My Christmas memory isn’t really my favorite, so much as my worst. To this day, tears pour down my face every time I recall it, and yet, it brought me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.
When I was born, my Grandpa Wright had passed away, so my Gramma Wright was already fit tight into my family like a puzzle piece that completely belonged. She was always there, with her pure white hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and polyester pants. She was the epitome of the chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire type of Gramma. She was round, soft, laughed with musical laughter, always smiled, made delectable fudge, super salty macaroni and cheese, and could out-sing Bing Crosby at any Christmas carol. We would sit by the fireplace when I was little, and sing carol after carol to the old vinyl records spinning on the turntable. Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, the Carpenters, all the classics that had established themselves long before I was born, but trapped Christmas in this time-capsule of snowy night perfection. The crackling fire was warm, as was Gramma’s arm around me, and the feeling taking root deep inside of me.
When I eight, something dreadful happened. I realized that Gramma was not going to be with us for the holiday as she’d moved to a nursing home. Congestive heart failure was not her friend, and she was weak, and tired, and her voice was a whisper no longer able to be heard above dear, blue-eyed Bing. But then something worse happened.
I opened her Christmas present.
She’d purchased it at the gift shop at the nursing home. It had the ugliest plastic face, with yarn crochet around it like a bonnet, a button under its doll-chin, and two crocheted pot-warmers hanging below. And it was blue and white. I didn’t even like blue. Let alone a plastic faced, two-dimensional kitchen accessory. Last year, she’d given me a Fisher Price kitchen mixer complete with bowl, and play food. My imagination could not stretch beyond crushed disappointment. I tossed the ugly thing away.
A few months later, I was found hugging the garbage can, inconsolable, sobbing and broken.
The ugly doll-pot-warmer was the last gift my Gramma would ever give me. She passed away, leaving a lonely little eight-year-old to celebrate Christmas after Christmas, holding on to memories of fireplaces, vinyl records, and smiles. I had never wanted so
badly to get back a present I’d so thoughtlessly tossed away.
That day, I realized that the giving is the heart behind the gift, not the gift itself.
That useless piece of crocheted ugliness had transformed into a golden treasure, because trapped within it, was the love of my Gramma. She’d wheeled her breathless self to the shop, fingered the old-lady items, probably labored over what might possibly be special to an eight-year-old granddaughter, and picked it from its spot for sale. And I had tossed it away. Thoughtlessly. Thanklessly. Selfishly.
I never did get the doll back. It had long traveled to its destination somewhere in the city dump. To this day, I would sell just about anything if I could only have it back. But I also learned something that, while it still hurts, is even more important: I did not throw away her love.
She loved me. Ohhhhhh, how that woman loved me. It wrapped around me as a child, held me from afar when she was ill, and travelled with her to glory. I remember kissing her in the hospital one night, not long after, and not understanding she was passing away. Her cheek was so soft, so warm. Her voice so whisper-quiet. But as we walked down the hospital hallway to head home, her voice echoed out her hospital doorway and down the hall after me with a strength I will never forget.
“Goodbye!” She warbled after me. “I love you! Goodbye!”
It was our final goodbye. The love of my Gramma followed me home, lives in me now, and will travel with me to her side someday.
Her gift of an ugly crocheted thing became the picture of sacrificial love to me. The power behind her dying voice as she called to me down the hall. She wanted me to know that with Christmas, with life, were the memories. Our memories. She wanted me to know that she loved me.
I know Gramma, I know. More than anything. I. Know.
More about The House on Foster Hill
Outstanding Debut Novel from an Author to Watch
Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.
A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives—including her own—are lost?
Professional coffee drinker & ECPA/Publisher’s Weekly best-selling author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited romantic suspense stained with the shadows of history. Coffee fuels her snarky personality. She lives in Neverland with her Cap’n Hook who stole her heart and will not give it back, their little fairy Tinkerbell, and a very mischievous Peter Pan. The foursome embark on scores of adventure that only make her fall more wildly in love with romance and intrigue. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures atjaimejowright.com