There is no force of nature stronger — and more emotionally volatile — than a fifty-something grandmother determined to create holiday memories.
Wait a minute. Maybe there is. My husband.
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“What about you, Declan?” Mom asks, standing and lighting a series of green taper candles in a pewter train that covers an end table.
“What about me?”
“When you were little, what was it like to wake up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought you?”
His whole body goes still. So still. Then his shoulder relaxes, followed by his jaw, which loosens as if giving himself permission to remember. The body is the gatekeeper for our brains. We think it's the other way around.
“We rarely spent Christmas at home,” Declan says. I know this, but my family doesn't. “We traveled somewhere special most years. Mom and Dad rented a house for a few weeks, and we spent the time traveling there. Dad would only be there for the week between Christmas Day and New Years' Day. Geneva, Dublin, Prague, Melbourne – you name it. Our Christmas presents came from the local economy. Dad's time there was all about business. Mom really made it feel like a holiday.”
“She was the glue,” my own mother says.
“Yes.” Dec finishes his beer and sets the empty on the table. Arms around me, he rests lightly against my body, lost in memory. “Versatile, Dad called her. Mom could shift into whatever social rules were in a given situation. Hayride? Mom wore jeans and flannel shirts. UN reception for the incoming secretary-general? Mom brushed up on her language skills and was Dad's charming wife. Kids need to learn about the world?” One corner of his mouth goes up as his voice drops. “Mom was there.”
“I'm sorry she's not here,” Dad says to Declan.
“But she is,” I say, holding Dec's hand. “She is. You're making her be with us.”
About Julia Kent
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