Monday, December 24, 2012

A Memoir Christmas Memory

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite Christmas presents was Shirley Temple's book of classic fairy tales. With its shiny pale yellow cover and Shirley dressed as Snow White, I loved to sit under the Christmas tree, hold it, smell it, turn the pages and study the illustrations in every pale color and sepia-toned hue imaginable. 
The little girl who loved fairy tales.

My favorite stories in that book were Rapunzel . . .  her prince almost dying to rescue her and her tears healing him of his blindness (near-tragedy and romance!) and Rumpelstiltskin about the beautiful daughter of a poor miller, who had to perform the impossible - spin straw into gold.  (Welcome to a woman's world!)

Rumplestiltskin, if you recall, promises he will work his magic to give the girl gold-spun straw in exchange for the unimaginable - her firstborn child.  A desperate woman, she promises this, but then resorts to her wiles. Look no further than a miniature person - a strange little man - (today he would be called a Hobbit),  gifted with a unique power, along with the message that bragging will do you in every time . . . and there it was.  An unforgettable story.

Fairy tales don't pretend to depict real life, yet there is an element of truth to them since they foretell little is lasting, especially fantasies and dreams.  No matter how many tears I shed, I could not heal my prince.  My husband, John Cavalieri, died of cancer at the impossibly young age of 47. After that, it was up to me to spin dry and brittle straw into gold, raise two little boys, work a fulltime job and keep it all together so that my children did not suffer more than they already had.

But somehow, despite everything,  Christmas still held magic.  Over the years, I watched in delight as my sons tore open their gifts - the new set of Pokemon cards, the ubiquitous video games (no getting around that when you have boys)  . . . and the stocking stuffers - paperback novels they enjoyed as they got older, including the stories of Jules Verne, the great Russian novels, and, of course, the latest Ludlum thriller.  Maybe, I had had influence as their mother, after all!


Daniel and Alex a bit unsure on Santa's lap.
It always seemed - and still does - that after the presents had been opened and there was a moment of solitude, the first thing I did was reach for that new book I had been given.  One Christmas a friend gave me a journal with a woman astride a unicorn, her wavy blond hair flowing in the wind . . . oh, those 60s never released their hold on us Baby Boomers.  I think it even smelled of patchouli oil - the ultimate hippie perfume.  The book's creamy white blank pages delighted me; I could hardly wait to slip away and start writing.

The Christmas "book tree" at Wellington Square.
Then the magical would happen - just as it does now as I write this blog and share my memories with you . . .  hours fly by and with the words come serenity and peace . . . pure magic, pure joy on a Christmas day.


What about you?  What is your favorite Christmas memory?  What gives you a sense of peace and serenity?
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