Updated: Aug 1, 2021
“ When she turns on the lights to our twinkling dining room, I fall to my knees, speechless."
My grandmother passes away when I am 10, and my mother receives a check several months later which is the largest that has ever landed in our lower middle class mailbox. It is empowering for my mother, as she is what is proudly known at this time as a housewife and mother, and she has not had her own earnings since before she married my dad in 1949. She worked as a self-trained dental assistant for the uncle of who would become filmmaker James Ivory, and told me once how much she loved running his office and helping with patients. When this check comes I see her face when she opens it, and it is mixed with the emotion of losing her mother, receiving this gift, and having control over something of her own. She buys a Fanta-Sea pool for our backyard, a fancy one that is built above ground but is surrounded by decks that makes it feel built in. It is so sexy and to us it feels like Hollywood. But the real effect of that check rolls in six months later in December. My mother always makes Christmas a special day for us. She shops the entire year, pays attention to everything we love, goes all out in the perfect and personal combination of presents, and hides it all away so secretly that even Puddles, our dog, never finds it. I am too young to know how much work goes into her planning, so on Christmas morning of that year, when I awaken at 6 am and go to my parents’ room to wake them for permission for us all to go down together, I have no idea what is waiting for me. Every single thing I have mentioned, noticed, wanted, or longed for over the last twelve months is sitting, unwrapped and spread out, under the enormous spruce my father had allowed me to cut and drag to our truck the week before. When she turns on the lights to our twinkling dining room, I fall to my knees, speechless. She has arranged it all like a toy store... big games, board games, albums, books, play guns, baseball bats and gloves, GI Joe, Hot Wheels tracks, hamster cages and even a miniature jukebox. I look at her. “Oh my God,” I say. She reaches down and touches my face. “Are you happy?” She asks. It will be the only Christmas morning that I ever cry. Not because I am happy but because she is so happy too.