This is a story I wrote as a Christmas gift for my Papa, and a tribute to my Granny. I've been thinking about her a lot lately , so I thought I would share.
From the warmth of the enclosed porch I spied on the wintry scene outside. The wind was still, and the falling snowflakes silently joined those that had already formed a soft blanket over the landscape. Large boxwoods were swaddled in the white, giving the impression of mounds of cotton in the yard. Bright red cardinals conspicuously stood out against the otherwise colorless expanse of land, rummaging through the snow for food.
On the porch, the plastic that covered the windows rattled slightly, obscuring my view. Every winter my Papa tacked the plastic up in an effort to keep old man winter at bay, so the porch could still be used comfortably, mainly by me. At one end of the porch Granny had set up one of many artificial Christmas trees, adorned with miscellaneous ornaments collected over a lifetime. Plastic mistletoe hung from the ceiling, while a foam Santa Claus kept watch from the corner, his fuzzy trim rubbed bare from seasons of use.
At the other end of the porch was a wooden picnic table. Each year after Labor Day it was brought inside to be protected from the elements, and at Christmas it was covered by a white tablecloth decorated with red poinsettias. In the middle sat an old record player, and next to that a pile of albums. Every December the record player and albums were brought out from the back of a closet in the living room. There were collections of Christmas favorites such as Jingle Bells, Rudolph, O Christmas tree, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. There were albums with Away in the Manger, These Three Kings, and Joy to the World, but the best record was never left on the porch. I had to ask for it.
I’m not sure when or how, but listening to the Nutcracker became one of my most beloved Christmas traditions. I would spin around the porch pretending to be a ballerina in a tutu and toe shoes, oblivious to the outside world, but I wasn’t alone. My granny thought nothing of joining me in my make believe world, and I like to believe that she enjoyed it as much as I did. She was beautiful in her red Christmas sweater, a small red velvet bow clipped into her gray curly hair. She would pluck flowers from her artificial arrangements and tuck them behind my ear, and we would dance away into worlds where no one else existed. These were worlds covered in fairy dust, sparkling with magic, and smelling faintly of cinnamon. These were worlds where everything was good and right and beautiful.
Over time, the record began to skip. I grew older, and traded in my make-believe world to search for things that were real, and the only thing I was sure of was that my juvenile fantasies were not a part of my search. I became too old for pretending to be a ballerina with Granny against the backdrop of The Nutcracker. I became too old for worlds I could only see with my mind’s eye. I drifted into an existence full of teen angst, where things were dark and dreary instead of sparkling with magic, everything seemed wrong, and life was never fair.
I didn’t know just how unfair life was until the Lord saw fit to take my Granny from this world after a lifelong struggle with Cancer. I knew she was sick, I knew she was in pain, and deep down I knew that God was being merciful. I was sixteen.
It was still years later before the heavy teenage fog would slowly begin to lift. I was able to see more clearly, and began to realize that sometimes we have to make our own joy, and that life can be dark and dreary now and then, but it is during those times when it’s okay to dance away into worlds of fairy dust, magic, and beauty.
I’m older now, a little worse for the wear, but wiser just the same. I miss my Granny – I miss her every day. As is the case with most folks, the holiday season seems to be the hardest. This is when I play The Nutcracker Suite on the phonograph and slip into a world I can only see with my mind’s eye. A World covered in fairy dust, sparkling with magic, and smelling faintly of cinnamon. This is a world where everything is good and right and beautiful. Granny is there waiting for me in her red Christmas sweater with the little velvet bow in her hair, and she is holding a flower to tuck behind my ear.