wearing a sleeveless butcher’s apron

tucked around his identity.


He hung up his bloodied uniform after Christmas,

wiping sawdust from his leather shoes

for an afternoon of family visits.


He wrapped fresh hams for his five sisters

As peace offerings, knowing he could not

bear the burden of sibling conflicts.


My father, my mother, and I  drove a few cold miles,

tires crunching a path on side streets.

As we pulled up to each family hearth,

the uncles welcomed us at the door,

inviting us in and receiving our heavy coats,

draping them on wooden hangers in the hall closet,

placing our damp hats and gloves on the radiator.


Being the youngest of twenty-four cousins,

I was the only child overhearing

my aunts and uncles recalling a wartime Christmas–

and, now, tales of broad athletic shoulders

of each of their budding adult children.


In each of the sisters’ homes, an aunt passed around

a white platter as fragile as parchment

that presented homemade, walnut fudge

and coconut cookies. Colored tree lights and candles

along with lipstick grins chased away

the gray of late Sunday afternoon.


After exchanging gifts and weaving family stories

into a warm shawl, my uncle fetched our belongings

and opened my mother’s coat, bearing the hint of Estee Lauder.

She slid one arm inside each silk-lined sleeve.

He offered my father his wool trench coat.

My uncle butlered my jacket for each arm. I punched

each sleeve. He tucked the coat up

around my small shoulders. He handed me

my stocking cap and knitted mittens

and patted my back with assurance and farewell.


I felt grown up, bursting out of my clothes

because of encouraging hands upon my shoulders,

belonging among my family that carried the world.


Merry Christmas! Blessings to you and your loved ones.

Peace on Earth,

Fr. Ron



5 thoughts on “Christmas Day 2019

  1. Dear Father Ron, I have just read all your entries for the past few days thank you for sharing your past and family experiences. Thank you for your love to all of us from the inside out. I am still dreaming. I await the the year ahead for the gifts received. I know not where they will lead me.I only ask that I may walk where He wants me to go. I know some days I am Peter and some days I am John. Blessings today and all days, Katherine

  2. Lovely Christmas tree, Fr. Ron! I love your poem too, so many memories from our childhood come back to us during Christmas. I wish I had your dad’s way of solving sibling rivalries with a fresh ham, and I have to admit many of my efforts to do the same are “ham handed”. I’m always praying for peace in my family and in our country and our wider world. Thanks for this very reassuring glimpse which points us to the “Prince of Peace” himself! Merry Christmas! Love-Danny Z-man

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