I arrived yesterday in Sewanee, Tennessee, where I am visiting my parents and where we will celebrate what for me is an authentic Christmas. “Authentic” means, of course, the tradition one grew up in, and our tradition is heavily Victorian. Charles Dickens loved Christmas and my greatgrandparents, grandparents, parents, and I all love Dickens. One of my earliest acting experiences involved playing Tiny Tim in a dramatic reading performed in Sewanee’s School of Theology.
Among other rituals, my father every year writes a poem for the family Christmas card. Here’s a riff off a poem you know well that he wrote in 1969, the year a man first walked on the moon. Think of it as Clement Moore meeting the Jetsons. The poem appeared in numerous newspapers and for years was read annually on a Chicago radio station. Enjoy it as you move into the holiday spirit:
The Night before Christmas on the Moon
By Scott Bates
’Twas the night before Christmas, and up on the moon
The earth was as bright as a big blue balloon;
The stockings were hung in the station with care
In hopes that Saint Nicholas could find his way there;
The kids were all snug in their pneumatic sacks
While visions of mooncycles raced up their backs,
And Mom in her curlers and I in my phones
Had just settled down like a couple of drones,
When over the radar there rose such a ringing,
I hopped from my hammock to see what was swinging.
To the airlock I flew and unfastened the catch,
Adjusted my helmet and opened the hatch.
The earth on the layers of meteor dust
Gave a heavenly glow to the crater’s rough crust,
When what should appear like a vision from Mars
But a miniature spacecraft and eight tiny stars
With a miniature pilot, so cheerful and quick,
I knew it could only be “Outer-Space Nick”!
More rapid that rockets his comets they came,
And I heard him by radio call them by name:
“Now, Castor! now Pollux! now, Phoenix and Pharus!
On, Isaac! On, Tycho! On Pi and Polaris!
To the top of the tanks! To the nuclear boom!
Now, blast away! blast away! blast away! ZOOM!”
As sailplanes before the low stratus clouds fly
When they meet with a thermal, rise up to the sky,
So up to the dome-top the comets they soared
With the capsule of toys and its pilot aboard.
And then in a moment, I heard on my set,
The phizzing and whizzing of each little jet.
As I closed up the hatch and was turning around,
Down the fuel shaft Saint Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in metal, impeccably shined,
And his outerspace jacket with stardust was lined;
In a pack on his back he had toys without measure,
And he looked like a skindiver loaded with treasure!
His eyes—how they sparkled! His teeth, how they shone!
His cheeks were like novae, his nose like a cone!
Like the bow of the Archer, his mouth it was drawn,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the Swan;
His belt was bejeweled like the belt of Orion,
And his mane was as frosty as Leo’s the Lion;
From his shoulders guide rockets projected like wings,
And his head was, like Saturn, surrounded by rings;
His eyes were so bright, and his smile was so mellow,
There never was ever a farther-out fellow!
A wink of his eye and a wave of his hand,
Soon gave me to know he had everything planned;
He said not a word, but went straight to his job,
And filled all the stockings; then, turning a knob
And pressing a switch on his oxygen hose,
And giving a spring, up the fuel-shaft he rose;
He jumped in his ship, gave a buzz to his team,
And away they shot off like a nuclear stream.
But as I turned back to our little moon station,
I spied in the heavens a new constellation;
There was spelled out in space, in great letters of light,
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A SPACE FLIGHT!