‘Family Christmas’ by Roxana Robinson

Robinson, Roxana 2000

Family Christmas by Roxana Robinson, 2000

The magic trick:

Using a story within the story to further layer themes and meanings

Today we celebrate Christmas with a story about learning life lessons of relative poverty and the politics of resentment. If that doesn’t sound like a cup of holiday cheer, you’re right; but it’s a very good story.

Tucked in the middle of the overall narrative we get the narrator’s father telling at story his community-service project. It’s a compact, little story, and though it isn’t particularly striking on its own, it works to add new layers of meaning to the bigger picture of the story as a whole. And that’s quite a trick on Robinson’s part.

The selection:

MY father was talking about his work. I don’t know when, exactly, I began to hear the noises from the kitchen. I looked across at Sam, who was leaning against my father’s chair. He looked back at me, and we both listened. Everyone else seemed to be listening to my father’s story.

“It’s hard to get people from below the poverty level involved with community projects,” he was saying. “We try to encourage anyone who’s willing. We try to make it easy for them, and whatever they want to do, we try to help. Well, one woman, a single mother with two children, was pretty far below the poverty level. She had volunteered once or twice at school, and she told the counselors she wanted to set up a kids’ summer program.”



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