Sunday, July 28, 2013
My grandfather had the same string of lights from the first Christmas after his first child, my mother was born (today is her birthday)
The wires on this string were so thick they looked like strands of rope; cloth-covered writer entwined, and often so entangled my grandfather needed from Thanksgiving for his work-blistered fingers to get them straight in time to put them on the tree.
This was a chore of love he gook on each season, untangling this array of ancient light to rewind it onto the tree the weekend before Christmas, always placing it the same way with all the colored lights in the same order, always adding the same Christmas ornaments to populate the space between each light so that this tree varies from previous trees only by the new ornaments he added that particular year, ornaments that stood for a child he reared that year or a dream he aspired towards. That first year was a very rich year since it was the year of his first child and a year before the Stock Market crash. During the less rich years that followed when money was too scarce to waste on such things, he had to make the ornament himself. But some of these during the Great Depression reflecting one of the baker’s dozen kids he reared were among the grandest and utterly previous. The grandest of all came in the post ward years when he foresaw an amazingly bright future and added an angel at the top to reflect that vision – blindly bright with inspiration.
In the later years before his death, my grandfather struggled to find bulbs to replace those that burned out, even though the cloth had worn off the wires, and the string was of the variety that if one bulb went out, none would light. And some years, he spent as much time searching for which particular bulb was bad as he did the rest of the ritual, refusing to give up until the whole string was lighted again – even though the brightest light was always the one in his eyes. He never gave up. He never lost the vision.