This is the first "real'" Christmas that me and Gaia Girl have enjoyed together. Technically speaking, this is our third Christmas together but the first two were a time of change and turmoil. This year we enjoyed Christmas eve together and sang carols at a U.U. service. A cold night, we returned home to a hot fire even as the snow was beginning to color the grass white in preparation for giving all those who pray for it, a white Christmas.
Memories have sweetened my heart the last few days with smells and sounds reflective of the season.
I lit a cigar the other evening and the pleasant smell lingered in a cloud several feet above the room's floor. It curled and rolled and silently dissipated into the candle light. Like a ghost memories of my Pe'pe' came flooding back. A clear visual before my mind's eye.
A stout little French Canadian named Rossaire, he smoked those dried up little cat turds, the Parodi. He also chewed tobacco. He carried a spittoon of sorts with him wherever he traveled. It might be a can, a bottle an empty donut bag or a quick trip outside. He was discreet about it. He purchased White Owls and he would bite off a piece as need called. Before the word "Chef" was the fashionable word in restaurants, Rossaire was a cook for a highly successful eatery in St. Albans, VT.
Interesting man, interesting life. He was my father's stepfather of sorts. Rossaire once delivered groceries to my father's family when they lived in Southbridge, MA.
Cutting to the chase, mom (my grandmother) escaped to VT with Rossaire - leaving a drunken nonworking husband behind. Taking a bus ride in the 1930's from Southbridge MA to St Albans VT must have been a a ten to fifteen hour trip yet my father, in his early twenties, gave pursuit on foot hitchhiking his way north. He arrived in VT and gave his mother the third degree and a bus ticket home. My father left the way he came leaving a stern warning for Rossaire to stay away. When his mother arrived home, she packed up more of what she couldn't on her first voyage and headed back to VT, once again by bus, to her new love Rossaire.
I guess that settled that.
They were happy.
They were a part of my growing up.
I met my actual grandfather twice. Troubled life. Alcohol. Depression. Institutions. Catatonic for a season. His mother died while giving birth to twin boys. My grandfather was farmed out to one family while his twin to another. My name is not the name of my forbears because of that.
Another memory that has recently run through my mind like fireflies on a summer night, instilled in me an echoing quality of sorts. I had walked the length of our street thousands of times. I walked this road to kindergarten when I was five with my mom.. Now, at twenty two I once again walked the road with my mom at my side. My father was failing, her parents had passed and her children were grown. She was entering a new and a "can be" frightening period in her life. That seldom used word for self description ,"Old Age."
With my father's passing life would change dramatically.
Me mum and me walked this length of road once again for the purpose of attending a Christmas eve church service.
I've been dreaming of my mother and of the homestead for weeks. In my waking hours I think of this night often. On a cold New England winter's night, Christmas eve 1976. The snow was lightly falling. One could almost focus on a lone flake and watch it navigate from the heavens to the earth below.
I don't know what we said to one another but I know that we talked about Christianity on a level that was unfamiliar for the two of us. I think that we touched upon God, love, trust in God and a belief that everything is going to be all right.
After her hip surgery so many years later, her liver went into failure while in the middle of her rehab. Confused and in deep sickness she struggled to live. After a few weeks of watch and see, she took a turn and was rushed off the University Hospital. A month later she was dead.
During her stay, she moaned with sickness and came in and out of being conscious. One afternoon I entered her hospital room to find many of my siblings present. My mother looked at me and dismissed the others saying that she needed to speak with me. She looked at me with great hope and asked me to help her up. "If you would only get me up I know that I would get better."
We touched. That which is in us, touched. A communication? Transmission? That in me, sees that in you?
Memories...and since Gaia Girl has recently published a quote by Susan B. Anthony, let me now post another:
“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”