Friday, December 16, 2011

"the way you keep the world at bay for me."

Sometimes all the words in the world can't say what needs to be said. Sometimes the easy silence is the best wonder of all. It's not always about the poetic wrapping of life. Life can be messy, unknown, scary, and still be beautiful in all its open wound, hearts hanging out, raw sort of way.

My great aunt, my grandfather's sister, stood a few inches shorter than me in the kitchen. She struggled to name faces as we looked at the black and white photos on her fridge. She leaned against me slightly as she started to cry, "Most of them are gone now."

These are faces from my legacy. Couples who fell in love, built homes, forged families, stayed at each other's side until death covered them in sleep. There are parts of my story that feel so largely unknown right now, and yet, I'm looking at photos of a life that came, wondered, dreamed, loved and is now collecting dust on an aging aunt's refrigerator.

"Christmas used to be so special," she says through her tears. "Now, we don't see anyone. Most of them are all gone." I am speechless. Completely, totally without words and it seems right. I have no wisdom to tell her. No smart responses. No prose. I am so inexperienced and without knowledge that I won't even pretend that I can understand the weight of her words. So I slip my arm around her fragile shoulders, lean my head against hers and point at another photo.

"Tell me about them," I say. And she starts.

The holidays bring faces I haven't seen in awhile. Stories emerge. Folgers coffee is served in mugs from 1935, pictures tumble yellowed and curled out of photo albums, and wool socks are pulled up to my knees in comfort.

i can't get past how handsome my grandfather is in this photo. "a jolly good man," my great aunt described him.
Winter is wooly bears and wood stoves. Twinkle lights, dark evenings, family movies. Late night shopping with a sister, coffee that seems to work by osmosis and fur-lined trapper hats. It's memories of all the years gone by, all the hopes we've held onto as each new year crests and washes. Winter is when we mourn what has passed behind us, and look to a future that is always new.

It's in all this easy silence, listening, stories, honesty, that I find the rich treasure. I don't know that I'll live to be 97 like my grandmother. Or if someday someone won't be able to remember my name. But all those things that I don't know? That I fear? They are no reason to not live anyway.

Into each other we lean, our tears fresh, our hearts raw, our lives real.

1 comment:

  1. I love the faces that holidays bring. Oh, and the stories too. The ones you forget about because you are too busy with you, but the important stories that make you who you are.

    Beautiful write, friend.