I pride myself on my memory. For better or worse, I can remember vivid details about my past and the people who were part of my history. Perhaps it’s an article of clothing – a color, a texture or feeling against skin. Our sense of smell is where we sometimes store our most cherished memories. I can see a beautiful hand kneading pie dough- I can still count the freckles. Though there have been times I’d wish my memory would soften or simply not play over and over. One simply cannot cherry-pick memories. The imprint sometimes plays out like a beautiful kaleidoscope in your mind. What a blessing to possess.
Though I remember bits-n-pieces of my grandmother’s last Christmas, I wonder if I’d known it was to be her last, would there be more memories stored up in my mind?
Some of the things I remember may simply have been told to me. My mother tells me how Ma-Maw worried she’d become too much of a burden after she and Papaw had to move in with us. The tears in mom’s eyes as she told me about the cold December night she got up to make sure Ma-Maw wasn’t chilly and needed an extra blanket. Simply to be told “I’m fine but you might want to check on Daddy, he always get’s cold during the night.”
Thinking about that last Christmas, I wondered if the farm was covered with snow? Were the horses standing at the gate like a normal morning or watching our house for movement from their warm barn? Ma-Maw’s last Christmas has replayed the past 45 years in my mind. The tiny bit I remember is crystal clear. It’s like one of my favorite scenes from a movie I’ve obsessed over. I can see it and hear it and love to let it envelop me. I take painstaking care to make mental notes of every character’s movement.
Opening my eyes I listened to the rhythm of my brothers breathing. Normally I’d get my brother and sister up, but Mom had been adamant about staying in bed until the adults gave the okay. Always wanting to ensure Ma-Maw get as much sleep as possible. Lying cocooned within the sheet and blanket and waiting, I heard Ma-Maws voice. “See the baby buggy? That’s from Ma-Maw, no not Santa… Ma-Maw.”
Quietly making my way out of bed so not to wake Timmy, I tiptoe into the hallway. And from there, I can see the living room. Tree lights and ornaments glittering. Casting a beautiful glow. Bent over, one hand holding her side while the other hand pointed at the baby buggy, I see Ma-Maw. She has quietly slipped Sissy out of bed, determined she understand in her little mind that her new baby buggy is a gift from Ma-Maw.
It’s beautiful. My little sister squinting, smiling and trying to understand. Ma-Maw holding her side in pain, simply wanting her granddaughter to experience what I felt from her every one of her days – kindness, sweetness, and unconditional love.
Would it matter if I’d known? Would I have taken time to layer more detail into my memories? Or would it simply take away from that moment I cherish of Ma-Maw’s last Christmas? In the end, I believe so. In the end, she lives in my present because I didn’t know. And that final Christmas memory blazes bright like tree lights in my heart every December 25th.