Handwritten

I remember being a small child dressed in a suit designed for adults. She’d promised me she’d be here for Christmas but left us on the 12th.

Forty years later, the handwritten, ‘For Richard, from Mum’ I’d received from her that year are framed and hanging in my study.

Around the room, hung in their own little intimate settings, the individual ornaments Pop had taken us to get each year, our own special way of remembering her. I could tell you where I was in life when each of them arrived.

A Teddy Bear in a masculine red scarf with authentic wire frame Roosevelt glasses when I was studying philosophy at seminary.

A beautiful green Jekyll sparkled in the corner for the year I met Michael, and I put my collar away in the dresser.

A perfect, round, gold and red ornament behind glass case on a velvet pillow, like Cinderella’s slipper, for the year we adopted Mia.

Standing tall next to me on my desk, a high-polish toy soldier nutcracker, to remember Pop.

Five gold rings on a necklace that Michael had given me when we’d finally been able to get married.

We’d hung this year’s tribute on a thick lush red ribbon. A large intricate crystal snowflake in the center of the picture window.

Michael popped his head in around the door frame, his smile lighting up his white mustache. Mia and the kids were pulling up. I set down my book, touching the remote to fill the house with music. I looked back and admired the snowflake-refracted curls of light across the wall.

Late at night we’d wrap presents on the kitchen island. We’d break out the port. While everyone worked on the perfect wrapping, I’d break out the tag set.

Alone I would write to each of them in an art school charcoal,

‘To Lizzy from Gramps and Granpa’,

‘To Mikey, from Gramps and Granpa’,

‘To my darling Mia, and that man she married, from Pop’,

‘To my Michael, from Gramps.’

I’d toddle off to bed in my flannel nightshirt, muddled by the wine, and very much my mother’s child.