The Night Jesus Blew Out His Birthday Candle

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Note about the Story:

Christmas was always a very special and magical time in my childhood, a time when we stayed awake to hear Santa’s reindeer on our roof and searched for the Star of Bethlehem, sure we could see it every Christmas Eve.  Though we were poor, my mother and my grandparents did all they could to fill this very special day with love and holiday traditions we kept, year after year.  On my seventh Christmas, my mother decided to break with tradition and bake Jesus a birthday cake, and turned our Christmas Eve dinner and gathering into a birthday party, a Christmas that became one of the most magical and memorable nights of my childhood.

The Night Jesus Blew Out His Birthday Candle

I was seven on the Christmas Eve my mother baked a birthday cake for Jesus.  When she finished whipping the cake batter, she passed the bowl to me and I lifted shining drops of chocolate, like speckled ornaments to my lips.

It occurred to me as my fingers lined the batter bowl, that we would be the only ones to eat the cake.  If he came at all to the birthday party in his honor, Jesus could only watch—and who would blow out the candle?

Christmas Eve came.  Snow sparkled on our lawn and in the street and curled against our front door like a rumpled blanket until my sister and I took a shovel and scraped the snow and ice from our steps.  My grandmother was too frail to walk up our icy stairs, and soon she and my grandfather would be here, bearing bags of presents.  We knew already we would get pajama sets with sleeves that dangled inches past our arms.  We knew there would be Barbie dolls for my sister and me, and model race cars for my brother.

Andy Williams sang “The Little Drummer Boy,” and my sister and I strained to see the brightest star flickering like a dim night light behind lazily drifting clouds—the star of Bethlehem burning thousands of years, and thousands of miles away from that first Christmas.

After dinner, we all huddled around the kitchen table as my mother lit the candle on Jesus’ birthday cake.    “Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus blew out the candle?”  I announced loudly.  My grandmother shushed me, and we all sang happy birthday to Baby Jesus, whose place in his cradle of straw in our family manger would not be filled until he was born on midnight, Christmas Day and my mother placed him in his crib. We sang and I silently prayed to Jesus to please come and blow out his birthday candle.  I promised I would be good for the whole year if he would.

The singing stopped and we all looked at each other.  My mother raised her knife to cut the cake.  Suddenly the church steeple lamp next to the kitchen table started flickering, and all eyes turned toward it.  What’s wrong with it, my mother said and her voice and the voices of the other adults seemed very far away.

A whoosh of wind burst through the living room and the Christmas garland rustled.  I thought I heard the front door opening, then slamming shut.  The church lamp stopped flickering and we all looked back at the birthday cake.  The candle was blown out, and a long plume of black smoke rose where the flame once danced, moments earlier.

“He blew it out, he blew out the candle!” we kids exclaimed.  I leaned toward the cake in awe.  “No,” Mom said, “Your grandmother did it when everyone was looking at the lamp.”  But my grandmother shook her head, looking as surprised as the rest of us.

“It wasn’t me!” she said, gruffly.

Then what about the wind and the sound of the garland, rustling?   I wanted to know.

“It probably fell down again,” my mother said.   We all got up from the table and went to the living room.  The garland had not fallen down.  But it had moved.   My mother had hung it over the hole in the wall separating the living room from the kitchen.  We all saw that the ends of the garland now met over the doorway, framing my mother’s ceramic Jesus, smiling down at all of us. To this day, no one could explain where the wind had come from and how the garland had moved, and if my grandmother did blow out Jesus’ candle, she would never tell.

Robin Dawn Hudechek

Originally appeared in Eunoia Review

The day the lights went out

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the girl pulled the reading lamp cord
and the moon vanished.
In her backyard, fog thickened,
lacing wild rose bushes,
and covering the walkway in clouds.

The only light remaining flickered
in her pocket like a firefly.

She tugged again at the metal cord
and tried not to hear the blare of ambulances
and the shouts of people pointing up at the sky.

When the ground cooled below her,
she tucked her feet in slippers
and opened the door.

