22 December, 2006

bless the girl

May I just take a moment to be grateful? To have a child at any time. But to have a little girl at Christmas time, who takes so much joy in what is under the tree that is NOT for her, who is so excited for, more than any gift, the arrival of her friend Annabelle from New York for a visit, is a thing to behold.

And I must say as well, while I'm being all sentimental, one of my strongest childhood memories of Christmas is of the piano recital just days after my darling Grandpa Loyd died (yes, he was a Loyd with only one l, just as my grandmother was and IS a Bettye with an extra e!). I remember coming home from school just after we had spent Thanksgiving with my grandparents on their southern Indiana "estate", Five Green Acres, and how we loved to visit them there. The pickle tree! The basement with the pool table! The stairway we could all slide down, toward my grandfather's study with his tree full of pipes to be smoked. For YEARS afterward, whenever I smelled a pipe being smoked, I though it was my grandpa.

Well, one day shortly after Thanksgiving I came home from school, and instead of just opening up the front door, which was never locked as far as I can remember, my mother opened the door herself and stood, tall as anybody you ever saw (and she wasn't all that tall), crying. I never saw her cry, except when the boy across the street was hit by a car (he was fine, by the way). But, her father, my beloved Grandpa Loyd, had died. Something super sudden, super painless, just gone. And my mother was gone, then, too, to help my grandmother prepare for the funeral. And there we were, us three kids, sitting on top of the washing machine in the middle of a cycle, trying to figure out what happened after the clothes came out, and my dad was there, being valiant, folding clothes, and wondering what to do about the piano recital?

Because of course, as parents with small children, you find that plans must go on. In the end, our great, old-lady friend Mrs Young from two doors down, came to take me to the piano recital. Did my sister play? She would remember better than I. But I played. "I'll Be Home For Christmas..." My mother couldn't be there, but there was Mrs Young, who I remember visiting in a nursing home on the morning after my wedding, and my husband spent the whole of our after-wedding day with her lipstick on his collar (imagine her stopping to put on lipstick!). And she had been there for me at my Christmas recital.

I suppose, more than dinners or presents or stockings, this is what we remember for Christmas. And I'm grateful for everyone who was there, when I was a little girl.

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