Grandmother at Christmas
The old lady said that with the chimes it was like heaven come down to earth, and you had to be kind and agree because she was kind and was your grandmother.
But secretly you cursed those Baptist bell-ringers and were thinking not of heaven but the Hardy Boys, the new mystery she'd brought you as an early Christmas present.
She wrote elegant longhand, addressed her letters Master Luke and spoke like her letters, frail and didactic. Once when you said you hated your brother she whispered, being expert in that subject: "The only thing we must ever hate is the Devil . . ." But you were more intent on the blue lace of veins around her neck or a peek at her false teeth.
She frowned at the box your mom had labeled "X-mas" and in her willowy voice told you it was sacrilege.
Christmas was anticlimactic. Two days before, you donned the baldy wig, draped yourself in a sheet and paraded up the street with a walking stick. Your brother Matt pulled her to the icy window and said that Buddhist monks had invaded the neighborhood.
What she really believed : that was all you wanted to know- like the Hardy Boys so clever at crimes. But the mystery of how she had become you left too many clues that made you turn away: her breath like sour buttermilk, her adjustable back-brace and all her mock-innocence like a circus beast.
The Christmases are pressed and brown, tied together like a stack of old letters. And you have become this writing I.
So forgive me now if I turn back, having heard the chimes, and see before me grandmother like the ghost of christmas past waiting still for heaven to come down.
copyright 2001 Phoebe Claire Publishing, LLC All rights reserved