Monday, January 9, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2011

We have come to the end of the road, the sleigh parked in the proverbial shed. This is the poem that finishes up the thirty-four year run I've shared with you and I personally can't think of a nicer way to conclude.

I had the inspiration for this poem literally one year in advance. This is a lovely, true story of a continuing legacy of kindness, charity and remembrance. It starts with my meeting Jeri almost twelve years ago back in 2000. Among the many things I learned about her was that she helped her dad deliver Christmas stockings to the residents of the health care center in the assisted living facility where Harry, her dad lived. He had been doing this for years, hanging stockings from clothes lines strung up in his small room and accumulating the odds-and-ends of life to be distributed just before Christmas. The one absolute he insisted on was a box of Nabisco Animal Crackers in each stocking.

Over the years, I would help with this project by attending the wrapping party at the facility. Yes, each little item was wrapped to give the joy of opening up several presents to these ill senior citizens. For many, it would be the only gifts they would receive.

Harry moved on to "supervise us from above" in 2005 and the project lives on through the grace and determination of Jeri and her daughter, Jennifer. It has grown despite all odds and seems to be taking on an increased vitality of its own, which I think has to do with a certain unseen "elf" smiling on everyone involved.

I took many of the pictures as we distributed stockings in 2010 as well as shots of some of the happy volunteers from this past December. I am so pleased to commemorate this wonderful practice of true Christmas spirit in the current edition of the poem and can think of no finer way to say, "until we meet again next year."

I hope you've enjoyed the series as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. I wish you the warmth and spirit of Christmas especially now as we move deep into January. Choose to keep the light alive. Your life will be so much better for it.

Christmas 2011
Richard Perrotti

Life can be viewed as a story,
Authored on the pages of time.
A tapestry tale woven in threads
Of acts full of detail sublime.

The start brings discovery and wonder
With everything utterly new.
The middle is filled with drama and growth
As we harvest our own field of view.

Now everyone loves happy endings
But life isn’t always so kind.
Then the gentle angels of our nature
Provide us a gentle remind.

Years ago, one such angel
Took upon himself such a task.
He would bring some joy to sick elders,
While donning a Santa Claus mask.

Where he lived had a health care center;
There the sick and suffering would spend
Lonely times during holiday season,
Wondering if they still had a friend.

Then on a morning near Christmas,
What to wondering eyes should appear
But a stocking to them signed, “From Santa,”
Overflowing with holiday cheer.

Playing cards, lotions, tissues and pens;
The baubles of life in itself.
Each gaily wrapped with love and great care
As if by their own special elf.

Fast forward to now’s precious moment
As we gather from near and afar.
Making stockings that say, “I remember”
Even if I don’t know who you are.

Wrapping boxes of animal crackers,
Concerns and cares fly like the birds.
For it matters not what you’re saying;
Your actions speak louder than words.

Walking the halls on a silent night,
Placing stockings made with and by love,
As we continue his work and remember
Our Christmas elf smiling above.

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2010

As we approach the finish line, this poem involves one of the most interesting, strange and true stories that directly inspired the end product. This story actually became the poem.

In 2010, I was really having trouble letting the theme come through. I was rereading all of the old poems desiring both inspiration and originality, not wanting to be repetitive. As one moves into a fourth decade of doing a project, that is an element of concern. Still nothing was helping.

Needing something to shift the energy, I did the most unlikely thing that I could imagine; I grabbed my camera and headed to a nearby local mall. It wasn't too insane as there was still another shopping weekend to go before Christmas. I was able to stroll around with little problem.

I walked into several stores including one called "A Christmas To Remember." It was a seasonal shop with all sorts of decorations and holiday paraphernalia. When I exited, I saw the mall's Giving Tree, where one could pull off an ornamental slip of paper and purchase a requested gift for a local needy family. Here was the inspiration I had been searching for.

I framed the shot to capture the tree and the name of the store that I had just exited. A perfect juxtaposition, I imagined that it would work beautifully in verse. As I was squeezing off shots to give myself a variety to choose from, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Rather than spelling it all out, I'll simply tell you that I left the mall in a foul mood. When you read the poem, you'll understand why. However during the ride home as I was seething about lovely things like injustice and stupidity, I had the tiniest inkling that asked, "What would happen if you could see this differently?"

Enormous, instantaneous shift. The poem and the cover indicating "a light in the darkness," sprang almost fully realized from my mind and heart. A task that loomed imposing now turned into one of the most amazing and amusing anecdotes and poems that I have ever written.

Christmas 2010
Richard Perrotti

The poem was a long time in coming,
With Christmas but two weeks away.
The author, re-reading old verses,
Was struggling for new words to say.

In fits and starts, he decided,
His horizons just had to expand.
So, camera in hand, he ventured
Out into “Shopping Mall Land.”

Inspiration revealed itself quickly,
In a scene set just to enthrall;
The store, “A Christmas To Remember,”
Near the “Giving Tree” placed by the mall.

Framing and snapping great pictures,
He was mentally writing the poem.
When suddenly darkness descended
In the form of a big mall cop “gnome.”

