Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O, Christmas Tree

Thursday evening, I sat down with a box of ornaments and a box of tissues.

Last month, I had received, via my mother, a box of my grandpa's old glass Christmas ornaments. Sitting down with that box of his brought him back to me the way nothing else really has.

My grandpa went after life with both hands. He patented a sort of explosive, near-gagging laugh that showed  the fillings glinting in his back molars. He carved the turkey every year: there is a category of photograph of him, carving knife in hand, face red from Chianti and the roaring fire, about to cut into the bird. I'm pretty sure there's one for each year we had Christmas at my parents' house, 1986 to 1997.

The other category of photograph is pictures of him holding me. He reliably wears an expression that most people reserve for the dessert case. I'm going to eat this thing, this beautiful, delectable granddaughter of mine, it says. He loved me fiercely. For my first eleven years, I was his only grandchild.

He had an eye for art, and he knew and understood and practiced beauty in a way most men I've met shy away from. He took me flower picking when I was a girl, carefully selecting and arranging the stems in his hand as we went along, holding each one at arms' length before choosing its place in the bundle. In my mother's childhood, he was a giver of colored pencils and paper tablets, an art director and critic as her talents for sketching and painting emerged.

There is so much of him, I realize, in how mom talks with me about my writing. About how she's always been there, giving me paper for book-making (when I was younger) and attending poetry competitions, and now, reading rough copy and offering comments.

These ornaments shone on the tree throughout my mom's and uncle's childhood. She remembers each individual one, sometimes even where he bought it and where it hung. A Christmas tree is a deeply personal thing, a tree laden with memories and charms for the things we wish for and love and remember best. Sitting there in its glow last week, I felt a little piece of family history had come to stay with me for keeps

.I wasn't alive yet when he purchased these, but I know how it went: holding each one at arms' length standing in the department store aisle, imagining its place on the tree before making his selection. 

Psst! Click here to subscribe to the feed!


Becky said...

Lovely tree and a most beautiful story of your GrandPa. What a wonderful guy he was. So glad you have the ornaments as a reminder.

Post a Comment

Thank you, so much, for taking the time to chime in here. Your comments make my day. Let's do our best to keep the snarkiness at bay and be a happy, friendly place in the interwebs.

Related Posts with Thumbnails