Thursday, November 29, 2007

Larry Nelson...A Cup Of Christmas Tea

One of my favorite radio personalities was KOMO AM 1000's Larry Nelson. He had a deep musical voice that most women in the morning were in love with. Larry would recite poetry, play wonderful music and banter with his listeners. It was a wonderful Program. Every Christmas, Larry Would read this poem with his musical voice, and the world would come to a screeching halt until it was finished. He backed it with sound effects and christmas music. By the time he was finished, there was not a dry eye in the Pacific Northwest. He did this every year. By the time I left for Adak, Alaska, he was advertising when he would be playing it, so people would be sure to listen. Traffic pulled over, work stopped and everyone listened to A Cup Of Christmas Tea. It was magical.

The radio station has since changed it's format to news only, and Larry has been put out to pasture. I hear his voice every once in awhile advertising Dux Beds or whatever. CHristmas just isn't the same without him. My mornings aren't either. I wonder if KOMO really knows what they have done. pity no one will tell them. Pity no one would listen anyway. I still every Christmas think of that magic moment when The whole Puget Sound area halted and heard a little bit of Christmas in the air...sigh.

I wrote that several years ago, and thought it warranted re-publishing. Larry Nelson died today. The outpouring of tributes and memories has overwhelmed KOMO's website. They exceeded their bandwidth! An ABC affiliate news station, and it was swamped! Larry died of Lung Cancer.

The people that were able to get in and post on their webpage, all had the same memories of how much a part of their lives he was. I woke up listening to him tell in awe about the Berlin Wall falling. He took THE BREAKFAST TABLE to Berlin and broadcast with the chip, chip chip of the wall being hammered down reverberating in the background. I think that is the one moment in History that I will always remember.

The week before Christmas, he would schedule the program with STAN BORENSON, the Swedish accordian player, who cracked everyone up with his witty songs. He would also play SIX WHITE BOOMERS, and STOP THE CALVARY, and of course he would replay A Cup Of Christmas Tea. Tonight the radio station KOMO AM 1000 played it again, and of course there was not a dry eye in the Sound! He was wonderful.

Rest well Lar...You will be missed.

A Cup of Christmas Tea
by Tom Hegg

The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to burn
At last the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn.
The cards were in the mail, all the gifts beneath the tree
And 30 days reprieve till VISA could catch up with me.

Though smug satisfaction seemed the order of the day
Something still was nagging me and would not go away
A week before I got a letter from my old great Aunt
It read: Of course I'll understand completely if you can't
But if you find you have some time how wonderful if we
Could have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea.

She'd had a mild stroke that year which crippled her left side
Though house bound now my folks had said it hadn't hurt her pride
They said: She'd love to see you. What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have a cup of Christmas tea.

But boy! I didn't want to go. Oh, what a bitter pill
To see and old relation and how far she'd gone downhill
I remembered her as vigorous, as funny and as bright
I remembered Christmas Eves when she regaled us half the night.

I didn't want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to be depressed. I didn't need the strain.
And what about my brother? Why not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified, but then before I knew
The reasons not to go I so painstakingly had built
Were cracking wide and crumbling in an acid rain of guilt.

I put on boots and gloves and cap, shame stinging every pore
And armed with squeegee, sand and map, I went out my front door.
I drove in from the suburbs to the older part of town
The pastels of the newer homes gave way to gray and brown.

I had that disembodied feeling as the car pulled up
And stopped beside the wooden house that held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door I really couldn't tell...
I watched my hand rise up and press the button of the bell.

I waited, aided by my nervous rocking to and fro
And just as I was thinking I should turn around and go
I heard the rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall
The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall.
The clicking of the door latch and the sliding of the bolt
And a little swollen struggle popped it open with a jolt.

She stood there pale and tiny, looking fragile as an egg
I forced myself from staring at the brace that held her leg.
And though her thick bifocals seemed to crack and spread her eyes
Their milky and refracted depths lit up with young surprise.
Come in! Come in! She laughed the words. She took me by the hand
And all my fears dissolved away as if by her command.
We went inside and then before I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose was Christmas past, alive, intact!

The scent of candied oranges, of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers in their military line,
The porcelain Nativity I'd always loved so much,
The Dresden and the crystal I'd been told I mustn't touch.
My spirit fairly bolted like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments of calico and glass.

Like magic I was six again, deep in a Christmas spell
Steeped in the million memories the boy inside knew well.
And here among old Christmas cards so lovingly displayed
A special place of honor for the ones we kids had made.
And there, beside her rocking chair, the center of it all
My great Aunt stood and said how nice it was that I had come to call.

I sat and rattled on about the weather and the flu
She listened very patiently then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began to flow. I started making sense
I lost the phony breeziness I use when I get tense.
She was still passionately interested in everything I did.
She was positive. Encouraging. Like when I was a kid.
Simple generalities still sent her into fits
She demanded the specifics. The particulars. The bits.

We talked about the limitations that she'd had to face
She spoke with utter candor and with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality of crutch and straightened knee
On wings of hospitality she flew to brew the tea.
I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years.
I looked around at Christmas through a thick hot blur of tears.

And the candles and the holly she'd arranged on every shelf
The impossibly good cookies she still somehow baked herself.
But these rich and tactile memories became quite pale and thin
When measured by the Christmas my great Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent, but my great Aunt was whole
I saw a Christmas miracle, the triumph of a soul.

The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall
The rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups. She smiled and then she handed one to me
And then we settled back and had a cup of Christmas tea.

Copyright © Tom Hegg

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem. The blessing is ours when we take ourselves out of the picture and look to needs of others first. Very heat-warming. Thank you.