“You can’t take those pictures,” he ordered.
“The store and the mall won’t allow.
“Sorry,” he said, “I must do my job.
You’ll have to delete them right now.”

He stood and watched me erase them
While I muttered dark “holiday glee,”
I swear that all of this happened,
For, of course, the “author” is me!

He walked away, in these paranoid times,
As joy vacated my soul.
It felt as though Santa had left me
A monstrous bucket of coal.

But the “Giving Tree” stood before me,
A clear choice embodying.
I smiled at the easy decision;
It’s always the simplest thing.

I turned away in forgiveness
Of me and the big mall cop “elf.”
For the world, my friends, cannot give you
What you will not give to yourself.

I’ll shine one small light in the darkness
And keep it ablaze in my heart.
This one humble act of my choosing
Is the simplest place I can start.

December 2010 notables:
8th - With the second launch of the SpaceX Dragon, SpaceX becomes the first privately held company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.
11th - Two explosions occur in a busy shopping district of Stockholm, Sweden, killing one and injuring two others. Officials say the incident is being treated as a terrorist attack.
22nd - The repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning on homosexuals serving openly in the United States military, was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2009

I suggested to you at the start of this project that the poems would reflect many trends; personal, historical and technological. The last poem in 2008 asked for help as challenges seemed about to overwhelm. This 2009 version is yet again another "dark night of the soul" request for assistance, to find the inner light and choose to embrace it.

As we get older, it will be fascinating to see how historians choose to recall these years. I am experienced enough to know that there is no "hard and fast" fact based history; it all depends on the motivation and inclination of the observer scribe.

I instead am very thankful and appreciative to somewhat understand the power within. The holiday season normally stirs up fairly powerful emotions. As inspiration strikes me, a "reminder" of who we are, what we are all connected by and to, will imbed itself in the verses.

After that, it's all there for the choosing. Muddle around in the darkness or embrace the light; that's entirely up to us. It always has been and I believe that it always will be.

That choice is what life is all about... in my humble opinion!

Christmas 2009
Richard Perrotti

Prophets will come, profits will go,
Especially as the daylight grows dear.
Whether past or present, frenzy arises
Towards the end of each calendar year.

We seem at split purpose as days grow shorter,
Depression dueling with bliss.
We conjure the memory of childhood joy
But something seems vacant, amiss.

Perhaps these times we’re now living
Can account for deep holiday blue.
But this feeling was viral, rapidly spreading
Like a full-blown holiday flu!

One quiet evening, I prayed for assistance
To try and return to the light.
Even Scrooge had his troubles, compounded by ghosts,
Yet emerged from his soul’s darkest night.

As if in a dream… Was it a dream?
A voice from within did advance.
It posed but one simple question;
“Christmas by choice or by chance?”

This thought surprised and confused me
But the voice did not hesitate.
“You cover your light with a bushel
And bemoan the cruelness of fate.

Choose to be one with your power,
Not chance what the fates will allow.
You walk in the footsteps of angels,
Who never ‘muddle through somehow.’”

With that, my present did beckon
Like a gift bestowed from above;
My spirit rejoined by my choosing
To live from the power of love.

December 2009 (the events grow shorter as we approach "now"):
8th - Bombings in Baghdad, Iraq kill 127 and injure 448.
11th - Tiger Woods announced an indefinite leave from professional golf to focus on his marriage.
15th - Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner makes its maiden flight from Seattle, Washington.
25th - Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab unsuccessfully attempts a terrorist attack against the US while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253
28th - 43 people die in a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, where Shia Muslims were observing the Day of Ashura.

Friday, January 6, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2008

As the people who want to hold on the the season cling to their trees and lights for one last weekend, we are down to the final four poems in this series. And speaking of light, this is a true story about remembering to reach for the light whenever you feel darkness closing in. It's always there for the embracing.

You will recall that as we prepared to end the Bush years, things in general were "not good." Doing a superb job of amplifying this tone was the media, essentially more "gloomy and doomy" than ever. Even in the midst of the holiday season, the inky blackness of despair was pervasive. I had to leave the house and take a ride just to get away from it, trying to clear my heart and soul.

Imagine my wonderment when in literally two short minutes, I was on the main street of my home town of Bordentown, NJ. The small square housing the city Christmas tree was as beautiful as I have ever witnessed and the street decorations and shop windows just shimmered and shone. I parked and walked around town for a good hour, feeling at peace as I simply took it all in.

The inspiration for the poem came together in an instant. I swiftly returned home to grab my camera, shooting many pictures to capture the mood. The poem then was written within an hour that very same night. To me, it still rings true even three years later.

Christmas 2008
Richard Perrotti

Seasons whirl by in a neverending dance
As the only true constant is change.
So considering life’s rhythms, its ebbs and flows,
The certainty of Christmas is strange!

But come again it had like an old trusted friend
With habits and traditions to bemuse.
I snugged into my chair and snapped on the set
And that’s when they started the news.

All-time lows, forecasts of doom,
Realities of fortune gone bad.
Each negative word invaded my soul
And sapped all the spirit I had.

