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Christmas Switch
by Carol Ellen Keenan

The tree looms high above me.
Fills the room with scent of pine.
There are candles filled with bubbles.
Shiny tinsel does entwine.

The presents spread before me.
And cheery promises abound.
Mom plans a scrumptious meal,
pumpkin pie and turkey browned.

I sit upon my momma’s lap.
She carefully explains,
“Santa frowns at girls who suck their thumbs
It is time. You must refrain.”

A tear slides down my cheek.
Santa Claus is mean and cruel.
Instead of milk and cookies,
I will leave him bowls of gruel.

At night mom helps me climb the stairs
and settle into bed.
Turns out the light and says, “Sweet dreams,”
Then tiptoes out of sight.

So I quickly say my prayers.
Think about that mean Saint Nick.
Then slip my tiny fingers
‘tween my rosy
little lips.

PHOTO: The author, 1952.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Christmas is often a blend of high expectations and inevitable disappointments. Often adults convey conflicting messages  to the ears of young children. As a little girl I struggled with the fact that a benevolent Santa can also punish children. Yet I always managed to wiggle out of consequences. Christmas Switch is an example of how I was spurred to create a plan of escape to avoid one of Santa’s rules.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol Keenan developed an interest in poetry as a young mother while reading children’s poems to her daughter in the 1980s. Her curiosity about the genre grew and she began to squeeze in snippets of time reading adult poetry. Soon she began writing her own poems. It was very satisfying. Then she took a writing course for teachers at Columbia University in 2002. The course prepared her to teach the writing process to young children. As a result, she taught writing to first graders for 10 years. During that period she neglected her own writing. However a recent retirement freed her to return to the process.