Tuesday, December 19, 2006
A Christmas card arrived from my Aunt and Uncle yesterday. When I opened it, I kind of wondered what was going on in their heads. I know they've had a rough couple of years...my uncle's cancer, my grandmother's death, my aunt's cancer. So when I saw this card I was a bit concerned that maybe they weren't quite "right"...that maybe they had fallen off the deep end.
It's a lovely card. It's just...well...the people on it are black...
...and we are white...
...we are white...and not what you would call politically correct.
In fact, racial tolerance just isn't something that we discuss because there are some in our family who have downright neanderthal ideas about race relations.
So...this card perplexed me.
And then I opened it and read the note they had written on the inside.
"We found these in Grandma's Christmas cards. Just goes to show that she bought what was on sale...always. Love, Aunt J & Uncle H"
Even from the grave, my grandma was able to send me a Christmas smile...no...a Christmas laugh...and a couple tears. I miss her brand of crazy so much.
Christmas was a very special time for Grandma. We would drive the eight hours to visit for a day or two. No matter what time we arrived, whether it was noon or 2am, she had a full spread to eat...ham, turkey, potatoes, green beans, ambrosia salad...
...Oh ambrosia salad. That was made specifically because my sister mentioned one year, when she was about seven or eight, that she liked it. That was all it took for grandma to create a holiday tradition. And it remained on the holiday table even when my sister's palate matured and she outgrew ambrosia salad. I think Grandma probably threw a lot of it in the trash after the holidays and it probably would have made more sense to just stop making it every year. But it meant something to us...so it was always there.
She would put on her old LPs and sing along with the Christmas music (and I use the term "sing" very loosely...because Grandma was quite possibly the worst singer ever...cats would literally run and hide when she would sing).
She would put up her aluminum Christmas tree and decorate it with fake birds.
I have no idea how she did it, but over the course of a year she would collect garbage bags full of gifts to give to each of us. She would drag them out and lovingly plop them down in front of us with an announcement, "And here is your crap." She acted like she didn't care. But if you paid close attention, you would see her sitting there watching you unwrap each gift from your garbage bag, with eager anticipation in her eyes. She would tell you many times how if you didn't like it, that was too bad because she wasn't taking it back. But then she would also talk about the latest fashions she had seen on television that were like this gift or that gift. She would tell you stories about the shopping adventure that brought home this treasure or that treasure. Each gift, no matter how little sense it made to us, was given with love.
Even after Steve and I stopped travelling to Grandma's house for Christmas, my parents would still make the trek and return home with our trash bags of "crap." And as Grandma's dementia got worse and her health failed, the bags of crap became a great source of amusement for us. What was she thinking when she got this or that? What adventure did she have in choosing this for us? Taken out of the context of Grandma's Christmas we couldn't make any sense out of it. You see, the crap was there, but the stories weren't...and that made all the difference.
I miss Grandma...but more so at Christmas. And I imagine I will miss her every Christmas hereafter.
I think I'm going to frame that Christmas card and bring it out every year. Because it has a story behind it that I can tell...just like Grandma did. It will be my ambrosia salad.