Memorable writing that sparks imagination. Lean in. Hear the writer’s voice on the page.
Rebecca Olivia Jones
Grandma used flashing colorful lights and handfuls of tinsel like a grotesque costume on her Christmas tree. I loved its tacky design. I watched it before I fell asleep on the couch the night before our Boxing Day. My brother chose to sleep on the floor to be nearer the presents waiting under and all around the tree. Grandma was very democratic in her gift giving to all her younger grandchildren. Five of us were one year apart; Pam 10, Becky 9, Patrick 8, Byron 7, and Danny 6. We each received a large box filled with a bunch of recycled smaller boxes. Grandma would even re-use Tampax boxes for the smallest gifts.
Pam and I were thrilled to receive, for example, a doll, a rhinestone necklace, fuzzy slippers and a box of shortbread. The boys received a Tonka truck, a baseball, a shirt and a bag of sour gummie treats. We played for hours sitting on the living room rug, the Christmas tree like a glamorous babysitter. Grandma always made rhubarb pie and pumpkin pie and her favorite—mincemeat pie, which I still don’t get. Who ever thought of baking a raisin and meat pie and then calling it mincemeat? My favorite treat was her fruit cocktail cake. She made it with canned fruit, butter, sugar and condensed milk. No wonder I have a sweet tooth! I no longer touch any of that but it was manna as a child.
Mommy insisted that we dress for Christmas dinner. We were like her trophies—aren’t my children beautiful? My Christmas dress was always itchy at the waist and I always spilled cake on the velveteen. My poor little brother was costumed in a mini suit, his shirt tail hanging out from wrestling with his cousins.
As the years passed and our elders died, the traditions changed and now, we have no family traditions. There are no elders to honor or to whom to feel obligated and my brother and my daughter live far away. Gone are the shoulds and the pressure to perform as hostess or appropriate guest; to cook a huge banquet; to clean hundreds of plates, glasses, a gravy tureen (for heaven’s sake,) or polish great-grandma’s silverware. All that kind of tradition for Christmas is no longer a necessity. I live with a man who grew up Jewish and he could care less about a Christmas tree or a Hanukkah menorah.
My needs are simple. I consider every day and every meal a celebration—grateful to be alive, to be safe, to be comfortable. I create my own rituals around daily spiritual practices, taking time to write, read and cook with my partner. My writing workshops are my church and temple. The garden is my Eden. At Christmas, for a sense of continuum for being raised in a Protestant family, I send presents to my grandchildren, string little lights in the bedroom for a cheery mood, hang a few old favorite ornaments that signify peace, love and hope and attend a Christmas Eve service to sing Christmas carols. I even set up a small menorah to honor my partner’s people and the traditions that have led us to who we have become together.
Rebecca Olivia Jones is a playwright, singer, dancer, composer, choreographer, director, always a poet, in 2021, Rebecca collected her poetry and lyrics, accompanied by beautiful photography into a memoir, “Beachsight,” available on blurb.com. Rebecca has a B.A. in Creative Writing from New College of California. Also, a mother, grandmother, sister, and a seeker, she lives in San Rafael with her long-time boyfriend and their cat; teaching singing lessons via zoom; enjoying hiking, gardening, cooking, reading, and writing. She is an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association.
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