Saturday, December 17, 2011
Christmas Memories # 17
When I was in junior high we lived out in a rural area and even though book stores were far away, sometimes I could order paperbacks through the school. One year I ordered The Diary of Anne Frank and had trouble putting it down. In fact, I stuck it inside my Bible during Wed. night church service and read it surreptitiously. (Another trick I had was to put a quilt at the bottom of my bedroom door to block out light and then read with a flashlight into the wee hours of the morning. That's how I read George Orwell's Animal Farm and also James Michener's Sayonara. The only problem with both books was that as I was finishing each one, I got busted. I think it was my uncontrollable sobbing at the end of the books that gave me away.) At any rate, as soon as I opened Anne Frank's book and started reading the entries in her diary, I knew I wanted a diary of my own.
Although it was high on my Christmas list, as the big day approached I had the distinct impression that I wasn't going to get one. The two local stores didn't carry them for sure. However, on Christmas Eve, at the last minute, my brother drove to the nearest city and bought one for me - a five-year diary with a red cover and a key lock. To me, it was a thing of beauty, something to behold! Like Anne's diary, this would carry all the secrets of my heart. Throughout Christmas day, I kept the diary by my side and as for the key, mom put it on a necklace so that I could wear it around my neck.
I spent Christmas night at my grandmother's house - by this time she had been a widow for several years and although she waited on me hand-and-foot, she had her peculiarities. Definitely.
For one thing, she loved to listen in on the party line - for those who don't know, that's when several families share the same telephone line which means it's very easy to listen in on other people's conversations.
And I have to say that Grandma was really, really good at this. In her defense, I would also have to say that most of her friends did the same. If they weren't watching the afternoon soap operas such as As the World Turns and Search for Tomorrow, they were almost certainly eavesdropping on other people's conversations or calling each other up to share the newest piece of juicy gossip.
Going back to the Christmas when I got my beloved diary, I made the mistake of taking it to my grandmother's house that night where I proceeded to make my first entry before locking it up. Then I put the chain around my neck with the key dangling from it, knowing it was securely fastened. When I woke up the next morning, the chain was still fastened around my neck but.. the key was gone! I was some kind of ticked!! Of course, I accused my grandmother of taking my key and of course, she denied it. (But we were the only two people in the house that night... soooo...) When I insisted the chain couldn't have unclasped itself and then fastened itself back, she did what she always did when she was caught red-handed, she became extremely hard of hearing, making any further conversation a moot point.
I never did get my key back and my dad had to cut the strap so that I could open the diary to write in it. To this day, I wonder what my grandmother could have been thinking. First, if she was going to take the key, it seems to me it would have been a lot better to have left the chain unfastened. Having it still secured around my neck was sort of a dead tip-off as to what had happened:)
Second, I had no life... Seriously... I was a gangly twelve-year-old, living out in the middle of nowhere and our nearest neighbor was a sixty-year-old woman who liked to grow flowers. If I went anywhere by myself, I rode my bike or walked. I was a wall-flower at school and a bookworm at home. I mean passion was just a word in the dictionary to me back then, if I even knew it at all... What could she have ever hoped to find in my diary that could possibly rival the local party line or As the World Turns?
At any rate, it all worked out from my perspective. I simply never took my diary back to my grandmother's house and at home, although I felt like my privacy would be respected, I kept the little volume in a hiding place and managed to get my full five-years worth of enjoyment out of it.
I've never seen a Christmas card featuring a grandmother swiping her granddaughter's new diary key on Christmas night. The truth is, most every family has 'em - people who genuinely love you but who drive you crazy from time to time and even can, on occasion, make you spitting mad. In the middle of the holly and the ivy, no less.
And my grandmother really did love me. She cooked my favorite foods, sewed clothes for me (and my dolls), played games with me, cleaned up after me, and saw me through all the contagious childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles, and mumps.
As a friend of mine likes to say, if you think your family doesn't have any hard-to-get along-with characters in it, that's probably because you are the eccentric character in your family that everyone else complains about from time to time:).
Christmas is a time to enjoy family as much as you can, not the way it's presented in the cards, carols, and stories but the way it really is, giving as much slack as you can when you can. One thing about eccentric characters: when they are gone, you really miss them.
Here's hoping you and your family have a great Christmas!