Monday, October 17, 2011

Gingerbread Houses, Holiday Trees, and Dreams

For several years, Mother and I toured a local museum the day after Thanksgiving. The exhibits included marvelous gingerbread houses created by amateurs and professionals. I liked the contrast between walls that tilted, held in place by great gobs of frosting, and carefully aligned, beautifully appointed turrets laced with frosting and candies.

At the same time, artists, hair dressers, and designers competed for the year’s great honor: the best, most original holiday tree. We saw coil upon coil of green garden hoses spiraling upward, clock radios set within the coils, each tuned to static so that a low hiss echoed from the green bowels. We saw stark trees made of driftwood forming angular limbs projecting upward. Dried bone hung from dried polished branches, a testament to Nature’s stark truths about winter, seasons, and cycles.

Other trees were more traditional, but the effect was a Land of Enchantment, of endless possibilities and art. One was decorated in feathers, beads, and masks in the colors of Mardi Gras: purple, azure, and green. On another, a tree heavily flocked, hung ornaments of white, eggshell, and ecru. Around the corner stood a Victorian tree with violets and cardboard cut-out dolls in fancy dresses.

Mother and I walked slowly, commenting upon each, enjoying most, and admiring the effort and imaginations in evidence. The real treat was in the final room: the quilt that many women had worked together to create since the first month of a new year. The museum docents raised money for the museum by holding a raffle for the quilt. A mere dollar bill bought a ticket and the promise of carrying home that quilt, always in a pattern that evoked home, our state, its heritage.

We never won. Our number was never called. The quilts warmed other hearts in other homes, but we never tired of dreaming—of sugar plum fairies, of holiday joy, of art, beauty, and a wonderful wrap for just $1.

I hope Mother still dreams of such gifts. I hope she still dreams somewhere inside the labyrinth that Alzheimer’s has made.