As I entered our car, a fear came over me as if it were a wet blanket, cold as ice. I remember just last year, Christmas Eve and my grandparents, the happiest time of my life. The feeling of love, as if it were everyone's day. But today something was different.
The Christmas Eve, just one year ago today started out at my father's house. It is a large house, but old, the windows leaked and if you were to sit in the livingroom chair you would almost always need a blanket. The chair was next to the window and every time the wind blew a little would come in, not enough for a problem just enough to know it was there. For some reason it still felt warm, maybe not heat warmth
but warmth inside. This is where I grew up; I knew every corner, every creek in the floor. I knew what steps creaked and just how hard to push the door so it closed but didn't slam.
It was about two in the afternoon. My father, my sister and I were all getting ready for the night's event at my grandparents
. My father and I would need about an hour to be ready, but my sister Sarah would need at least two. Everyone was frantic, as if a hurricane were on the way. My dad running around in his underwear and only one sock on was looking for his hairbrush. Which he didn't need because his hair was as thin as a cheep blush. He actually had to sell his convertible because he was tired of putting sunscreen on his forehead. I called it his five-head. Sarah, my little sister, only 19, would spend most of her time in the bathroom, it would seem as if she would curl the same strands of hair for hours. She always looked nice. I was in my room, dressed in all but my socks. I had to borrow a black pair from my dad as I always had to. I tell him I keep losing
them but I don't think I ever owned my own pair.
When we arrived at my grandparents, before even opening the door, there was a smell of food like no other. As if we Walked into an Italian festival, and in many ways this was. My dad and I shared a look. We did this often, as if it were a secret bond between the two of us. People always said we thought alike.
As we walked in, my dad first followed by myself and close by my sister Sarah, there was an event of people. It seemed as if it were an old Italian movie, the godfather maybe without the criminal underground. Before any hello's we first had to find Grammy. If we didn't look for her first thing to say
Hello and give a hug it is as if she would take offence. See this was her holiday. She never asked for thanksgiving, or new years eve. She hardly even celebrated those holidays at all. Grammy just loved Christmas
Eve and no one had an excuse to miss it. This was her family, and it was a big one at that. She had five sons, their wives, four sisters, three brothers in laws, and sixteen grand children, all here, all for her.
Grandpy was sitting around on the back porch with his brothers, smoking cigars laughing about old times. I remember sitting with them and hearing all the stories. I remember one of my dad when he was young, about sixteen years old, he used to steal Grammys cigarettes when she was in the shower and dad and all his brothers would split one out back. And Grammy would always catch them because the never realized they were right under her bedroom window. It made me laugh. And I would poke fun at my dad. Story's about him doing something he wasn't supposed to come few and far between.
We would continue eating throughout the whole party. Grammy started the cooking and freezing in late November. We would have roasted peepers with soft Italian bread. Grammy would try to explain how to make them but by the time she got to the blowtorch I was lost, English 101 seemed easier than that. Grandpy steamed clams in the garage on his grill. My dad and my uncle peter would always help, not because they knew anything about clams but it gave them a chance to have a cigarette without announcing it to the room. We would also have fried dough and giblets, and when the giblets came out everyone would as me if I wanted lizards, I guess I used to call them lizards when I was little. Its funny and all but the joke died out about 4 years ago.
After the constant eating we all sat around and I put in the movie my father made for Grammy and Grandpy's 50th anniversary. It was of old times, everything from Grandpys baby pictures form over in Calabria to my little sisters middle school graduation pictures, my cousin's baptism or my great aunts wedding. I had never felt pride until that day. I had the best family ever I thought to myself. My
grandparents have achieved so much. Not only the hard work my Grandpy put in to his business or the
large house they had bought. But the little things they had made so important or at least what I thought were the little things. As I looked around that room and saw the half-teary faces and the smiles that weren't quite smiles. I knew then that everyone felt the way I did at that moment.
But mow as I sit here at my dads. Everything seems different. Sarah's not here. She's getting ready at her house. Dads all dressed but he's asleep in the chair. I have my own black socks. I wake him up "dad" I said in a stern voice. "Are we going to go or what". As he wakes up and staggers to the steps to put his shoes on. "Where's Sarah" I asked. "She's driving herself, she will meet us out there" he responded after a pause. As if he knew what he was going to say but had much more on his mind. He did that a lot lately.
The ride out there was quiet. I felt a pain in my stomach like I had eaten something old, or had something lodged deep inside. I wanted to spark a conversation but I couldn't, I had something to say but a feeling was over me like I couldn't, like a stutter, or a feeling that my voice was going to crack, or change pitch at the wrong time. Dad just sipped his coffee.
As we walked in I knew then it was different. The room seemed larger, the smell was different, someone was missing, then I remembered earlier that month, as if it sunk-in this moment here, this second. A feeling as if I had just learned about it now and everyone was hiding it from me. Grammy had died. And the greatest celebration in the world had left with her.