from ‘Home at Christmas’ by Jack Kerouac
In December 1961, “Glamour” magazine published a prose sketch by Jack Kerouac called “Home at Christmas” in which he recalls a blizzardy holiday scene from his youth in Pawtucketville. The writing is loose and lyrical in his spontaneous prose mode. Following is an excerpt from the sketch, which is available in the book “Good Blonde & Others,” a collection of short fiction, essays, articles, and sketches compiled by editor Don Allen of Grey Fox Press in 1993 with the cooperation of John Sampas, representing the Kerouac Estate.—PM
“It’s a Sunday afternoon in New England just three days before Christmas—Ma’s making the roast in the kitchen range, also tapioca pudding so when Sister Nin comes in from outdoors with the shovel she’s been wielding in the blizzard there are cold waves of snowy air mixing with the heat steams of tapioca over the stove and in my mouth I can taste whipped cream cold from the icebox on the hot pudding tonight.
“While Ma cooks she also sits at the round kitchen table reading the “Boston American”—Pa’s in the parlor playing the Gospel Singers of Sunday cigarsmoke funnies time—I’m getting ready to take my big blizzard walk into the Massachusetts Shroud begins just down the end of dirt road Phebe Avenue, I’m rummaging in the closet for my hockey stick which will be my walking-stick and feeling-stick to find where puddles and creeklets have disappeared under two feet of snow this day.
. . .
“I start out, down the porch steps, overshoes, woolcap, coat, corduroy pants, mittens—There are Christmas wreaths in all the windows of sweet Phebe—No sign of G. J. or Billy with the kids sliding on the park slope, no sign of them on their porch except G. J.’s sister in her coat all wrapped communing with the plicking fall of vast snows in a silence all her own, girl-like, watching it pile on the porch rail, the little rills, sadnesses, mysteries—She waves—I plod down off our Sis-shoveled walk into Mrs. Quinn’s unshoveled walk where the going is deep, profound, happy—No shoveled walks all the way to Billy’s where bigbrother sixfoot Jack has worked in muffler with pink cheeks and white teeth, laughing—Black birds in the black cherry tree, and in the new snow breadcrumbs, bird tweak tracks, a little dot of kitty yellow, a star blob of plopsnow ball against Old MacArthur’s wreathy front door—O the clean porches of New England in the holy dry snow that’s drifting across new painted planks to pile in corners over rubber doormats, sleds, overshoes—The steam in the windows, the frost, the faces looking out—And over the sandbank now and down on semi-snow-plowed Phebe comes the great fwoosh of hard stormwind from the river cracking leafless shrubs in stick-unison, throwing swirls of coldsifted powder, pure, the freezing freshness everywhere, the sand frozen solid underneath—. . . .”
3 Responses to from ‘Home at Christmas’ by Jack Kerouac
I can see, feel and smell this vignette… and OMG, it brought back memories of my mother’s light, fluffy, sweet and delicious tapioca pudding. She whipped-up egg whites and folded them in to add that fluffy specialness. We all watched with a critical eye as she doled it out into the serving bowls – it had to be even-seven… then we’d savor each spoonful with someone holding out – lauding it over the rest to have the last spoonful. we were kids but kept it up until we were well into adulthood! Bill doesn’t like tapioca so no sharing until the boys came along and of course they LOVED Nana’s tapioca. Paul – thanks for that memory.
Marie, you just proved again the power of good writing, of literature, to reach deeply into our beings, into our memories and identities, and flip the switch of consciousness, putting us in touch with what makes us human.
Oh…for some tapioca right now! Paul, thanks for posting this, perfect timing for this blustery snow swept day.