Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On Uncles and Holidays

My Monday Classics book club read Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales as our December selection. If you’ve not read it, you should. It’s very brief. Won’t take you long at all. I think it’s best aloud. Dylan Thomas always plays well aloud. If you wish you can even listen to him read it:
Like most things by Dylan Thomas, it is beautiful and lyric and full of made up hyphenated phrases that seem like they shouldn’t make sense, but are perfect in their descriptions.

“All the Christmases roll down towards the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.”

It’s heart-true, even when it doesn’t quite make sense. On reading it, I felt enveloped in holiday memories. Family parties of my own childhood, full of uncles and aunts and cousins and mischief. Thomas’s uncles, like mine, were large men, in front parlors, with new cigars or sitting in front of fires with loosened buttons.

It’s been a rough year for uncles in my family. I’ve already lost one. My husband has recently lost one, as well. Another has just been diagnosed with stage four cancer. I guess we’re to that time of life, where the giants of our youth are no longer young themselves. No matter when it comes, loss of those you love is … difficult. It’s cast a bit of a pall over my holidays. It made Thomas’s mix of sentimentality with an under-layer of sadness all the more apropos.

I’m heading home for a holiday party this year, something I haven’t done in several years. I think it will do my heart good, to sit surrounded by my uncles. I won’t be sitting among the Chinese lanterns and nibbling dates. More likely, I’ll be festooned with beer and pretzels, but my uncles will be there. And I’ll be home.


  1. Dylan Thomas isn't the only one who writes "heart-true." You took my heart with your beer and pretzels paragraph. May God bless you and yours.

  2. I haven't read any Dylan Thomas other than a few excerpts years ago when I was in college. I'll have to give his work a try when things aren't as hectic as they are now.

    The beer and pretzels and family sound pretty good to me. Have a great Christmas this year.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Probably his most famous work is the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" which is pretty apropros to my situation right now, too:

  3. Have you seen the BBC film version of it with Denholm Elliot? It's beautiful.