Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ghost of Christmas Past

Someone asked me today if there was anything about Christmas that I miss. I miss my grandmother. She lived in Indiana, so we only got to see her once or twice a year. She came out every year for Christmas and it was great. She spoiled us rotten - my sister and I were her only grandchildren. She came out with one suitcase full of clothes and one full of presents.

She always looked like a million bucks. She worked in a factory all her life, but you'd never know it by looking at her. She always had her nails polished, usually in a pearly white or pink. Her nails were so long and strong - I remember being fascinated by that when I was a kid because my nails were always raggedy and grubby. Her hair was always perfect, and always red, even when she was 70. She never left the house without her makeup and she always wore high heels.

She loved to play pinochle and euchre and would always try to teach me to play, but would eventually give up in frustration and just play War with me instead. She loved to drink Manhattans and she smoked cigarettes, letting the ash get really, really long. It drove my mother crazy. She could play anything on the piano. I can still hear her fingernails clicking on the keys as she'd play Christmas carols, warbling along and smiling at me to join in.

She'd always take me shopping while she was here. We'd get the bus in to the city, which, when you're 7 or 8, is a BIG adventure. She always wore her good coat, the one with the fur collar and matching fur hat. Once we got downtown, we'd go to the Worcester Center Galleria. It was THE place to shop. There was a Jordan Marsh and a Filene's. I'd always go to Jordan Marsh to shop. For some reason, I liked it much better than Filene's. She'd always take me to Bergson's, this little burger shop there. She'd get a coffee and I'd get a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake. We'd split an order of fries, covering them with lashings of salt and ketchup.

We always went in to Sharfman's Jewelers. My mother collected Lladro figurines and my grandmother would usually get her one. I would wander around, mesmerized by the sparkling rings and necklaces, awed by the stern salesladies and the quiet hush of the place. Then we'd go out to the common and look at the Christmas tree all lit up and the decorations around City Hall and catch the bus back home. It was magical.

She died when I was 16. I still miss her. Christmas has never been the same without her.


Nicole P said...


I am so in love with this piece of writing -- and with the image of your grandmother. She sounds bit like my Nana Helen in ways (the nails, the dye job, the coat with the matching hat, the fact that they worked in a factory (my Nana worked at the Stride Right factory in Brockton)) I carry my Nana -- and all of my other grandparents -- with me in my heart at this time of year, as I watch my parents become iconic figures for my niece and nephews.

Our hearts, some say, are made stronger by their aching. But sometimes I'd rather have a weak heart and all of the people I've ever loved and lost by my side.


Erica said...

What great memories... I swear I could smell the manhattan and it made me drool (I love the smell, hate the taste) and I was all choked up by the end. Damn hormones ;-)

Kassie said...

My Nana drank Manhattans and smoked Parliaments once or twice a day, barely inhaling. I miss her too.

Shannon said...

I remember the smell of cigarettes, Chicklets, her European "odour", and playing cards (she always played solitaire while watching her soaps) all intertwined.

It brings back feelings of comfort.

Violet said...

Beautiful tribute to a beautiful person. Thanks for sharing.

Kerri. said...

I miss my Nana, too. Terribly.

Thank you for bringing me back to my childhood. I needed that today.