A CURIOUS VIEW: A Christmas Memory Yarn

A CURIOUS VIEW: A Christmas Memory Yarn…

As Christmas and the New Year quickly approach, I cannot help but look back at 2017 and not feel great sadness.

Starting early in the year, my friend, Herman, passed away.

A month later, my beloved cat, Jake, died suddenly, and that is a nightmare that will live with me forever.

Shortly thereafter, our dear friend, Helen, died.

Early in the summer I found out that my Uncle Steve and Aunt Grace and two of their sons (my cousins) all had died in the past couple of years, and neither my brothers nor I had been notified.

In July, my Uncle Al passed away… a wonderful human being, who helped raise my two brothers and me, who educated me, and bestowed unconditional love onto me that, at times, was undeserving.

A few weeks later, our friend Pinky died. He had spent so much time in our house over the past two years that he became part of our extended family.

He painted eleven of our rooms, our outdoor deck, shutters, and fixed a variety of things around our home.

“Pinky,” aka Marvin, was a man of many gifts who told me some great stories, and until this very moment, I still miss our conversations and his undeniable love for the craft of painting.

A short time after, my close friend, Tony, lost his sister, Jessie … a lovely, sweet, adorable angel whom I had known for over thirty-five years.

Yes, it has been a tough year, and what makes it even worse, is that many of my friends have suffered just as many tragedies…in some cases, much worse.

I am reminded of a quote from my favorite twentieth-century poet, William Butler Yeats, who wrote, “Whatever is begotten, born and dies.”

And I would be remiss, not to mention all our servicemen and servicewomen who have lost their lives defending our country. Our casualties have been relatively low this past year considering we are currently fighting two wars, but that is of little comfort to the parents and children of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet, despite all my talk of death, I am reminded of a story my lovely mother once told me.

Back in the day, it was customary to mourn the death of a close relative for a year or more.  The women, especially the older Italian ladies, some of whom were my grandmother’s contemporaries, loved to adorn themselves in lovely shades of black.

It was then that my grandmother suffered the loss of a very close uncle of whom all her children, including my mother, were very fond.

The death of this uncle happened in early December which made the death even more difficult.

There was a strict tradition about a death during the holiday season that held fast and furious…

…no God-fearing, pious, family would ever dare put up a Christmas tree under such circumstances.

I can visualize my mother, aunts and uncles as children, their faces doubly saddened because, without any Christmas tree, where would Santa leave the gifts?

None of my grandmother’s twelve children, even my mother whom I assume already was quite brave at an early age, even dared to approach my grandmother about putting up a tree.

Yet the fear of being overlooked by Mr. Klaus was palpable throughout the household.

And nothing, and I mean nothing, got past my grandmother.

It was like she could read your mind, but, more importantly, even a hundred years ago, she was a progressive, tough, loving little lady who had no problem breaking with morbid traditions.

During the night, after all the children were asleep, my grandmother and grandfather put up the Christmas tree, complete with the winter wonderland and the Nativity statues and stable beneath the glistening pine.

The following morning, the wondrous site of the tree was a shock to her children.  Before they could open their mouths, my grandmother remarked, “Surely, you didn’t think we were not going to put up a tree?”

“Your uncle is dead,” she told them.  “Hopefully he can manage to talk his way into Heaven.”

Apparently, she knew something about her dear uncle that the children did not.

“But, that’s not stopping us from celebrating Christmas.”

Her love for her family would not be hampered by superstition or tradition.

Death followed my grandmother around like a curse… not so unusual considering the size of her family.

But, she never let it defeat her or get in the way of living and rejoicing and celebrating special occasions.

Because of her strength and wisdom, this thread of precious memories…a yarn of a mother’s love…remains for us to pass down from generation to generation.

Happy Holidays.



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