Saturday, December 19, 2009

What a Night Before Christmas!

It's Christmas: A time for family, for giving and for tradition. And in this household, it is a time for writing poems!

A few years ago I wrote a poem to read at my family's Thanksgiving feast. It was a silly ditty that showcased each of the family members gathered at my parents' home that day. The poem was a big hit, and what started as a one-time occurence has snowballed into a tradition. A tradition that I once considered uniquely mine.

I have written at least one Christmas poem each year since 2,000. Sometimes I write one to commemorate a gathering of the Peases, and occasionally my Christmas poem features the Bessey side. These poems are not serious attempts at poetry. They are simple rhyming verses made up on the spur of the moment, designed to entertain my friends and my family members.

But what I once thought was my own stamp of originality on the Besseys' holiday season has been proven to be an older family tradition, instead. It is one that makes me proud. I have discovered that my uncle, George Bessey, and my grandfather, Arthur 'Bappa' Bessey, were writers of silly ditties, too. As many members of my family once did, George and Bappa worked for Great Northern Paper Company back in the 1950's and 1960's, and lived for weeks and months at a time in that company's woods camps. The winters in our northern forests were long and desolate, and these two men passed their leisure time composing poems to delight and entertain their fellow loggers, cooks and clerks. As you will soon see, their senses of humor were rather ribald. (Finally! I have an excuse! It's a genetic predisposition! Phew...) The town of Ste. Aurelie which is referenced in this poem is in Quebec, just over the border from Big Six Township. St. Zacharie is just south of that, west of Maine's T5 R20. Rumor has it that the delights beyond the boundary were irresistible, even for a jolly old elf.

Many of Uncle George's and Bappa's poems were published in the GNP's newsletter, the Pittston Farm Weekly. I invite you to visit Pittston Farm's website. The farm brims with history pertaining to Maine's once-great logging industry. That same history is the story of the Besseys. My family.

With Christmas less than a week away, I thought I would share one or two of those old poems with you. The river drives are over. The snow-bound logging camps in the woods are gone now, too, and so are Uncle George and Bappa. I miss those men every day. But I have their written words, and those words--those verses--make me smile.

Just like they used to.

Merry Christmas.

What a Night Before Christmas!
by George Bessey
circa 1960?

Twas the night after Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except Santa’s spouse
Who, with shabby old house coat and curlers in hair,
Was making S.C. wish that he wasn’t there.
“So the children were nestled all snug in their beds!”
She shouted at him as she waved some blonde threads.
“Now, patience, my dear,” pleaded Santa with pain,
“If you’ll just let me speak, I’ll try to explain.

“I left here on time, albeit quite shivery,
Intending to make the Christmas delivery.
But before my first stop, it became crystal clear
That ahead of my sled were eight crazy reindeer!
They bypassed the houses where I planned to go
And finally dumped me right out in the snow
Where, what with my wondering eyes should I sight,
But a house full of girls—and a single red light!

“ ‘Hey, girls! Look who’s here!’ I heard one exclaim.
And there rose such a cheer I was glad that I came.
They dusted me off and invited me in,
And their boss introduced them to me with a grin:
‘Here’s Pat, Midge and Fran and a loser named Vixen.
She’s red-headed, drives a Rambler and voted for Nixon!
Here’s Connie and Cuddles and Bubbles and Joyce.
Now look them all over and then take your choice.’

“Now, my dearest, you know that I could not agree
To take one and not all of them…up on my knee.
So I said to their leader, ‘It would be a crime
If I didn’t give all of your girls equal time.’
She chuckled and said, ‘You’re a helluva gent!
And I lingered with them till my ear was quite bent,
Then before I departed, I gave them their toys:
Five sables, three bobcats, a beaver and a golden decoy.

“Despite what you think, there’s no reason to doubt
That I planned to continue my regular route.
But when for my list, I ventured to look,
What should I find but a little black book!
To hunt for my list I knew would take ages,
So I used in its place that little book’s pages.
And though (as you know) I’m quick to see,
The first address led to the Auberge at Ste Aurelie.

“Now, the names in that book included ‘Annette’,
‘Beatrice’, ‘Lilli’ and a yummy ‘Yvette’.
But just which was which? There was no guessing whom
Until they all took me to their dressing room.
And there I discovered Annette had a mole;
Bea really was blonde; and Yvette wore a scroll
Tattooed on her thigh that caused me to pause;
For on it was written ‘J’adore Santa Claus!’

“The evening rushed on in a dizzying whirl
As the little black book led to girl after girl
In Greenville and Jackman and St. George and St. Zacharie
And each of them had to eggnog and nutmeg me!
And I’m not to blame if their clothing was scanty
Or if they were all simply wild about Santy.
Thus it was that the sun rose over Maine
At the very same time I was leaving the I.P. Chain.

“After that, Sugarplum, your jolly old gnome
Hopped into his sleigh and headed for home.
Now I’ve told you my story with patience and care;
So I’m sure you’ll excuse that bit of blonde hair!”
“Indeed, I will not!” Mrs. Santa shot back.
Then without a word, she went straight to his pack
And dumped out a doll you’ll not find on a shelf!
Said Santa, quite weakly: “It’s just a new elf.”

“A disgrace to your calling—that’s what you are!”
Mrs. Santa came on like an angry hussar,
“There’s only one way to undo what you’ve done—
Now don’t argue with me! I’m sending our son!
He’s the symbol of everything you ought to be:
Love of family, clean living—in short—decency!”
“My gawd!” muttered Santa to this revelation,
“That pantywaist kid will kill my reputation!”

But although Santa pleaded, his wife remained firm,
Shouting, “Take off that suit, you philandering worm!”
In a twinkling their son made ready to go;
Candelabrum in hand and dimples aglow!
“Now be careful, my precious, and be a good boy,”
Mrs. Santa said kissing her bundle of joy.
‘Twas then Santa shouted, his voice rather messy!
“Give that little black book back to bachelor George Bessey!

And so ends our story, as Santa said, rather meekly…
Happy Christmas to all—A la Pittston Farm Weekly.


  1. What a cracker of a poem Karen !!

  2. Heh...Uncle George was quite the poet. Wait until you see the one I post this afternoon! It's an amazing analogy of the river drives that used to be usch a part of our culture...and it's written with a great deal of humor, too. One of my favorite family poems!

    Thanks for stopping by and reading!