I was decorating for Christmas and couldn’t find gramma’s tablecloth.
And by “gramma,” I mean the nice grandma, not the difficult one I’ve turned into.
And by “tablecloth,” I mean not at all a lovely fine Irish lace thing that’s been passed down through the generations or something.
Gramma never had “fine” anything. In fact, if you ever tried to give her something fancy, like let’s aim high and say a housecoat from a department store, she’d declare it “too nice” and keep it in its box, never to come out again. It’d stay pristine at the bottom of the drawer.
So when I say her tablecloth, I don’t mean the dainty linens she used at Christmas under some fine china and silver. I mean a fairly busy Christmas-themed tablecloth she probably got on sale the day after Christmas 1968, a tablecloth that for all the Christmases after she placed food she made from scratch on unbreakable no-nonsense Corelle plates.
I had my gramma for 20 Christmases and can’t remember one Christmas present she ever gave me, except for those Life Saver books that for some reason we all loved.
But I remember hauling her fake tree out the basement with her. Watching her put up the blinking lights to really fancy up the tree. Gramma was never one for white lights.
I remember the cardboard fireplace she’d set out, and the leather reindeer,
the angels with perfectly round, singing mouths. Every year she’d trot out the same decorations and it was like seeing old friends.
Michigan Christmases are cold, and gramma’s house was always warm. She had this stairway (decorated in tinsel) that led up to the bedrooms no one used anymore, because her kids had all married. But it was never lonely there. Even though she lived alone, gramma was never by herself. There wasn’t one day one of us didn’t walk in without knocking.
If I’m ever really sad, I squeeze my eyes shut and pretend I’m at gramma’s. I can hear the cuckoo clock getting ready to go off over the Days of Our Lives’ theme song. I can smell the coffee and see the Cremora on her kitchen table. I can feel the knotty pine of her walls and the velvet of her couch.
But most of all I can feel the love.
When I feel blue and unloved, I squeeze my eyes shut and remember gramma’s house and I know I was loved.
And now I couldn’t find her damn Christmas tablecloth.
Did I lose it in the move? The thought of that panicked me. I have a lot of y’all’s grandmothers’ linens, because you all know I like that sort of thing. I dug through the peach linens and the yellow, the cream with baby-blue needlepoint napkins.
I’d stored all the Christmas tubs in my ancient garage. I walked back to that garage probably five times, hoping another tub was hidden in the shadows.
Finally, in utter desperation, I looked in the closets. One of the movers had filled one closet with boxes, a gesture that baffled me at the time and still does.
There? In the depths of a closet filled with empty suitcases and old papers? Was one of my Christmas tubs. And at the very top was gramma’s tablecloth. That busy, 1960s tablecloth.
I don’t remember one present gramma ever got me for 20 Christmases, but it doesn’t matter. I remember the cozy house. I remember the joy. I remember the love. Gramma was Christmas.
And now she’s sort of here to celebrate it with me.