Christmas Eve Conversion
by Carol Coffee Reposa

When I was five, my mother took me
To the midnight service. No one
Could weather this much cold.
Coughs rose like incense
From pews and thumped
Against the gothic vaults,
Drowning out the Confession.
Transepts creaked
With random wheezes,
Ice hanging
From our prayers.

I shivered in blue taffeta, squirmed
Through the lessons
Drummed my toes
Against the pew in front.
Mother pushed a Christmas card
Into my hand, a painting
Of a Victorian home,
Green paper garlands
Around a cardboard door,
Lamps on either side
And a fanlight just above.

I left the drafty church,
Its sneezing priest
And stuttered chants, to open
The door. Inside, the necessary fire
Was lit. A nondenominational cat
Dozed by the hearth
While archetypal children
Peered at stockings hung with care.
I walked in to take my place with them,
Soaking up their warmth that night
And after.

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