photomccarthy family
One Christmas
by Mary McCarthy

He broke our hearts
Bringing home an aluminum tree
With its own light bulb
And cellophane color wheel
That turned and lit
Those tinfoil branches
Blue and red and green
So proud, he said
You didn’t need

We couldn’t smile
We wanted a real tree
That would smell like pine
And drop real needles
On the artificial snow
Even our old
Skinny wire and papery green
Fake tree would have been better
There was so much space
Between those flimsy branches
To hang the glittering
Almost weightless
Glass-fragile balls
Room to twist the lights
And carefully place the icicles

Set between the mirror
And the window
It sang and echoed light
Real and reflected
So much more beautiful
Than it ever should have been

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is from an earlier Christmas than the one described in the poem. I am in the middle, my sister Dorothy is at the left in my mother’s lap, and my sister Margie is on right in my dad’s lap. We were born in 1950, 1951 and 1952 — the first three out of an eventual seven siblings!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Christmas in our family could be both the best and the worst of times — the pressures of festivity sometimes too much for the cracks in our foundations.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, though she spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has published work in many journals, including Earth’s Daughters, Caketrain, and The Birmingham Review, as well as online journals Heart,  Gnarled Oak, and Right Hand Pointing.