Gram’s Seasons Greetings
By Michelle Morrison
My grandmother’s holiday glasses aren’t anything special, but they are one of my prized possessions. They were a giveaway from one of the big cola companies back when they used to have to work to get people to drink their products, and surprisingly weren’t cheap looking. Season’s Greetings wrapped around the tumbler, embossed to look like stained glass, framed by poinsettia-filled borders. Gold rims survived years of countless lips slurping drinks, both plain and adulterated.
My grandmother used to bring them out every year. There were only four in the set and so only the adults got to sip from them. Gram — for she was too vibrant to be an old-sounding grandma or granny — served eggnog when it was family, but I suspect she used them for gin and tonics at cocktail parties when she was younger. She told me how she loved to entertain when she was working.
She was an anomaly: a career woman in a time when most of her friends and sisters stayed home to care for the house and their families. She would drape herself in elegant costume jewelry and fashionable clothes: high heels and, if the occasion called for it, a fancy wig.
It was that image — a 60s’ cocktail party with laughter and highballs — that flashed through my mind as the glass tumbled to the floor, shattering in a mess of faux stained glass and eggnog.
It was an accident of course. My husband’s elbow nudged it off the side table as he turned to grasp it. He was apologetic, but he didn’t know that glass had survived tipsy party guests, holding a cocktail in the same hand as they talked or danced in the tiny living room of a house that only had one bathroom.
I simultaneously shrugged my shoulders in acceptance of the loss, while wanting to choke him for taking away a little piece of my grandmother. If the glass was going to be broken, it should be during a raucous party, where it was lifted in an over-exuberant toast to the woman who’d gone to her grave crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, but with gray roots carefully tinted and her long nails perfectly polished.
My Gram was a bit of a maverick in the business world, but she was very traditional in her marriage. She said nothing about her husband’s alcoholism. She took care of him through decades of alcohol-induced dementia and cried at his funeral.
I mopped up the eggnog and considered her life for the first time from my adult perspective. I thought of her love of parties and games and shopping for clothes, even when a wheelchair was the only way she could get to the store. I thought of her travelling the world alone in her fifties and sixties because her husband didn’t want to go; how she wanted nothing more in her last months than to know where her papers were so she could keep track of her hard-earned money.
Now, as I pull one of the remaining glasses from the top cabinet where they await a seasonal beverage, I see that there’s a crack in the rim. Anguish and acceptance fill me as I realize one day, all of my grandmother’s glasses will be gone and no one will remember that they were a free prize for buying so many bottles of soda. No one will have an image of my Gram throwing her head back with laughter as she held her Season’s Greetings highball with carefully manicured hands.
As I look at my daughters, I realize that my grandmother’s strengths, her independence, her endurance, and yes, her desire to always look her best, are the true gifts she handed down to her family.
I will fill this glass with ice and a libation this Christmas and toast my Gram before carefully sipping from the side opposite the crack. I will laugh and dance and travel the world in her honor.
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