Oh, Christmas Tree…Oh, Christmas Tree!

The first weekend in December:  I hauled up the Christmas tree box from the basement. I didn’t even get it set down on the floor and the boys were trying to tear into it like it was a present on Christmas day. “You have to wait. This is just the Christmas tree. Mommy is going to set it up. THEN you can help put the ornaments on,” I said. This seemed to appease the little Christmas beasts.

I pulled out the pieces. The top, middle and bottom. Gotta love these new trees that practically come put together, lights and all. No more sorting branches by faded color stickers at the end of each branch. No more waiting for Dad to put the lights on the tree.

 Oh, the childhood memories I have of pacing while waiting for the tree to be ready. Trying to wait patiently as my Dad made piles of similar sized branches. Getting anxious and digging through the boxes of ornaments to decide which ones to hang first.

“Dad, are you almost done?” and “Dad, can we hang the ornaments yet?” and “Dad…Dad…Dad…” We probably pestered him the whole time, but he kept working away, meticulously straightening branches and hanging lights. Now, I am the same way about straightening each branch, making sure the lights are strung around evenly. Thanks, Dad, for passing on this obsessive behavior about how the tree should look.

When I was pulling the tree out a sparkly green ball bounced across the hardwood floor. I recognized it immediately. It was one of Grandma Jean’s ornaments from last year.

I miss her. She would be so happy we are putting up her tree. I can hear her now, “Isn’t that a nice tree? Look how each branch is so perfect and how all the lights sparkle. It is a beautiful tree. Uncle Steve picked that tree out special for me (every year he would come and help her set up the tree and even come back and take it down. What a good son. I hope one of my kids will do that for me when I am old),” I can hear her now, as I sit here thinking about her. I can see her in her beige leather recliner int he big living room, crocheting away on a multicolored afghan, watching tv, and admiring her tree.

 

If she were here now, I know she would want to see all of our trees. She would ask, “What do the babies think of the tree?” and she would remind me (even though I know) to “make sure you keep the ornaments away from the babies. They could swallow one of those hooks. You have to keep them safe. Get down on the floor and make sure a hook didn’t fall off that you didn’t see. You have to be real careful. Run your hands along the floor.”  And even though I know this, I would reply, “Okay, Grandma,” and I would probably tell her about how I have the tree set up on a card table in the living room so none of the little ones can reach it. And she would say, “I know, hunny. You take such good care of those babies,” and she would tell me how proud she is of me. Man, I love her and miss her. 

It was a trial and error with the trees this year. I put up two. A small one and a regular sized one. I put up the little tree first just to see what the kids think of it…and I was also making sure they weren’t going to try to climb it. I set it up on a small table in the corner. I put the ottoman in front of the table and a small chest ont the other side. The twins couldn’t reach it, but it was still a bad idea. Collin just used the items as step stools to get right up to the tree.

See what happens when my back is turned?!

Needless to say, it was moved. I also used a taller table for the large tree so there were no stepping stools. One of these days when the kids are older and I am able to put the tree on the floor, like normal people do, they are going to be confused. I can hear them already, “Why is the tree ont the floor, Mom?”

I located the plugs on each different part of the tree and had that thing standing upright and lit in five minutes. Hallelujah!

I put Grandma’s sparkly green ornament right by a white light so it sparkles and glitters all the time.

I love Christmas. I love all of the memories, even ones as simple as a small ornament.

xxx

Grandma Jean’s Story

“Grandma Jean’s Story”

It was a perfect day at the beach. A light salty breeze blew the rim of my Grandma’s big sun hat, threatening to blow it out to sea. She pulled it down harder on her head with both hands and tied the pink ribbon under her chin with a tight loopy bow. I love the way her hands look, paper-thin with old freckles blotching the tops of them. She had delicate hands, artist’s hands, that would never harm you. She would often pat my back or rub my arms, telling me how much she loves me and how good I am. She was so soft and kind.

Her fingers were unique. I remember studying them when I was little. The very tips of two of her fingers on her right hand were slightly gone, giving them a claw like appearance. The nails curled around her skin and grew close, protecting an old injury. They were still pretty hands. They were hers.

