The most wonderful time of the year.
Even as a small child I was perplexed by this phrase. It was, of course somewhat magical, with all of the glitter and glow, the bus trip with Grandma downtown to The Outlet Store. We’d wear our favorite dresses, Eleanor and I, in our patent leather Mary Janes, Eleanor on one side, I on the other, holding Grandma’s hand, gripping tightly so as to not get hit by a car. Our eyes aglow at the Superman Building, the brightly lit window displays as we wound our way down the stairs to the basement to sit on his plump, overstuffed lap. There we’d set, trembling, aghast at the albino beard and whisper to him of our secret wish for Christmas. Tell him we’d been good girls all year long. Well, a little white lie in this case was permissible. Then safely snuggled in Grandma’s hands once again, we were treated to Shirley Temples in the Tea Room with lunch because we were the big kids in the family and really, we were good girls! We’d ride home on the bus, slumped, flanking the shoulders of our beloved Grandma feeling so safe, so loved, so precious to her. And we were precious to our Grandma.
That’s how I remember my earliest childhood Christmases.
Not Santa Claus or the reindeer or the presents or the tree or dinner or the snow or the lack thereof.
I remember the love.
The warmest, wrinkliest-hold-on-tightest hands holding mine so that I would know beyond a shadow of doubt that I was safe, that I was loved beyond all measure, beyond what words could express, beyond what a kiss or a hug could convey from my English immigrant Grandma who’d lost her oldest child, her five year old Lillian in a tragic hit and run pedestrian drunk driver accident that occurred decades before my birth. Instantly killed while waiting on the corner for the bus. To go downtown. Grandma herself was crippled, both legs fractured, leaving her with a forever limp. My Dad, her only surviving child, a toddler at the time, suffered severe injuries for which he was hospitalized for close to a year.
I wasn’t to learn of this tragedy until many years later. And only now, as I write, am I processing how courageous, how much stamina and resilience, faith and love my Grandma had in her to be able to recover and step to that bus stop again with her grandchildren. She and Grandpa and Dad lovingly welcomed Aunt Roberta into the family ten years later! A miracle, a beautiful daughter, a little sister for my Dad. Eventually, a loving, beautiful to this day Aunt for me. Along with Uncle Harry, giving me three wonderful, beautiful little girl cousins to share my childhood with.
As I look at it now, what an example, an inspiration for living a life of courage, my Grandma is.
But I digress.
It’s the love that I remember about Christmas.
Her hands holding mine, walking me to Sunday Mass.
Her fingers. Her Rosary beads.
Her lips moving, prayer under her breath.
Her legs, bowed but fast. Could chase and catch you or save you if she wanted to. And sometimes she did.
Her shoulders, warm and soft and safe.
Her apron, always a light dusting of flour.
Her scrumptious cookies and pies.
She was always there, my Grandma Wilde.
She was so very special.
She was everything love.
She was everything Christmas.
After spending some time thinking about her and writing this I realize that she still is.
The season gives us pause to remember the good.
It gives us reason to miss them and honor everything they were to us.
I would conclude that it is perhaps not all of that, but indeed it is a season of bittersweet remembrance and present moment awareness.
For me and I’m certain for many of you as well, it brings gratitude for what has brought me thus far and optimism for fresh starts, new beginnings, stepping up to the bus stop each and every time, no matter how afraid I may feel.
Love you Grandma.❤