Ghosts of Christmas Past

christmasYou were two or three reaching for the shiny balls and tinsel strands and all of it was made in America before things had fallen apart and become globalized.

Tinsel won’t be something you choose, not really.  It seems unnatural and so the first tree you did on your own had strings of cranberries and popcorn and tiny white lights.

Years later you will be a wife.

There is a fireplace for Hollywood fires.  It’s the first thing the two of you saw when you bought the house.  The first thing you were going to be able to savor.  That crackle in the hearth.

And you did.

They start you off with dollhouses and Barbies and teddy bears.

These things say “girl.”

Your grandmother dresses you at Bullock’s Wilshire.  Her hand is dainty in the white gloves and she holds yours as if she is your mother.  She tries to be.  There will be wars later between them.  “She tried to steal you,” your mother says over and over.  “She wanted you for herself.”

Later you think that is how grandparents must be.  Except you know they thought your mother was unstable, or unfit.  Perhaps they did try and steal you away.

Your grandfather is the template for the man you will try and marry.  They seem to love each other all across your life.  You decide that the house will be like theirs was.  The garage full of tools like your grandfather had.  Glass jars holding bolts and screws and nails.  Tools to build anything, because he can.  The house is four stories high, a shingled Craftsman and dark as those kinds of houses are.  It embeds into your memory, thinking of the giant Raggedy Ann and the little dresses.

Spice cookies.  These are something your grandmother makes in the Fall.  The scent lingers, stretching years and years into the future when you will have her recipe box — years after her death.  She was always making cookies for her husband, because this is something women do, and you did it too.  You perfect the art of this during marriage.  Cookbooks line the walls.  Years later you will wonder why you wanted so many.  It was a way to escape into books.

You think about that first Christmas in your married house, because now the house will be sold.  How many cookies did you bake there?

Marriage is endurance.

Actually you aren’t even sure what it is anymore.  Or what it was supposed to be.

He came to your tiny Craftsman apartment on the hill and he didn’t want to go home.  You had a giant tree, and you had all the colored lights in the world ringing the rooms.  It must have been magical in the way you have been called magical at times by different people.

He didn’t want to go home.

You buy the house and you begin to buy the tools and you begin to build the garage you think he is going to love like your grandfather did, only he doesn’t.

Years later you look at your grandfather’s tools in the handmade oak chest and think of all the houses they had.  Strength starts to build in you.  It was only a house.

There are other houses.

There are other Christmases to look forward to.


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