On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

My sister had sent me a picture of a child’s drawing. It was a little disturbing. This is what it was:



She told me she and my mother had discovered it in a pile of drawings my grandmother had kept since all her grandkids were little. It was in with all the other stuff my sisters and I had drawn, colored or made. This was in the 1984 section. But this was the only thing that didn’t have a name or a date on it. I know that the fiery stick on the left is either a cigarette or a match. I’m fairly sure the red-glowing stick on the right is a cigar, meant for my grandfather. I have no idea what the thing at the top is. A car cigargette lighter on a tripod? A bull’s eye?

And what had they won?

My grandparents were smokers. Actually, to say my grandmother was a smoker is an understatement. My grandmother was basically a human cigarette. A chain-smoker so serious about her nicotine fix that it had to be constant. She smoked four packs a day. That she got emphysema was no surprise. That she never got cancer is astounding.

Sister 1 is fairly convinced that I must have been the one who made this painting. I would have been seven in 1984. But I’m not at all sure it was me. First, I’m certain that I knew there was no H in “want.” Secondly, I’ve never made my Gs that way. Third, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have double-punctuated.

Even at seven, I was a bit of a grammarian.

I think one of my cousins was behind this, and it somehow got mixed in with my sisters’ and my stuff.

The bittersweet irony of this discovery is that my grandmother, in addition to emphysema, also had Alzheimer’s. By the time she was in her early 70s (when I was in my mid- to late-teens), she wouldn’t have even known she had stashed drawings away. She would have looked at them as though she’d never seen them before. She would have stared at her handwriting on the backs, with names and dates carefully kept, and had no idea the handwriting was hers.

Those precious (and discomfiting) memories she’d saved had all been lost, despite her care. Left for her adult grandchildren to find more than a decade after her death. Left for us to try to interpret. Memories have become mysteries.

This is the final post in my Twelve Days of Christmas series. As those who read it last year may recall, I used it to be mindful of the gifts I received every day. I have done the same this time.

The First Day: Memories

The Second Day: Comfort

The Third Day: Grace

The Fourth Day: Patience

The Fifth Day: Books

The Sixth Day: Hope

The Seventh Day: Perspective

The Eighth Day: Aspiration

The Ninth Day: Bounty

The Tenth Day: Simple Pleasure

The Eleventh Day: Inventiveness

The Twelfth Day: Mystery

These series have given me a gift of their own: the ability to look back and find a gift in something that seemed mundane or even irritating at the time.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Ephipany: the day the Three Kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus, following the star to his manger.

May 2013 provide you all with a star to follow, so you may find your gifts, and give them to those who are worthy.

9 thoughts on “On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

  1. What a mysterious if somewhat unsettling drawing. Of course, my first impulse would be to make up a story about it. Somewhere, Muri and I have a large box of our kids drawings. I think I’ll track it down and archive it for my kids. Sorry I didn’t read all your “days” … I’m going to work my way back through them.

  2. My niece recently drew a picture depicting ninja elves swarming their house. I told my sister to date and sign it so sweet niece can’t deny her artwork later 🙂 Beautiful post about unexpected gifts.

  3. My mother is showing all the signs of Alzheimer’s. She can recall her youth and many things about my father with ease. But thinks a doctor told her to ‘make her thumb bleed’ when it was infected (no he didn’t), confuses the tv remote with the phone (you’d think it funny to watch her try to answer the remote, but it’s just sad and scary). But so far she still remembers her family. Can’t imagine what treasures we will find buried in her home one day.

      • We have finally convinced her to see the doctor. She was always stubborn but it’s beyond stubborn now. That’s sometime in February. If she would eat better it would help but her preferred dinner is ice cream and cookies. If I take her food, she just ignores it 😦

      • My grandmother got to a point where all she would eat was potato chips. Alzheimer’s defies logic. You can’t “talk her into” anything. We hospitalized my grandmother by force. Had to.

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