A few of my followers grew up in my home village, Clearwater, Minnesota. You knew where the Kniss’s Grocery sat–on Main Street, downtown Clearwater. Ellis Kniss carried everything that any grocer carried in the larger towns. While it didn’t sell clothes that I can remember, the window shelves carried candy jars galore. From lemon drops to root beer barrels, a kid could satisfy that sweet tooth for a penny. Its main source of income was the sale of all sorts of meats, shelves of Fairway canned vegetables and fruits, juices, frozen goods, lots of fresh produce, and plenty of ice cream novelties–sherbet push-ups, Eskimo bars, Cheerios, fudge cycles, ice cream bars and so much more for a dime or less. But a few weeks before Christmas, Ellis also stocked evergreens for the holidays.
My father’s search to find our tree
would often take him out to see
if he could find at Kniss’s Store
a Christmas tree like years before.
Up against the mart’s north wall
stood evergreens so lush and tall.
But on the ground, my dad detected
a scrub-discarded and neglected.
A tree to touch his tender heart—
for orphaned man, his counterpart.
He dragged it home where we awaited
a tree to love—when decorated.
As it stood in stand, we realized
the tree was less than he’d surmised.
The bells and balls, a garland rope
just didn’t help. We gave up hope.
Out of ornaments, so what to do?
We finally admitted we were through.
Tinseled and lit, a star on top
that dried up tree was still a flop.
Now years later . . . in memory,
I think that I shall never see
a poem as ugly as that tree—
or one that means so much to me.
Christmas is magical. Even during Covid-19 times, we have renewed hope in dire circumstances. We love the lights and the sparkle in little children’s eyes as they wait for Santa. I remember well my inkling that he might not be real., but I didn’t want to ruin it for my little sister. The setting again is at the Abeln farm on Warner Lake, Lynden Township, Stearns County, Minnesota–just a few miles from Clearwater.
Navy-blue, crystally winter’s night.
Glittering sifted snow, icing topped lake,
evergreens muffed in white. I plodded
as Becky pulled me down the glossy road.
A bundle of blue, she sometimes followed,
sometimes led, sometimes jumped over my feet
as she chattered about baby dolls, Santa’s snack—
star-shaped cookies, his tummy and our chimney.
Late autumn’s whispered secret unmasked the man.
a grown up woman of ten, I played my part
for my younger sister that Christmas Eve,
although I no longer believed.
Carolers sang, “. . .won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
I grumbled, “It’s time to go home.”
As I turned, my eye caught a wink of light
dashing across the blue-black sky.
Becky and I tumbled through pockets of snow.
The yard glowed—lit house and trees.
Who’s that hunching in the shadows?
Mom, traditionally dressed in pink flannel gown,
pulled off our coats and pushed us into the living room.
Becky ran to a diapered doll and teddy bear.
I gazed at a white-veiled Barbie,
Betty Crocker Bake set, white fur-topped boots.
On the floor lay the empty green 7UP bottle
and a plate of cookie crumbs.
I ran to the window. Cupped my hands around my eyes.
No reindeer, no sleigh.
But on that navy-blue, crystally winter’s night,
I decided to believe another year.
@ Cynthia Frank-Stupnik
My prayers, like all of yours, are for better and healthier year to come, for more sunlight than darkness, for more blessings than pain.
Merry Christmas and HOPES for a Happy New Year.