The light flapped inside her blouse
frantic as a trapped bee.

When she removed the object from her pocket,
moon crust flaking in her hands like shaved charcoal,
she tried not to stare at the now broken craters.

She tried not to stare at the hole in the sky
where the moon once settled.  She tried not to stare
at parting clouds without their silvery anchor.

Maybe if she broke the reading lamp
with the swinging metal cord, it would be enough.

Or she could pull that cord once more,
and let the moon leap back into the sky,

released from the pull of the earth:
her house, her bedroom-
her snug, warm pocket.

 

Robin Dawn Hudechek

This poem is published in Caliban Online #25.  I am very honored and thrilled to have four poems (pgs. 26-30) in this very beautiful and exciting journal, filled with brilliant writing and stunning artwork.    Please check it out!   http://calibanonline.com/25/index.html

 

My poem, “I Was with You When You Slept” was published on Verse-Virtual today!

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I am so thrilled that my poem, “I Was with You When You Slept” a poem that is very close to my heart, is up at Verse-Virtual today.  Please take the time to enjoy the beautiful work in this outstanding online journal.  I am so honored to be included among so many fine writers.

On a personal note, every time I return to this poem, I think of you, Mom, Diane Robinet Hansknecht.  This one is for you.  I love you very much!  http://www.verse-virtual.com/robin-dawn-hudechek-2016-october.html

 

Mean Teacher

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The Mean Teacher is coming,
the babysitter warned us.
Her fingers curl like talons outside our window.

The mean teacher is coming.
My father’s belt swings in one of her hands,
a mini chalkboard, in the other.

The mean teacher is coming.
The baby sitter warned us.
She will make me learn my abcs,
Letters bright as fruit plastered our walls.
My sister can read whole sentences.
Her gold star shines on her forehead,
but I’m too slow.

The mean teacher is coming
The babysitter warned me.
My father slips his belt off his pants,
hits me hard if I cry, and hits me harder
when I can’t stop crying.

The mean teacher is coming
I don’t want to learn my letters. I’m five.
I want to watch Sesame Street.
I want a life free as Oscar,
living in a trash can.
My banana peels will smell clean and sweet
and keep intruders away from my door.

The mean teacher is here:
the babysitter floods the room with light.
Hands arc outside our windows like claws,
naked hands without sleeves or rings,
a woman’s hands.

The mean teacher is here.
She can hear the shouting and doors slamming.
My mother is crying.  My father’s fist
smashes into her face.
My sister runs from the room,
but I can’t stop watching.

The mean teacher is here
One day my father will leave.

But he comes home every night for dinner.
This night I will crawl into his lap and
and tell him about the mean teacher
and he will believe me.

The mean teacher was here.
No, that’s only the neighbor.  My father points
to a man red-headed as Archie in the comics.
It doesn’t matter that his fingers are short and stubby,
too unlovely to distend into claws.
The hands in the window are gone.
The neighbor was never told
how my father protected me that one night
before he turned the key in the door
and never returned.

By Robin Dawn Hudechek

First appeared in Chiron Review, Winter, 2015

Three Poems in Inlandia: A Literary Journey!

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Inlandia, A Literary Journey is up today and I am very honored and happy to have three poems in this lovely online journal along with fiction by my friend, John Brantingham, and work by many other fine writers!  https://inlandiajournal.org/2016/05/09/robin-dawn-hudechek/

Caliban Online#23 is up!

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I am thrilled and honored to announce that Caliban Online #23 is up, and I have a prose poem in this issue, “Pharaoh’s Night” (pg. 83). This is a truly lovely issue of Caliban Online, dedicated to the brilliant writer and frequent contributor to Caliban, Jim Harrison (1937-2016), best known for his beautiful Legends of the Falls, which was made into the stunning hit movie. Please check it out, and if you like what you see–submit your work! Publisher Larry Smith is always looking for great writing and artwork! www.calibanonline.com

Last Days With You (For Richard)

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Thank you very much, Sarah Tatro and Cadence Collective for publishing my poem “Last Days With You” (For Richard) on your beautiful site this morning. This poem has a very special place in my heart, and I am honored it found a home with Cadence Collective.

Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets

Photo by Sarah Lim Photo by Sarah Lim

By Robin Dawn Hudechek

You never told us why you moved to your Mexican retreat
with your Mercedes Mini-Van and five Pit Bulls,
the ocean front home where water crashed against the rocks
and sprayed the house in chilling mists.

You would never go swimming there
or invite a woman into your home,
its floors slick with mud and dust.
We were afraid to sit on your leather couch
when you welcomed us there,
with your usual open-handed kindness,
your body already thinned and jaundiced,
an open tequila bottle and an empty glass nearby.

You introduced us to Ensenada’s famous fish tacos, bought
from a stand and eaten quickly, so you could
elbow your way back into the line and eat more,
these pleasures you shared with us, so transitory,
like your novel-in-progress that you outlined over the phone
in a voice crackling like sun-bleached paper.

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The Little Things You Do

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It is a real honor and joy for me that my poem, “The Little Things You Do” is featured on Cadence Collective today! 🙂

Cadence Collective: Long Beach Poets

040

By Robin Dawn Hudechek

tell me you love me: tea brought to me
on cut out doilies, napkins
like sleeping birds, wings folded
flat on a tray. Mouthwash bottles filled,
kitchen counters wiped clean and dishes
put away after every meal. Your need
to rest my feet on your lap and rub them.
And your greeting: “Hello beautiful.”
“Have I told you this morning that I love you?”

I love the way you shine your flashlight on stairs before
I step down and the way you hold my hand
though darkness steps between you and the sky,
and you can barely make out the stars
through the clouds in your eyes
slowly taking your vision.

I love our night walks, your hand
in the small of my back
as your long stride keeps us moving
past the boats swaying in the harbor
on the island of houses with blinking lights.

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The Night Jesus Blew Out His Birthday Candle

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I am very happy and honored that my creative non-fiction piece, “The Night Jesus Blew Out the Birthday Candle” was published this evening in Eunoia Review! This is the first time I have had a creative non-fiction piece published! 🙂

Eunoia Review

I was seven on the Christmas Eve my mother baked a birthday cake for Jesus. When she finished whipping the cake batter, she passed the bowl to me and I lifted shining drops of chocolate, like speckled ornaments, to my lips.

It occurred to me as my fingers lined the batter bowl that we would be the only ones to eat the cake. If he came at all to the birthday party in his honor, Jesus could only watch—and who would blow out the candle?

Christmas Eve came. Snow sparkled on our lawn and in the street and curled against our front door like a rumpled blanket until my sister and I took a shovel and scraped the snow and ice from our steps. My grandmother was too frail to walk up our icy stairs, and soon she and my grandfather would be here, bearing bags of presents. We knew…

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Porcupine Hair, poem by Robin Dawn Hudechek (MY MANE MEMORIES Poetry and Prose Series)

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I was so thrilled and honored to wake up this morning and find that my poem, “Porcupine Hair” was published by Silver Birch Press on their beautiful website!

Silver Birch Press

Robin Age 10Porcupine Hair
by Robin Dawn Hudechek

When my babysitter set down the shears,
I looked into the mirror,
told her I liked the haircut,
tried to sound sincere and couldn’t.

My thick hair, shiny as a blackbird’s wing
when it lay flat against my back
sprouted from my head in spiky curls,
unruly as the weeds shooting up every spring
through cracks in our sidewalk
at the edges of our lawn.

No matter what I did with my brush or comb
my hair stuck out over my ears, under my ears
and the back of my head.
I blamed myself for that awful haircut.

We couldn’t afford a salon cut,
so my babysitter volunteered.
When I tried to describe what I wanted,
waves curling at my shoulders
with a glow only the Breck girl could rival,
she tried to follow my instructions, but failed.
The kids already had enough reasons…

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