Thursday, December 8, 2011

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 1978

My "hiatus" is over. A long standing inspiration has demanded to see light of day and thus, I finally honor the long history it represents. This dormant blog becomes the host of the project.

Back in 1978, I wrote a Christmas poem that I had printed up at a copy shop on festive green paper. As I did my cards that year, I folded up a signed copy and placed it in the envelope. That tradition, expanded and enhanced, continues to this day, thirty-four years later.

Many people have asked me over time why I have never collected the poems (especially as I hit the quarter century mark nine years ago) and submitted them for possible publishing. I had no good answer other than, "Maybe someday I will."

Via this forum, someday has arrived.

Over the upcoming weeks, I will post each of the Christmas poems that I have written from 1978 to the present day. I will comment on each one which will be interesting. It's like the old adage that you can never set foot in the same stream more than once. Any work is "in the moment" and once that moment is over, the stream of time flows on as does your life story. Going back and revisiting it is an entirely different perspective even if you are intimately aware of the circumstances leading to the creative moment.

As I began to reexamine the body of holiday work, it struck me that there were various juxtapositions occurring over the thread of time. The first is what was going on in my life as I grew up and into my life story. I was 22 when I started this project and it has been quite the trip remembering some of the "inspiration" and moods that I have spun through during each holiday season's "birthing" process.

Next thing that struck me was the thread of history that also made itself known via several of the poems. As I go through them and comment on why I created what I did, you'll start to see what was going on the the world in some cases.

The third notable player is the technological revolution. What started as a typed work on an IBM Selectric typewriter evolved into the genesis of desktop publishing on the very first Mac computer, actual card creation (simple at first and then in full color with advanced printing and digital photography) and several "movie poems" filmed with early photographs and then the start of the digital camcorder era.

Looking over it all, it blows my mind and even though I have struggled at times to keep it all going, I must admit that it has been worth it. Some of the greatest joy and satisfaction that I have felt has been people sharing with me that it doesn't feel to them like the holidays until they receive their copy of the Christmas poem. That's ecstasy and humility rolled into one as far as I'm concerned.

This project will take us long past both Christmas and New Years Day to complete. But as we hit the heart of winter in the northern hemisphere and the darkest, coldest part of the year, maybe this will keep the light burning after the joy and madness begin to subside. I will do my best to post one poem daily but I can't promised that the whirl of the season won't prevent me from doing so. (I have an upcoming trip to Florida to visit my dad thrown in just for good measure.) I will commit to streaming through until "Christmas 2011" is posted and the project completed.

Let's start right now with the "genesis" poem. Cue the "Way Back" machine and set the dial for 1978...

Christmas 1978
Richard Perrotti

The child is safe in his bed tonight,
His sleep is restless, his dreams are grand.
Up with the dawn for the rush of wonders,
All smiles and laughter, and we understand.

His joy was built by the rushing feet
That bought the presents, that deadlines beat;
That found the sales and battled the mobs
Of department store bullies and parking lot slobs.

Dazzling colors lie under the tree,
Carefully wrapped with joy and great care;
Grow even more vibrant as they come alive
In the hands of the gifted who gather them there.

Charities! Causes! Don’t bother me!
Too busy shopping, too busy to see
Too much to do to hear what you preach,
Love and brotherhood’s way out of my reach.

The warmth of this day lingers on into night.
We notice how good this time makes us feel.
Peace on Earth, good will towards man;
It’s presence so close, if only t’was real.

The money is made, the money is spent,
So all can afford the feelings they’ve lent.
The rush is forgotten, the pace is slowed down,
The Great Excuse once more has left town.

The message of love rings true on this day,
But usually by tomorrow, it’s ended its stay.

But if only one listens, if only one hears,
Then the world will be better by one this year.


Welcome to 1978. I am 22 years old, living at home with my soon-to-be divorced mother and helping her through what will turn out to be a nervous breakdown. During college, I worked in the movie theater industry and it turned that I would continue to do so for the next three years. In fact, I was one of the youngest theater managers in the now defunct RKO-Stanley Warner chain. 

My working hours are just as strange as one might expect for a person who manages a business that is open to people seven days per week and depends on staffing from high school and college students. For me, Christmas was usually a day that I had to work in order to keep the theater open (and you might be surprised at how many people go to the movies on this holiday.)

I had no serious girlfriend and my nights were spent hanging out with the projectionists and my staff as we were all relatively in the same age bracket. I should note here that I had been legal to drink since the age of 18 (part of the "old enough to fight and die in Vietnam, old enough to drink" rationale) and so many evenings were spent at a restaurant/bat called "The Hotel" where we imbibed a few adult concoctions.
My mood could best be described as "optimistic/sarcastic." I was an avid follower of the news, reading up to four newspapers a day sometimes and well-informed on just about any topic. I had a rather evil wit and would lampoon anything and anyone at a moments notice.

I also remember how lonely I felt without someone to share special times with, intimate moments. I felt enormous sadness about the breakup of our family, the state of my mother and unspeakable anger at my father. "Deeply conflicted" is an understatement regarding my standard operational capacity.

Doing the poem was an attempt by me to bring some meaning to the holiday. I had written many angst-driven, topical poems for the Rutgers literary magazine during my four years that had just ended and I consistently kept a journal to explore and vent feelings. As I always enjoyed sending Christmas cards, creating a poem and getting it copied on green paper at the local "Insta-Print" store seemed like fun and a natural progression of my work/hobby.