Worries, doubts and litanies of fear
Clouded my sight and my mind.
Unable to stand it, I walked out the door
Seeking any comfort I might find.

I walked into town on this wintery night
For relief from this role call of strife
When suddenly a scene so perfect appeared
Or was this really a wonderful life?

A tree as grand as I’ve ever beheld
Blazed in our little town square
With a heralding angel shining brightly above
Beaming her light everywhere.

Each shop window gleamed from the effort
Of decorating done “just right.”
The love and care taken was a beacon
Of an answer hidden in plain sight.

No matter what happens, look for the good.
Let everything else have its way.
What you search for you find and bring into your life
So call forth the best Christmas day.

December 2008 doings:
2nd - Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resigns after the 2008 Thailand political crisis.
5th - Human remains previously found in 1991 are finally identified by Russian and American scientists as those of Tsar Nicholas II.
8th - Kirsty Williams elected as Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. The first female leader of a political party in Wales.
9th - The Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is arrested by federal officials for a number of alleged crimes including attempting to sell the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama's election to the Presidency..
11th - Bernard Madoff arrested and charged with securities fraud in $50 billion Ponzi scheme.
14th - President George W. Bush made his fourth and final (planned) trip to Iraq as president and almost got struck by two shoes thrown at him by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi during a farewell conference in Baghdad.
28th - The Detroit Lions finished the season 0-16 with a 31-21 lost to the Green Bay Packers The first time in National Football League history that a team went winless in a 16-game season.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2007

2007 marked the 30th consecutive year that I wrote a Christmas poem and I wanted to do something special. I commissioned a website ( but it wasn't put together the way that I intended. I hope to change that this year; I just have to find the help of someone who can manipulate it for me. The original vision is captured in this card and poem.

In abandoning video, I decided to share one of my happiest childhood memories, baking holiday cookies with my mother. The picture of the stove on the cover is my kitchen and the Kitchen Aid mixer belonged to her. It still works incredibly well decades later and I always get compliments on the baked goods that come from that mixer with love.

The poem is a snapshot of a special time that I shared with her. There are no embellishments; it was just as I captured it in verse. As a bonus, I included my mom's butter cookie recipe on the back of the card. Feel free to copy it and make it your own (as long as you add the love!)

Christmas 2007
Richard Perrotti

As the calendar crept towards its inexorable end,
The day seemed like it would never arrive.
My mother smiled and said, “Let’s bake cookies,”
To her helper, a big boy, age five.

With these magic words, Christmas had come!
Two kitchen wizards concocting their potion,
Mixing flour, sugar, butter and eggs
With vanilla, into a holiday commotion.

My job was to watch the Mixmaster dance,
And observe the dough getting ready.
The oven was lit, baking sheets out
And mom’s cookie press gleamed clean and steady.

She was amazing, how swiftly she moved,
As I struggled to watch and learn.
Row upon row of angels, trees, stars,
Then she winked and said, “Now, your turn!”

She held my hand as I twisted the press,
Making a tree that looked like a blob.
“Good first one,” she reassured me,
“And rainbow jimmies will finish the job.”

I couldn’t be happier, helping mom bake,
And no cookie could ever taste better.
When we left some with milk under our silvery tree,
I told Santa so in a letter!

I can’t reproduce those cookies today,
No matter how often I try.
But the memory still lingers like a soft, sweet aroma
And heats up “the oven inside.”

Treasure your recipes, memories and stories,
From a life long ago, far above.
Things are more special when you remember they came
Direct from mom’s kitchen, with love.

December 2007; only four short years ago:
3rd - Devastating winter storms caused the Chehalis River to flood many cities in Lewis County, Washington, also closing a 20-mile portion of Interstate 5 for several days. At least eight deaths and billions of dollars of damaged are blamed on the floods.
5th - Westroads Mall massacre: A gunman opens fire with a semi-automatic rifle at an Omaha, Nebraska mall, killing eight people before taking his own life.
7th - The Hebei Spirit oil spill began in South Korea after a crane barge being towed by tug collided with the very large crude carrier, Hebei Spirit.
11th - Two car bombs go off at the Constitutional Court building in Algiers and the United Nations office. An estimated 45 people are killed in the bombings.
13th - The Mitchell Report is publicly released listing the names of 89 Major League Baseball players that have presumably used anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. Notable players to be named include Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada.
17th - Republic of Lakotah asserts independence from the United States
19th - The Lakotah people, a Native American tribe, proclaim independence and withdraw all their treaties with the United States. They then proceed to establish the Republic of Lakotah, with an ongoing process of international recognition as a separate country.
20th - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.
20th - The painting Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904), by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, was stolen from the São Paulo Museum of Art, along with O Lavrador de Café, by the major Brazilian modernist painter Candido Portinari.
21st - The Schengen Agreement area increases to include 9 European Union member states; Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia on land and sea borders.
27th - Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is assassinated by a suicide bomber.
28th - Nepal declared a federal democratic Republic by interim parliament, abolishing the monarchy.
31st - Bocaue Fire. Seven people injured when a fire razed several fireworks stores in the Municipality of Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines.
31st - The Massive Big Dig construction project in Boston, Massachusetts ends.