In the falls and winters of my youth, Mom and Dad discussed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Christmas Eve at Aunt Deane's house. Like us, Aunt Deane and her boys lived on Mt. Cory's back street. Their house
was to the left out our front door. Our backyards abutted cornfields. Christmas Day was always at Grandma's house. We'd
walk out the front door of our house in our Christmas sweaters, skirts or trousers and head straight down First Street to
Front Street. We'd turn right over the railroad tracks. Uncle Joe, one of my mother's three brothers, and his wife, Aunt Betty's
children would have already arrived and placed their magnificently decorated gifts to us cousins under Grandma's Christmas
tree. Square packages decorated as snowmen and angels, cut out and glitter glued!
Back to summer: our yearly July fourth family barbecues. Buckets of ice cold
beer for the men. Watermelons submerged in the icy buckets too. Churned homemade ice cream! Uncles. Three of them my
mother's brothers. The rest married to my mother's sisters. Volleyball in our backyard. Aunt Mildred--the third
of the oldest three of the eleven--with special desserts baked for my diabetic cousin Mark.
Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill picking our sour currents for Aunt
would harvest our rhubarb too. Oh, how I loved her rhubarb crunch! She'd bake it at her farm house across the
corn field from Grandma's house. When the corn was low, or the field was fallow, my cousins and I could walk across the field
from Grandma's house to Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill's house. When the summer corn was at its highest, their house would disappear.
Their daughters--two of my older cousins--Karen and Linda, lived there too. I don't think Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill's
oldest child Billy ever slept a night there. He was raised at their Mt. Cory house until his death at age nine.
I like contemplating Aunt Mildred and Uncle Bill now in heaven
with their little boy Billy. Billy's probably met his nephew, Joe, in heaven too.
Aunt Lola and Uncle Clarence.
Actually my great aunt and uncle. Youngest sister to my Grandma Wells. It fascinated me, then, to contemplate a whole
other branch to my grandmother's--and my--family tree. Aunt Lola and Uncle Clarence were connected to me--tethered in
a different kind of way. They had their "own set of people" who didn't really belong to me. They were grandparents
to a whole other clan.
Great Aunt Lettie
too. The only things I remember: A different farm house. A front porch. Sturdy shoes, stockings and a gray haired
bun. Goiter. That's all. All I have of this woman--who'd once been a young woman and now grown old; who lived
joys and disappointments--is a recollection of the sound of crackling driveway gravel as our car approached the house. Aunt
Lettie rising from a front porch swing. A mumbled front seat conversation about her "goiter."
Lettie's--my grandmother's sister--welcoming smile. Goiter be damned! That's all I have. It's enough.
Aunt Margaret and Uncle Cecil, her husband. Oldest sibling
of the eleven. Thanksgivings took place at their farm house. Gatherings of forty or fifty family members. The women--Aunts
Margaret, Mary Ellen, Mildred, Betty, Pat, Deane, Lou and Chris; my mother and my grandmother--in the kitchen, preparing and
washing and drying. Talking and laughing too.
The men--Uncles Cecil, Kenny, Bill, Joe, Dick, Dick, Bill, and Jim; my dad. They all hunted pheasant or watched
football or both.
Hay lofts for the kids!
the names, then, that drifted up the stairs into my five year old--six, seven, eight--sleepy self's ears. I'd be in my parents'
bed reading. I'd have bathed and donned pajamas. My brother, Eric, eight years my junior, was not yet born. It was for
me just the safe cocoon of the three of us. Rarely did I not easily fall asleep.
In my mind, I still see that ceiling's swirls. As a child, laying in my parents'
bed, the swirls were smiling faces and animals; comforting and familiar. To this day I see faces in tiles; animals and
people in paint's twists. Now, depending upon my emotional state, sometimes the people are not smiling. Sometimes their
mouths are open in horror. They grimace. There's a cloudy hodge-podge of browns and cream colors in a bathroom
tile, for example, that's either a full angel with wings, or, a leering and evil comic book character. Think The Joker.
Joker or angel. Angel. Joker. My inner peace or turmoil decides.
My parents' bedroom's ceiling swirls were, though, always happy and smiling. Not
a one of them ever leered down at me in any kind of malevolent way. I'd fall asleep and drowsily awaken when my dad
carried me to my bed; my head on his shoulder.
Although I've never asked my children what, if anything, they see in our home's ceiling's paint or in
our floor tiles, they seem happy. They certainly sleep well!
They, I believe, feel safe. Loved. Like I did. Through me... My parents through me... A legacy lived.
I hope there are ice cold watermelons and home made ice cream in heaven. Hay
lofts and farm houses. I hope there are fathers' voices wafting into their daughters' and their sons' ears.
Maybe the ceilings in heaven are clouds. Maybe they are swirled with our