It was the same every Christmas.
The waxing and polishing finished,
boxes were carried down from the attic,
cardboard dark and fragile
reflecting the age of ornaments inside.
The last box held two wooden hoops
and a dried-up stem of golden-green —
the mistletoe ball, with last year’s sprig
still hanging by a ribbon.
Bad luck to throw it out at season’s end;
instead it must wait to be replaced
with the vibrant piece selected
for the new Christmastide.
My mother trimmed the ball herself,
wrapping the hoops with bright ribbons,
tucking in bits of holly, yew and ivy,
sometimes adding red and golden beads.
Then at the last, the mistletoe was hung
And adjusted perfectly
to hang between the winding greens.
When finished, my father hung the ball
In the dining room door as my mother watched
with teasing English eyes.
Always he was quick to grab her
and pull her tightly to him as they kissed,
entwined as the greens above their heads,
while we children watched with glee.
Their time is gone but ours is now
to make the ball, twine the greens
and hang the mistletoe in its gilded cage.
We’ll tell our families how once upon a time
in the days of war, a young American soldier
met a beautiful English girl and fell in love.
We’ll tell them how she made the kissing ball
and how we watched them kiss beneath it.
Then when we hang our ball we’ll say
“and they all lived happily ever after,”
and kiss under the mistletoe.