Once, I was full of purpose.
Or thought I was,
Or thoughts made me follow a purpose,
Or was it a thought I liked to follow,
Or was the journey the purpose,
Or the idea of the journey,
Which gave me a purpose.
If I have a purpose,
Do I mean something?
And/or does the purpose give me meaning?
Or the meaning give me purpose?
Perhaps it was someone else’s purpose after all.
Seems like the more purpose I have the less I have,
Perhaps my purpose has been to follow desire,
And that is my purpose,
Or the intention of my purpose?
How can I tell?
By relinquishing my purpose?
Let it all be gone.
Let it be gone.
Let it be gone.
Thoughts of a different life or path.
Let it be gone.
The past mistakes.
Let them stand.
The past wins.
Let them live their lives.
My tendency to interfere.
Let it be gone.
My intention to love. And love only.
Let it remain and grow.
It’s been a long road,
Tarmac, concrete, dirt filled tracks and open fields,
They all keep coming regardless.
Still, the walking goes on,
Relationships, discussions, collisions, loving unions,
They all happen, not stopping progress.
And while the miles pass by quickly,
Nothing is achieved,
The impact left in a vapor trail, never tasted, always left behind.
So, at last, I see more trails ahead,
And realize, I have achieved nothing, and yet seem somehow glad,
Or at least not dissatisfied about it.
As I head towards home.
Today, I don’t have to make the long walk to the farmer’s field,
For today we are here with what is left of our family.
My mother is busy in the kitchen readying the ingredients for the spice cake.
The hallmark of Christmas in rural Ireland. 1943.
I turned 14 yesterday; soon my part time activities will turnover in a few days from now.
Gone will be forever the school days of Carricarrig,
No longer a need to fill the lock with stones,
Or other pranks to avoid learning.
Mother’s soft voice comes from the kitchen,
“Fetch some turf Michael” and I know I will be venturing out again,
In the dank cold, to sneak across fields and take what is not ours to fuel the fire.
Mother would never endorse such theft, but neither does she know the turf is not ours.
After a successful commando raid, the turf is safely home,
Mother kindles the fire in readiness for the baking in the simple oven,
And soon enough, the smell of oriental spices and smoldering sultanas spreads over BallyLoughHane.
A Christmas indeed. No other present save that of Baby Jesus needed.
A CHRISTMAS TALE
I am going to start this weekend with a reflection I wrote about Christmas in 1961, when I was a boy of six. It’s not the happiest story, but it has been one of those stories that keeps on being relevant in my life. It was written just prior to Christmas 2012.
When I was five or six years old, my father would give me a treat over the Christmas time, taking me to midnight Mass at the local church in Melksham. (Small market town in Wiltshire, England). That evening we went into church, which was packed to the gills, I was just in wonder where all these people had come from, as “normal” Mass would only fill the Church to 1/3 at best, this evening everyone was full of good cheer and perhaps a little excess based on the volume of the less than expert singers standing at the back of the Church.
Anyway, this was a great treat for me, I was never allowed to stay up this late, and the extra pleasure of being able to spend the evening with my dad. Dad said I could come if I could stay awake, I guess I was wired to stay up that night.
It was a cold and dark night as we made our way out of the Church, with many hands been shaken and Merry Christmas’s being said in the parking lot. As we made our way to the car my father noted that a side window of our Standard 10 has been forced open. Earlier that evening, one of my dad’s friends had given presents for the family, and my dad had stacked them up on the back window. I was particularly excited about this, as I knew we could only rely on a few close relatives for gifts and these others were going to be a bonus from someone who cared about us.
They were gone. My father was devastated, or rather very angry. I had seen him angry before, but this time he was both angry and sad at the same time.
For some reason which I still don’t really understand, he did not report it to the police but rather looked up and down the street a while and then bundled me into the car and we set off for our cottage a few miles away in a village called Semington. As I sat in the car with the presents gone, I wondered why someone would do something as cruel as take our presents, if I was honest, in particular my present.
What did that man who I knew only as “Pete” think enough about me to give me a present? Mine looked like a big one, as I had investigated that before we headed into church. I think this may be my first memory of crying for something that I really mourned the loss of, did that present contain the toy that would sustain me for another 12 months? It was gone, along with all the future memories of playing with it.
In addition I learnt a new word that evening. Thief. Someone who took something that didn’t belong to them.
Previously reduced to me sneaking an extra chocolate out of the family “Christmas Chocs”, or something that you heard on the radio or TV when someone robbed a bank, the word thief was not in my youthful vocabulary. Somehow, the thief taking my present made my world different, and I had moved from the safe world of St. Anthony’s and the birth of Christ, to the cold outside and a car bereft of our Christmas cheer.
In retrospect now, some fifty years hence, I wonder about the person who took those presents. Did he or she have no presents for their children and therefore fall to the temptation. We obviously must have had more than just was in the car, as on Christmas morning, most of the other presents would be safely tucked under our tree at home. I recall my dad used to leave that side window ajar as he would use it to flick cigarette ash out of the car while driving. Perhaps that was the invitation the “thief” needed.
I spent some of the day yesterday (December 2012) giving out Christmas gift packages to inmates at a local prison. I said several hundred Merry Christmas’s, shook all their hands and delivered a small gift package donated by local businesses and individuals who care. I know for some of these people this would be all they would get this year. Perhaps that was the way of the person who took our presents all those years ago.
At this time we can be grateful for so much, Christmas is a time of hope and family love. As we share it with each other, let us share in forgiveness, which may be the greatest gift of all. I forgive the person who took my “mystery” present all those years ago. I hope it did their family some good at the time. The real present I had that year was my family and the love of God, I understand that was the real gift that Christmas.
Perhaps if we don’t just say the words “I forgive you” but feel them inside ourselves, we will all have a more wonderful holiday. In fact I am sure we will.
Let us spend a couple of minutes this Christmastide reflecting on this story and see if we see any connections to our own journeys? How does forgiveness and reconciliation work in our own lives?
Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas and Happy New Year.