The Poetry of Amber: Was it Christmas Eve You Came? Part 2

Christmas in Ireland is a troubling time. It’s the one time of the year where the petty squabbles of family dynamics are put to one side and replaced by an organised pretence of unity, harmony and well being. The birth of Jesus is celebrated by drinking far too much, eating to the point of explosion, participating in consumer capitalism and playing overly competitive games of charades, poker and trivial pursuit. As far as I can make out Jesus, if he existed, was not big into debauchery. Jesus would not enjoy Christmas with my family. But, I do (at least I do now). We all enjoy it. Why not? There’s time off work, enough booze to drop a heard of elephants and mined pies. We are not particularly religious as a whole. We do, however, retain some traditions like saying grace, if only to mark Christmas as a day to be differentiated from others.

Two days before Christmas I received an electronic communique from the Americas. Amber informed me that she was en route and would be staying with me for the duration of Christmas and New Year. I informed my parents that evening. I have a habit of doing unpredictable things (particularly when alcohol is involved). However, inviting somebody into our inner family sanctum during, as my mom phrased it the holiest time of the year (amazing considering the woman spent the majority of her life fighting the Catholic Church tooth and nail over the rights of women), was a tad inconsiderate even for me. There was nothing to be done. It was happening. A foreign entity was coming to upset the delicate balance of Christmas. To paraphrase airplane: the shit was about to hit the fan.

On Christmas Eve, I made my way to Dublin Airport to greet our guest. She was tired and emotional at the airport: a bad flight and an upset stomach. As we drew closer to my house it was clear that some extra courage was required for the introductions. A bottle of Vodka was deemed the appropriate measure. I had neglected to mention that Amber was a six foot plus biker chick with dreadlocks and tattoos.

As it urned out, I needn’t have worried. It is absolutely amazing how much the visit of a practicing wiccan (yes – technically a witch) can enliven a quasi-fictional Catholic habitus. Everybody was in full agreement: uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins. Amber was the best thing that ever happened on Christmas. The son of god was cast aside like the bones of the Christmas turkey.

After a brief lull in conversation upon the bearing of Ambers tattoos, Christmas was in full flow and livelier than ever. She stood up to sing on numerous occasions without any prompting. Being a professional bar tender, she kept the drink flowing like never before. The whole family was in awe of this exotic creature. My dad and my uncle were particularly fond of her. Both in their sixties, it is easy to see why such a vision of counter culture and sexuality would arouse their curiosity. Perhaps, in some small way, they were returned to the 1960’s of their youths. All the arrogance, excitement and dreams of their glory days personified in the guest who was promptly moved to the head of the table (an honor I will have to wait another twenty years to be even considered for).

Amber has become as much a part of our family Christmas ritual as anything pertaining to our culture. Indeed, she is discussed before the saying of grace and invoked whenever the conversation requires livening up. If, like me, you find family occasions somewhat taxing, you should consider inviting somebody so extraordinarily different. It is guaranteed to spice things up. It did wonders for me.

I promised to make this article about poetry. However, rather than embarrass myself stumbling about in stanzas, metric refrain and metaphor, I have decided to give a particular poem a context. Hopefully, it will help you to appreciate it. Enjoy:

Amber’s Epiphany

Was it Christmas Eve you came,

“the worst time of the year”

and nobody speaking of snow?

We were all on our best behaviour,

trying to live up to your name,

Amber – between ‘stop’ and ‘go’.

But O the icing on the cake:

when you removed your shoulder wrap

and bright tattoos shone all around,

shepherds and wise men, nudged awake,

drew nigh to view that starry map:

the cat knelt on the ground.

From the collection ‘Safe House’ by Iggy McGovern.

2 Responses to “The Poetry of Amber: Was it Christmas Eve You Came? Part 2”
  1. myella says:

    Coming from a highly religous background I feel obligated to throw in this comment.. I think Jesus was into the wine!! Transforming the water to alcohol when everybody ran out of vodka is a clear sign of him saying “drink thou’ in the name of my father”! I think that justifies (and especially) christmas drinking! Very nice poem btw!

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