Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mom-Mom's House

Christmas was the best.

I can still close my eyes and see every room, every softly lit corner, every china figurine, the order of the music boxes on the shelves that flanked the fireplace, every carefully chosen painting. I can smell the eucalyptus in the dried flower arrangements and remember the dry ticking of the mantel clock, its miniature Westminster chime announcing the quarter hours.

But Christmas was the best. The deep recess of the bay window was filled with light, a small tree at its center. The larger tree was decorated with ornaments no one else had; jewel toned birds with nylon tails that trembled and reflected the lights, bobbing on cunning springs. Tiny musical instruments with real strings. Glass ornaments that seemed to sparkle with sugar frosting. A jaunty man with a pipe stood smoking on the mantel, a smoldering cone of pine incense hidden under his brightly painted coat. The candlesticks bore tiny wreaths of their own, their light reflecting softly on the Christmas china's painted trees. Ceramic plates shaped like white poinsettias, or holly leaves and berries, were filled with cookies. The kitchen was busy and full of wonderful smells; if you opened the dutch door (closed to keep the dog from being a pest) you might be handed a bin of ice cubes, or a basket of rolls, to ferry to the table.

The turkey rested on the kitchen counter while gravy was being made across two burners in the roasting pan, majestic on its white platter. The electric knife would be unsheathed and plugged in, the designated carver summoned. Little by little, as real estate on the glass-topped warming tray was claimed by steaming, fragrant bowls, we'd start to gather. Someone would wander from room to room finding out 'what everyone wants to drink'. Pop-Pop's special iced tea glass sat beside his plate at the head of the table (Or the foot, depending on which one of them you asked). We'd all assemble, the shortest kid getting the back corner chair (on the leg, be careful not to kick it).

For several minutes you'd hear nothing but the scraping of silver on china. Seconds were a ballet since there was very little space between the table and the dry sink. (This did not deter us.) The talking would begin with news of cousins and family friends, funny work anecdotes, good report cards, and the combination of soft light and a full belly would lull you into a half dream, surrounded by the hum and murmur of safety, the warmth of people who loved you.

We would assemble after dinner in the living room, opening gifts one at a time, youngest to oldest, until everyone sat with a drift of paper at their feet. Slowly, so everyone could see. The waiting got easier as you got older. Mostly. I still have the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, its crisp smell and crackling cover slowly yielding to bookmarks and highlighted passages 27 years later, one of my favorite presents.

This Christmas is hard, because we know, finally, completely, that we don't have that place to go back to. What we miss is not merely the place, but the love that made it, and filled it, and held it together. We have to cry a little, and be brave, and make our own sanctuary. I can still see her looking at something and saying, "Do you know what I'd do with this?"

Yep. We know. You'd make it beautiful. Thank you for showing us how.


Unfinished Rambler said...


RIP Mom Mom. We miss you.

Aunt Carol said...

Kim, thanks for so eloquently putting into words what I know all of us are feeling this year. Those Christmas's are not lost, they have moved to another metaphysical level. They are internal, not external. That, Virginia, is proven by the fact that you didn't miss a sense or a detail, with the possible exception of the giant brown, crispy turkey leg resting atop Pop-Pop's dinner plate waiting for the "trimmings" to join it.
Just like the bits and pieces of those Christmas'~ be they music box, ornament, dishes or Carolers ~ have scattered. It's up to us to determine what happens to those Christmas' past.
The love will still be with you...
Love, Aunt Carol
P.S. Just for the record, this is not my first posting!

LMC said...

Thanks for writing this Kim. I felt like I was there. They are memories that we will all hold on to forever. I found a picture of their house the other night at my parent's house. It was all covered in snow. It just looked so perfect. And it was.

Love you & miss you!!!

P.S. i also do not think this is my first comment on your blog, I think you wrote about pens one time.... and I think I commented then.... Obvi I would ( yeah Bryan can cringe at that... Obvi = obvious)

Celestial Charms said...

What a beautiful tribute to past memories created from love shown to eachother. I really relate to the part where your wrote "surrounded by the hum and murmur of safety, the warmth of people who loved you." Those of us whom choose to remember that feeling can continue to create that same warmth and attempt to share it again. I hope you have a blessed and Merry and your family.

Anonymous said...

OK guilty! Although I have advanced from my hand made crystal radio that I listened to in the attic of that home on Charles Ave. I have not yet got the knack for reading or responding to internet chatter. The memories are shared one on one with family, friends, and anyone else who will listen. Those special times and places are penned on my heart and my mind. Kim you certainly have a knack for bringing those memories to life and I thank you for that. The computers may crash, and the internet may be subject to cyber attack but nothing can take away the permanent impact those we love have made on us. Each of us has been permanently changed by the experience of life that we have had as family. It pains me to look around and see the "families" that have not had these experiences of love and sharing. There were hard times and there were good times but the strength of the bond in family always brought us through the other side better equipped for the future. We can only hope that the shared experience of those who have left us behind will be preserved in the love we share with all we meet. That will be our gift to the world.


Debor said...

Once again, you've written so eloquently I thought I was there with your family.

And I understand well the picture you paint of the comfort of familiar traditions and the need to make them our own as time passes and loved ones leave us.

Thank you for such a lovely post.

Jenn Thorson said...

What lovely people you come from! You've shared some beautiful visuals.

JD at I Do Things said...

What a beautiful post. You have such an amazing way of evoking every sense. I feel like I was there. Thank you for sharing that with us!

Happy New Year.

racheld said...

This was just wonderful---so evocative of a warm, familiar family gathering.

I have lovely memories of these at my Mammaw's house, and have tried for all the years she's been gone to BE that preparer and provider of such memories for my own family.

Thank you for sharing your own dear remembrance---it gave me a wonderful warm feeling on this 4-degree day.


Jocelyn said...

You take the Scrooge right out of me with this heartfelt, genuine evocation of the holiday--and the person who made it for you.

I'm glad you have such rich memories, honey.