She lost them while driving a bus. It broke down when she opened the hood, I think a belt cut them off. I wish I would have listened to that story more closely. She’s not here to tell it anymore. Even though she wasn’t one to go on about an old story; she just lived and loved all her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids with all her heart.

Grandma Jean, North Carolina

“Hunny, we need to get you a big hat like this. You should always wear a hat out in the sun to protect your face. You have such beautiful skin.”

“Okay, Grandma,” I said, pacifying her. At that time I would never be caught dead wearing a thing like that; silk hot pink flowers tucked around the ribbon. I was 23.

It’s 6 am and I’m not sure why I’m up so early. I have never seen the sunrise over the ocean before, at least not that I could remember. Still, it’s so early but I dragged my butt out of bed to go with grandma.

She always found the best treasures on the beach early in the morning. Large conch shells, small colorful shells that looked like gems in the sand, and perfect driftwood that was smooth and worn from the crashing waves. We once dragged half a tree across the beach and through many states just to get it home for her.

It’s been years and the driftwood is still around, propped up against pots of geraniums and petunias on the back porch. Unfortunately grandma is not here, but she left us with perfect memories.

We would spend several weeks on the North Carolina beach. The whole family packed into a beach house. One of my favorite memories is Grandma insisting that she was just going to sit in the sand and let the waves swish over her feet. “Okay, Grandma. We’re going to go swim and play around in the sand.”

A while later we noticed Grandma waving her big ol’ bonnet above her head as if she was trying to flag down a plane. “Kids! Help! Come here!”  High tide was coming in and the waves were almost to her waist. We ran and helped her up before she was washed out to sea. That is the thing I loved about her. She may not have the best mobility, but she enjoyed herself and lived in the moment. I love her for that.

Even the memories that embarrassed me at age 8 are treasures now. My grandma always took my sister, cousin, and me to the grocery store. It was not uncommon for us to be several aisles over with grandma yelling for us, “Amanda, where are you guys at? Do you want chicken for supper?” What were we supposed to do, yell back over the aisles? Instead, we rushed back over so she wouldn’t get to aisle ten and be yelling across the whole store. I think it’s hilarious now. It’s just grandma.

I need to go buy myself a big hat with a floppy brim. I would not be embarassed to wear it now. She taught me so much. I miss her.

xxx

This post is part of Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writing Workshop. You can read her immensely entertaining blog by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by!

I’m Just Doodling

In Memory of Grandma Jean

August 18, 1928 – July 27, 2011

We made her a scrapbook for her birthday and matted some of her trees.

She would always say, “I’m just doodling.” But to me all her “doodles” are a work of art. They’re unique, like a signature. They are all her.

You could find them doodled on the newspaper, winding their branches through columns and supporting a title. You could find them on the back of receipts in blue ink. You could find them on paper towels as you cleared the table, light pencil markings instead of a spaghetti stain. You could find them on the back of envelopes or unopened mail. You could find them in sketchbooks, upside down, sideways, and every which way. Pencil, ink, markers; all sorts of mediums will do. Mix and match them, doodle some flowers or ducks on them, add a picket fence and an old barn in the background. But they were always trees; bare branched trees reaching to the sky, gnarly trees resting below, skinny trees, fat trees, free-flowing trees. They were always trees…  occasionally you would come across one with leaves, but most of the time they were bare branched trees, bare naked trees, skeletal trees, robust old trees, dead trees, skinny trees, trees trees, trees… I remember the lines, lots and lots of lines, engraving the bark into the paper, marking their passage of time. 

“I’m just doodling,” she would say. 

But I wont find her sitting in her light beige leather recliner anymore; sketchbook propped up on her knees and colored pencils on each end table next to her, and in her chair, and underneath the recliner. They were everywhere. Drawers were filled with colored pencils, markers, pens,  crochet hooks, candy for her and the grandkids, and who knows what else in her little art drawers…jewelry, kleenex, a baggie full of change, a pack of saltines, you just never know.

I remember when I was little trying to copy her trees. The side of my palm would have pencil all over it because I would smear it through the whole picture, trying to go back and make it better.  It was close, but just not the same. They are as unique as nature makes them, they are one of a kind. They are my grandma.

I love and miss you, Grandma.

xxx