It is actually, ‘the night before’!
Already! Who knew. A few days ago I watched one of my granddaughters open one of those advent calendar windows and take out the little chocolate treat.
“Almost here, grandma,” she said, like she is making a big announcement that no one but she is aware of. She pops the sweet treat into her mouth, expertly turns a few cartwheels on the living room floor, being careful not to crash into the Christmas tree and then curls up with her book, obviously not worried about anything very much at all, least of all the countdown to Christmas.
“I want to be like her,” I decide, shaking the advent calendar to see if there are any broken pieces of chocolate left inside the windows.
I rest my hand on top of her head, loving the feel of her thick silky blonde hair.
“What was Christmas like when you were a kid, grandma?” she asks, putting her book down.
“It was,” I pause, surprised at the unexpected attention. “It was good, sweetheart.”
And, just for a moment, a quick, special moment, I allow myself to go back there, to the days before I was a grandma, or even a mom.
She looks at me. Expectant. Waiting. And so I tell her.
I tell her about how my brother and I wrapped tinfoil around cardboard to make a perfect star and how I cut silver paper from my dad’s roll-your-own cigarette package to make tinsel on a real honest to goodness tree that smelled good like the forest.
And I tell her how I grew up in a bachelor pad, nothing more than a shack really, with worn linoleum and a coal and wood stove and lived with brothers and a dad who taught me how to fish and play ball and be tough. I never really did get the tough part.
She’s still listening, though her attention is waning, but I keep talking. I tell her about when my dad hauled in the Christmas tree and, when we put those bubble lights on it, I truly believed our whole house was transformed.
And I go on to tell her about how my brothers would always get one of those board hockey games and Toronto Maple Leafs were the blue guys and Montreal Canadians the red ones. And I tell her how we used to play with a marble instead of a puck and sometimes it would go flying across the room when one of the players got too exuberant.
And I tell her how we would all sing together and my dad would play the violin, and someone would play the piano.
And, I try to tell her how wonderful it was. I try to paint word pictures for her because I want her to know the way a real tree smells, and I want her to see how the bubble lights catch the reflection of homemade tinsel. And I want her to hear the echo of the laughter and know the way the sounds of music soften everything and make it beautiful.
She looks at me and smiles with the innocence of a child, but with wisdom far beyond her years shining in her eyes.
She comes out with her violin. “Let me play for you, grandma,” she says, tucking the violin under her chin, her blonde hair framing her lovely, delicate little face. And as I listen to a rather squeaky version of Away In A Manager, I realize that I have been blessed once again with a very special, unexpected magical gift.
And, once again, I am grateful.
And for each and every one of my readers, I would wish that you, too, may experience the special gifts of the season.
And a very merry Christmas to you all!
— On The Other Side