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Christmas Tree Postcard


Some of you understand what it’s like to be a romance writer during the holidays. Those family get-togethers turn bizarre in a heartbeat, don’t they? I know as a child, the weirder and weirder it got, the better I liked it.

My Grandma Fox had trouble swallowing, due to a series of strokes she’d suffered that left half of her body paralyzed. It never failed that for each big family meal, she’d start choking on something, and there were more than a few moments of tension when she’d remove her false teeth, leave them on the side of the plate on the beautiful table my mother always set, with all the finest crystal and china. Grandfather would stand up, and slap her back while she leaned over her dish and expelled whatever had gotten stuck.

She was beet red afterwards, sincerely ashamed for the spectacle. My grandfather never swore, but he could be heard saying something like, “Ah, Shaw,” and we filled in the blanks. We were used to her drooling, and she wore a little purse affixed to her wrist with a strap, lovingly made by one of the ladies in the church, which contained a couple pretty hankies she used all day long. In fact, she was always with a hankie in her hand.

My other grandfather would go off on some political tangent, sure that the whole country was going to Hell quickly, and often we’d wake up Christmas morning to find that he’d had such a difficult time sleeping, they’d packed up in the middle of the night and drive the long way home to Fresno, California. Yes. I was born in Fresno. A good place to be from.

The stories were exaggerated, as family stories go. I’d heard them every year. Every year they’d get more and more fantastic, and I didn’t care if they came from morphing, or told by people who always instructed me to take the moral high ground and never lie. They were family stories, and as such, were exempt from the normal constraints of reality. It was a kind of better than the truth: it was fiction. Was there something wrong with me for preferring the morphing stories of our family history? And does it really matter anyway?

By candlelight, those tales were told, passed down from the mouths of people now long gone. And I think I must do some of the same.

We always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. My uncle could have made it as a comedian, he was so good with his jokes. Especially during the years when he was drinking. Afterward, he was just as funny, by the way. As an insurance salesman, he had stories of all the creative ways he got past the secretaries who tried to screen him from seeing the execs he wanted to sell to. He called it his Zippo Success Institute.

Between my uncle and my grandfather, the preacher, I learned what it was like to sell. In one case, it was a safety net to cheat death’s impact on a family, in the other, redemption and a life everlasting. But trust me, it required a good salesman to do either. I knew long before I married and started having kids that life is one sales job after another. Raising children or being long time married, it’s still the same thing to me today.

So I guess the madness of the season isn’t really that for me, is it? I can get behind the crowds, though I don’t participate in it. I don’t mind people selling things, even things I don’t need. I get caught up in it just like I did as a child. The stories, the pitch given to inspire change, the way to figure out problems and not get stuck by them, how to alter another’s opinion with a smile or the right choice of words. Life is sales.

If it weren’t so, we wouldn’t take this most sacred of holidays, and turn it into one huge gift giving bonanza in this country. The idea of giving a gift is doing the unexpected. To show to someone what the inside of our heart looks like, to make the act one of love.

I don’t remember the gifts, but I remember the love. Yes, sometimes I remember the pain too. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the story. I remember what it felt like and how it feels now.

That gift is one I shall cherish forever.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Woven throughout your (hi)story is love, lots and lots of love. The greatest tribute to your family is the love continues to shine in you.

  2. I love family but I struggle with being around them for more than three days especially during the holidays. I just want that feeling of love and peace and much to my dismay there seems to be more chaos than peace. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm too set in my ways. I'm happy when they show up and happy when they leave. It's the in between that I find myself searching for some spiritual connection, some form of commonality, something interesting to talk about, some nodding agreement that life is good and we are all blessed to be here. I have wonderful, cherished memories of holidays past with my grandparents. They knew with great certainty that life was a miraculous gift and they lived it to the fullest in the simplest of ways. Oh, how I do miss them my princess.


    1. You create around you the love and certainty, both things that cannot be weighed. The highest form of belief system is certainty, springing out of nothingness. But stimulated and grown with love. You have it in abundance. Maybe as the source, you don't feel it. I, who am lucky enough to consider you a deep friend and one I never want to be without, do. Maybe there's certainty in that, my prince…because I'm sure it's there. OXOXOXYA

    2. There is no lack of certainty when it comes to us my angel. I chose you and you chose me. I don't think we choose our relatives. We just have to figure out what they have to teach us. Give peace where there is chaos, give love where there is fear and give happiness where there is sorrow. I am a work in progress my princess. It may take me a while but I'll get there. I am the lucky one to have a friend like you. XOXOXOXOXOXOXYP

  3. My family in Wales are noisy and boisterous and when I visit I love every crazy second. We are either dressing up, telling tall tales or sing some really off tune ones to. It's such a shame I dont get home as often as I'd like. With my mother being 85 on 30th December and still the head of our family, she doesn't miss much what goes on I'm going to try and see her more. although we speak for a good hour everyday, while she tells me all what's gone on from the boring to the bizarre. That's what we will remember with love and affection

    1. That is indeed what we will remember. Very well said, Julie. The boring and the bizarre, like the pattern of the quilt and then the border, the binding and the backside, which defines it. You can't have one without the other. Wonderful that you still have your mother still in your life. I miss being able to laugh with my mother.

  4. Coming from a very poor family it was never about the gifts it was always about Family sharing memories, seeing those we haven't seen. Listening to stories of Christmases past and talking about futures. Missing the ones that left us. My one grandparents had 16 children 58 grandkids her youngest 6 months older than me. Those memories are so precious because as the years have past those stories are no longer being told by those who lived them becauae they are gone. Their nemories live on but its not the same. Less abd less cone together because they have ket the hustle take over. If passed on to my chikdren that no matter what comes up in life you need to always take time to enjoy each other. Talk and spend the time with each other. There us fewer abd fewer amongst us. We never know what tomorrow may bring.
    Sharing caring and loving thats what important with fruend and family

    1. Lovely sentiments, Pamela, and so real, so good too. I also miss the older ones who told the stories. I've sort of adopted that mantle, but you're right, it's hard to get everyone to slow down enough to tell them!

      Thanks for reminding us all what it's really all about.

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