Reading it now, it reads like the work of someone who both desired and mourned love at the same time. It feels like peering out into a magnificent canyon and yelling "Hello" only to hear your own echo in response; a rather lonely thrill, as it were.

The one thing that I do enjoyably note is the hopeful, almost prayerful ending about the fact that it only takes one to start something, to make a difference. I feel that this holds true today even in a period that many would call "bleak." As long as one chooses to hold onto the light, it can never truly be dark.

The response to this work was very warm and positive, assuring that I would give it another go the following year. If you want to gain a historical perspective of the time, here is a bit of what happened in December 1978:

1st - Pres Carter more than doubles national park system size
1st - Test Cricket debut of Rodney Hogg, v England at the Gabba
1st - US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site
2nd - Chanting "Allah is great," anti-Shah protesters poured through Tehran
2nd - Neil Diamond & Barbra Striesand's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" hits #1
2nd - Streisand & Diamond's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," goes #1
3rd - "King of Hearts" closes at Minskoff Theater NYC after 48 performances
3rd - Pat Bradley/Lon Hinkle wins LPGA J C Penney Golf Classic
4th - Dianne Feinstein is named SF 1st female mayor
4th - Dutch War criminal Pieter Menten freed
4th - Pioneer Venus 1 goes into orbit around Venus
4th - War criminal Pieter Menten freed
5th - EG decides establishes EMS, European Monetary System
5th - Free agent Pete Rose signs 4-year, $32 million contract with Phillies
5th - Phillies Pete Rose becomes highest paid baseball player
5th - Pioneer Venus 1 begins orbiting Venus
5th - Sam Shepard's "Buried Child," premieres in NYC
5th - Islanders took 28 shots in 1 period vs Penguins Penguins' Ross Lonsberry failed on 7th penalty shot against Islanders
6th - Spain adopts constitution
7th - Islander's Mike Bossy's 1st career hat trick
8th - Commencement of the 1st day/night WSC cricket supertest at VFL Park
9th - Pioneer Venus 2 drops 5 probes into atmosphere of Venus
9th - 1st game of Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL), Chicago Hustle vs Milwaukee Does
10th - "Platinum" closes at Mark Hellinger Theater NYC after 33 performances
10th - 67th Davis Cup: USA beats Great Britain in Rancho Mirage (4-1)
10th - In Oslo, Menachem Begin & Anwar Sadat accept 1978 Nobel Peace Prize
10th - Islanders ends 15 game undefeated streak (12-0-3) to Canadians
11th - 6 masked men bound 10 employees at Lufthansa cargo area at NY Kennedy Airport & made off with $5.8 M in cash & jewelry
13th - Susan B Anthony dollar, 1st US coin to honor a woman, issued
14th - "Ballroom" opens at Majestic Theater NYC for 116 performances
14th - China PR performs nuclear test at Lop Nor PRC
14th - USSR performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk USSR
15th - Saint Maarten Patriotic Movement (SPM) forms under W James
15th - Test Cricket debut of Malcolm Marshall, v India at Bangalore
16th - Ronald Reagan denounces Pres Jimmy Carter's recognition of China PR
16th - Cleveland, Ohio becomes the first post-Depression era city to default on its loans, owing $14,000,000 to local banks.
17th - OPEC raises oil prices 18%
17th - Referendum approves new constitution of Rwanda
17th - The Workers Party of Jamaica is founded by Trevor Munroe.
18th - France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island
18th - USSR performs underground nuclear test
19th - France performs nuclear test
19th - Indira Gandhi ambushed in India
20th - H R Haldeman, Nixon's White House chief of staff released from jail
21st - "Broadway Musical" opens/closes at Lunt Fontanne Theater NYC
21st - Police in Des Plaines Ill, arrest John Wayne Gacy Jr for murder
22nd - Kenny Jones becomes The Who's new drummer
22nd - Thailand adopts constitution
23rd - Islanders scored 7 goals in 1 period against NY Rangers, Trottier scores 8 points vs Rangers, 5 goals-NHL record 6 pts in 1 period
26th - India's former PM, Indira Gandhi, released from jail
27th - King Juan Carlos ratifies Spain's 1st democratic constitution
27th - Spain becomes a democracy after 40 years of dictatorship.
28th - 30th hat trick in Islander history (Mike Bossy)
29th - Shah of Iran, asks Shapour Bahktiar to form a civilian govt
29th - Spain constitution goes into effect
29th - Test Cricket debut of Allan Robert Border, v England at the MCG
30th - "King & I" closes at Uris Theater NYC after 719 performances
30th - Ohio State dismisses Woody Hayes as its football coach
31st - "Magic Show" closes at Cort Theater NYC after 1859 performances
31st - "Runaways" closes at Plymouth Theater NYC after 199 performances
31st - CIA director, Admiral Stansfield Turner retires from the Navy
31st - Iran shah names Chapour Bakhtiar premier
31st - Taiwan's final day of diplomatic relations with US


  1. welcome back. i missed you! Rw

  2. Looking forward to more. Thanks, Rich.

  3. Thanks Renee and Abha. I'm taking my time with this project as it is certainly reawakening old feelings deep inside. Much more to come.

  4. Reading poems has become my habit every Christmas season. Your poems are truly good. I like them. I also like writing some short Christmas poems and I also like to collect some.