It’s funny that I have been a pretty serious student of the Civil War for almost 30 years, and yet I am still learning and discovering so many things that I really did not know much about. Lately a lot of that has been due at least partially to Private Moses Beaulieu. I have been trying to follow his (my Civil War ancestor’s) journey through the war. Most recently, I have been studying the last great campaigns of the war for his unit, the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, in the Army of the Potomac.
T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, especially not a mouse.
The children were snoring all snug in our bed,
And I killed time as sermon number two was said.
Geoff read his history book in the loft,
After the last high notes of the night, I coughed.
We stumbled on home as the clock struck three,
And were greeted by Dash who needed to pee.
After feeding each dog and both of the cats,
We took off our coats, shoes, and hats.
With dawn fast approaching we took to our bed,
With visions of sleeping late stuck in our heads.
When in the back yard there arose such a clatter,
Dash sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
A dachshund stampede that was gone in a flash,
I groaned, shook my head, and then muttered “DASH!”
The moon couldn’t shine off of non-existent snow
(No White Christmas for us this year as you know),
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a flying sleigh, and nine panting reindeer.
My first thought was that I must be sick,
“There’s no way that I could be seeing St. Nick!”
More rapid than eagles his nine reindeer came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
And RUDOLPH! Keep that nose of yours shining with light!
There’ll be no mid-air sleigh collisions tonight!”
As a ball when it meets Teddy Ballgame would fly,
The reindeer and sleigh fiercely arced through the sky,
And up to the house-top the reindeer they flew,
And suddenly I wondered what Santa would do.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The pounding and scratching of each reindeer hoof.
I wondered whether Santa had already found,
That we have no chimney! And two small loud hounds!
I blinked to be sure of what I was seeing
When I realized that, yep, Rudolph was peeing.
Santa hopped out of the sleigh and dusted his clothes,
He strode across the yard like someone who knows.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all dirty with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had crammed in a sack,
He looked like Mall Santa, coffee break over, heading back.
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
He laughed as he kicked off melting ice and slush,
“Good God,” I said, “Santa Claus is a lush.”
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
So naturally we started to hear a loud screech.
“The smoke alarm! Where’s the stepladder to reach?”
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
Not anything like that creepy one on the shelf;
Then I saw he had another bag, packed full of coal,
And I wondered where he’d found it at the North Pole.
He saw the look on my face, and he smiled as he said
“Don’t worry, there’s no reason for you to feel dread.
That coal’s for the White House, they’ve all been quite bad,
Ivanka, Jr., Eric, and ESPECIALLY their dad!”
“But Santa,” I said, “do you have anything more?
Robert Mueller works very hard on this terrible chore.”
He chuckled and said in his cheery slurred speech,
“Fear not, they’ve got all that they need to impeach!”
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
They flew low and away, to avoid any missiles.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL*, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”
*Except certain people in DC.
I hadn’t been posting as much on the blog lately, and after writing about Aunt Donna I feel like I should distract myself a bit by writing about Civil War history. So indulge me, if you will.
Among the Union troops at Gettysburg was a middle-aged French-Canadian soldier who had enlisted at the beginning of the war in the Boston Volunteers, a unit that later became the 11th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. His name was Moses Beaulieu, and he was a widower who had left his 4 year old daughter in the care of the woman who ran the boarding house where they lived in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was one of the first members of his family (my mother’s family) to move from Quebec to Massachusetts, where he had found work as a bootmaker in the booming shoe industry.
This past week, my Aunt Donna, who had been suffering from vascular dementia for the last couple of years, passed away. She was 72 years old.
Aunt Donna was one of those relatives of mine who helped shape me into the person I am today, in many ways. I loved her very very much. I wish I had been able to be there for her more often, especially in the last few months. They were particularly difficult for her, as her ability to have a conversation and organize her thoughts was eroded away by the ravaging disease acting in conjunction with her other health issues. Before I met Kelly, she was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to move back to Massachusetts, so I could be there for her when she needed me. And in some ways I was, and I am all too glad to have done those things like help her get her house ready for the big hurricanes a few years ago. It was the least I could do. I wish I had done more.
She went with me to my first live Red Sox game, which was such a treat as I had been a fan most of my life but, living far away, was unable to attend any games, even in childhood. Kelly (who was also there) snapped this picture of us, which is my favorite pictures of her and I. It reminds me of how she was always so full of fun, so full of life. She was a truly good person, with an endless supply of empathy and compassion for other people. She donated to all sorts of liberal causes. She befriended so many people from different walks of life. Although she did not have any pets of her own as an adult (at least, of which I am aware), she loved animals, and loved to have our dogs sit with her or on her lap.
Even as a kid, she indulged me with things like books and models and taking me places. She was the one who introduced me to the science fiction of Isaac Asimov. She also got me interested in political writers like Molly Ivins and Robert Reich. She was a huge supporter of President Obama, and we had many great conversations about politics. She always encouraged my intellectual curiosity. And as a lifelong music teacher, she always encouraged passion for music.
I will miss her greatly, possibly more than I am capable of uttering or showing, at least in public. I think the world is lesser without her.
Most of you know that we’ve been doing this for a few years now. Partly it’s because we’re cheap broke, and partly it’s because we send this link to nearly 200 people who we’d legitimately want to send a real card to. Also, I’m not big on the card produced by Shutterfly and never seen by the sender thing, and this method actually has a Snowflake’s chance in Cambridge of generating a conversation*. So we do it this way.
There are some great summer activities coming up in and around Boston starting this weekend. Take a look and see what’s coming, I have some fun things on the docket.
Violet definitely has her favorite spots in the house to sleep. One of them is the basket that we made into a little cat bed. It sits in the guest room (now unofficially called Violet’s room since she is the one who spends the most time in there) under the window.
She also loves to sleep in the office up on the top floor, usually in the little cat hammock but not always. Lately she likes to sleep under the desk when I am sitting there at the computer working.
Yesterday when Kelly was up here practicing her music Violet also came up here to sit with her and listen.
We really lucked out to get a little kitty with such a sweet disposition.