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Christmas 1956
by Lynne Viti

My father opened his wallet to show me
a hundred dollar bill.
I thought he was rich, and said so.
Naw, he answered and carefully
slid the crisp paper back into its leather sleeve.

Christmas morning
my sister and I opened box after box.
Angora sweaters, knee socks
Ricky Nelson LP for me,
roller skates for her.

My mother gave Dad pajamas,
socks, a hand-warmer gadget
for Colt games at Memorial Stadium.

When it was all over
paper detritus littering rose-colored carpet,
Dad pointed to the back of the Christmas tree
wedged against the long drapes
at the picture window
so the colored lights were on display
for all of Hilltop Avenue to see.

Merry Christmas, Mom, he said quietly.
My mother jumped up, almost
tripping over her long robe,
laughed when it came into her view,
that hundred dollar bill, clipped to the tree
by a Shaker clothespin.

Not for paying the bills, Dad said.
Now Mom was rich.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My younger sister Anne and me on Christmas Day in the 1950s. Lipstick added, why? Because Mom let us—after all, it was Christmas!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’d been working on family-centered poems, and last holiday season this one popped into my head—an image of my late mother, on Christmas morning, running across the living room to retrieve a crisp one hundred dollar bill from the Christmas tree. In today’s money, that would be about $859! This was a generous gift for a blue-collar guy like my dad to give my mom. To this day I suspect she used some of it to pay off bills, despite his admonition not to.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Viti, a graduate of Barnard College and Boston College Law School, teaches in the Writing Program at the Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Her writing—poetry, fiction and creative non fiction— has appeared in a variety of print and online venues, including Callinectes Sapidus (ed. Rafael Alvarez), The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television (ed. Tiffany Potter and C.W. Marshall), Subterranean Blue Poetry, Three Drops in a Cauldron, Paterson Review (forthcoming), Damfino journal, The Lost Country, Irish Literary Review, The Song Is, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Hedgerow, Star 82 Review, Poetry Pacific, Yoga Magazine, Connections Magazine, WILLA, Sojourner News, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Barefoot Review, Drunk Monkeys, Grey Sparrow Review, Connections, The Baltimore Sun, and in a curated exhibit at Boston City Hall. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com. (Author photo by Richard Howard)