A Family Tradition

Each Christmas Eve her family gathered all together
for dinner, holiday cheer, and giving gifts. Every year,
before any of the gifts could be distributed, her mother
read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” for all to hear.

As children – she, her siblings, their cousins – all eagerly
awaited the reading, a rapt audience of their own volition.
They hung on every word, their faces glowing gleefully.
To them this annual reading was a truly delightful tradition.

When she and her now teenage peers reached high school,
her mother’s reading of the poem required an admonition
for them to remain silent…being attentive simply wasn’t cool.
Her mother’s insistence on reading was just a foolish tradition.

Then, during their twenties, they all were so busy with college,
with courting and marriage, with their careers and ambition,
when skipping the gathering she felt secure in the knowledge
her reason was more important than keeping family tradition.

But, after her own children arrived, these family get-togethers
somehow grew in importance, and she brooked no opposition
to their attending the Christmas Eve gathering. Her mother’s
annual reading of the poem had become a cherished tradition.

Last Christmas she had listened, tears glistening in her eyes,
as one last time her mother, her health now in poor condition,
had haltingly read the poem. This year once again she cries…
her brothers ask her to read the poem, carrying on the tradition.

Harry Edward Gilleland      08.18.04