Sunday, June 13, 2010


Her hands.  

I think her hands are what I remember the most. Her hands like her mothers hands, like my mothers hands, like my hands. The one trait that everyone one of us shared. The one identifiable thing I could trace back 4 generations as recognize in myself knowing I belong, in this family, these hands. They weren't the beautiful hands of a model or the hard and chapped hands of a worker. They were just our hands, hers, mine, ours. Long and skinny, bonny and veiny, the hands of the women in this family. 

I remember these hands every time I look at my own. I'm thinking of those hands right now as I watch my hands carefully lift balls of tissues paper out of the box in the dark and dusty attic. The only light a shaft coming from the door and a weak bare bulb at the back of the small space. It's time to clean out her house. It's sat empty for nearly a year as we all put off the inevitable. We can put it off no more so I volunteered to work in the stuffy dusty attic knowing that what I wanted. The one thing that I wanted to take from this empty house of memories was up in that dark and hot attic. Apparently no one else remembered. It made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I wouldn't have to fight or debate, sad that I was the only one to remember such a beautiful part of this women we loved. 

I sat in the hot dusty attic and carefully lifted that precious ball of tissue gingerly out of the box. I started to unwrap it, turning it slowly in my hands, peeling it layer by later. Creating a firework display of dust in the small shaft of lite that I had to work with with. There it sat in it's pillow of tissue paper, it's beads shimmering in the little light it had. It was as beautiful today in this dark, dreary and dusty place as it was on her tree all those years ago. The memories run through my brain like a holiday movie and the emotions start to crescendo to a peak that will overflow into tears at any second. 

I look at that ornament, that beautiful silk orb covered in hundreds of pins and glass beads in an intricate pattern and I remember her hands. I imagine them (too young to remember them) moving slowly, methodically, with purpose. Giving each pin, each bead her full attention as she created such a beautiful object. Something that would shine and sparkle and twinkle with the lights. So much like her, so much a part of her. 

I remember the holidays, years past, when she sparkled like the ornament., Bright and shiny, reflection all her light onto those around her. Her laugh like the tinkling of the metal pins and hooks that allowed the ornament to twirl and that held the jewels in place. For years Christmas meant grandma, her handmade ornaments, her graceful beauty. Her home filled with love and light and her. She was almost like an ornament her self, bright and beautiful light, spreading light and joy to all around her. 

I don't remember when things stated to change, but they always do don't they? We went to see a different relative one year, this family and that family. Where we would go became a tug of war. Then there were the mocking tones of her son, telling her to get with the times, get the newest, latest, greatest. Slowly the modern ornaments, the characters from movies, the prepackaged memories started to crowd out her handmade works of art until there was no longer room on the tree. 

Eventually it seemed there was no longer room for family, or for her, at least I am sure that is how she felt. This daughter here, that grandchild there. Holiday's spent traveling to and fro instead of around the table. There were tragedies and work, and always something more important than a traditional meal and the memories of a holiday spent around the tree.

As her ornaments became buried in boxes in a dark attic so did the light that was my grandma. There was less laughter, less joy. Eventually just like those boxes of ornaments the holidays we had were forgotten. She became small and faded, like these balls of tissues paper. Forgotten away in some dusty place. 

As I looked at my hands holding the ornaments made with her hands I fought back the tears. I am not blameless, I didn't take time to come visit, I didn't come help hang up the ornaments. I look once more at the ornament in my hand and I hear my husband call me from downstairs, "hun, we need to go, the baby needs to eat and we have to pick up Jack from school"

I slowly wrap the ornament back in it's paper and shout back that I will be right down. I may not be able to change the past, but I will change the future I tell myself. I pick up the box of ornaments and head down the stairs. I run into my uncle on my way out and he asks what I'm taking. I don't think he cares so much about what I am taking as much as he cares about what it might be worth.

"Ahh, just some old arts and craft stuff" I answer. Protectively hugging the box, knowing it's so much more than that. In this box is grace, beauty and light and I intend to make it a part of my life, and my family, forevermore. 

This is part of Creativity Boot Camp, my medium is fiction. Prompt: Ornament. I am also doing photography, but between some house projects and a complete and total lake of natural light the shots I wanted could not be done, so I am hoping to catch up on those tomorrow, maybe. 


Sherree said...

beautiful, made me remember the box of ornaments I have hidden away ,hidden like lost treasure so that noone can take my childhood memories of christmas past away.:))

Mary Lesh said...

Beautiful story. It reminds me of my grandmother who used to make ornaments. I have some of hers. Last Christmas I swore I was going to start to make them, for my grandchildren. I better get started.
Love your stories. Keep up the good work.

Louise said...

I feel the need to visit my grandmother now. She's 92 and not very well and we don't visit her as often as we'd like

Thanks for the story - again, a beautiful piece.