hanging snowflakes paper decor

Christmas Eve, 1979

Amy Debrecht

The aunts have been drinking. Their highball glasses are ringed with Cherries in the Snow. Their lips come toward you, to kiss you on yours. They smell like Emeraude or Timeless. Their clip-on bell earrings tinkle when they laugh, and their hose makes a swish-swish sound when they walk. They help you up to a barstool and fill your glass high with Pepsi, push the peanut bowl where you can reach it. You’re already clutching a new doll to your chest, though the smocking of your dress is itchy. You are the only child by many years and are allowed to stay up past midnight in the basement bar, watching the colored lights blink along the shelves of booze, and the garland shiver in the breeze of the heater when it kicks on. But now you’re nodding off on the little plaid loveseat. Someone carries you upstairs to the twin bed in the guest room. When you feel the pile of coats beneath you and smell the faint perfume and cigarette smoke exhale from the fabric, your eyes pop open and one of the aunts is covering you with your own dress coat, the trench with the faux fur collar, a drink in her other hand, kissing you on the forehead and saying, “Herzums is sleepy.” She leaves the door open because she knows you will snooze better to the distant sound of merry-making—ice in glasses, Johnny Mathis, the mystery of adult voices and laughter wafting up the stairs, down the hall, down the decades, until you’re pulling cobwebs from the walls when you wake in a long-empty house.

Amy Debrecht’s poems have been published in SWWIM, The Ekphrastic Review, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She lives with her partner and pup in St. Louis where she works for a medical publisher and volunteers for Cinema St. Louis.