Rhymes for Christmas time



Of the Baker City Herald

Joann Boyer lugs a suitcase from a backroom, warning it could take hours to browse through the treasure stored inside.

She pops the two latches and lifts out a three-ring binder covered in a fuzzy red fabric, lashed together with a tattered leather belt and bulging with 30 years of Christmas letters.

andquot;Without the belt, I think the book would have gone to pieces,andquot; says Boyer, 95.

There's a reason she's stashed these letters safely away.

These aren't the standard end-of-year updates that clog the postal system every December.

The book's first page is a hint to her secret: a copy of the poem andquot;Twas the Night Before Christmas.andquot;

It's also handy to know Boyer taught English her specialty is American Literature. She retired in 1970.

andquot;Poetry was my favorite. That's how I ended up rhyming history,andquot; she says.

Beginning in 1960, Boyer began composing her yearly Christmas letter to the rhythm of the jolly holiday poem describing Christmas Eve.

andquot;That was one of my favorite Christmas poems,andquot; she says.

Mostly, she wrote about family affairs.

From 1962: andquot;The farm is still solvent, the cattle are sleek

And school work proceeds as per schedule each week.andquot;

From 1984: andquot;Our Boyer grandkids are all three in the East

Each doing own things, sounding happy, at least.andquot;

She included major milestones.

From 1987: andquot;To one born in ought-eight it is kind of a scary 'un

To find yourself faced with that 'octagenarian.'andquot;

She threw in a bit of history too, documenting John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and the first man on the moon in 1969.

andquot;There's quite a bit of history there January first on through December. Everything that happened in the family and the world, if it was worth including,andquot; she says.

Her family frequently argues over who will inherit this treasure trove of information.

andquot;They use it for (family) history,andquot; she says.

Started her students on poetry

andquot;This is unique this community knows about this book,andquot; she says, pointing toward Haines, andquot;but it's the only community that does.andquot;

Boyer's former students probably recall her creative letters as well.

Once her English classes found out what she was doing, they wanted to get in on the act.

andquot;They liked the idea,andquot; she says.

Their efforts took a little guidance, though.

andquot;They did an awful sloppy job they'd rustle the rhyme til it was at the end, no matter what the line was,andquot; she smiles.

That mistake rhyming words at the end of each line even though it doesn't make sense is an easy one to make, says the former teacher.

andquot;It came awfully easy to just wrestle something in,andquot; she says.

But each December she dutifully sat down with pen and paper to craft her poem.

andquot;When I started getting Christmas cards, that gave me the approach to start writing,andquot; she says.

Only in 1988, it seems, was her letter a tad tardy.

andquot;Merry Christmas, dear people, nineteen eighty-eight

This just may be a year when our greetings are late;

Old Man Time threw a curve and to reverse gear,

Catching busy old Boyers completely off guard

And putting Joann in the cardiac ward.andquot;

Boyer smiles as her eyes skim over the poem.

andquot;I'd forgotten I'd had that till I read over it,andquot; she says.

Each year's letter is pasted on its own page, surrounded by snapshots of family gatherings and dated stamps hailing andquot;Merry Christmasandquot; and andquot;Christmas Greetings.andquot;

She's even saved Christmas cards from her friends and relatives and students.

andquot;Only one ex-pupil is still rhyming her letters,andquot; Boyer says. andquot;She does a good job.andquot;

She stopped rhyming after 30 years

Boyer stopped writing her holiday poems in the early 1990s, when she was well into her 80s.

andquot;When I quit doing those I had protests from all over the world,andquot; she says. andquot;They wanted me to rhyme the history of the world forever. They said 'this is the end of an era.'andquot;

Maybe, but now she can relive those eras whenever she wants.

andquot;That'd take you about 30 years to go through this,andquot; she smiles, flipping through the brittle pages. andquot;I figure when I get too old to do anything else, I can sit there and go back through that book.andquot;

The Baker City Herald
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