Monday, October 19, 2009

Ribbon Candy

The satin luster of ribbon candy resembles the reflections from the Christmas tree lights on the glass ornaments, not clear enough to actually reflect anything but the surface gives the illusion. My grandmother always had a pressed-glass bowl of ribbon candy set out for the Christmas holiday. I don’t remember her having a tree those last few Christmas’s but the overflowing bowl of ribbons was a constant. No one else set out a bowl of ribbon candy.
The McNeill family had grown so large that no one had a house big enough to hold us for the Christmas Day gathering so a church hall was rented. Hours of food preparation filed Christmas Eve with only a pause for steamed chestnuts dipped in butter and a strong cup of tea. It amazed me how the huge meal was gobbled up so quickly by our raucous clan of young and old. Then it was time for games, presents and laughter. The children took advantage of the basketball court or played with their new acquisitions. Clustered around the large folding tables, the older members reminisced. Their voices would ebb and flow creating a multi-part harmony as members joined in the chorus. A litany of voices tinged with sadness that Granddad was no longer present, filled with hope because Jane’s children were recovering from a car accident, touched with concern over Grammy’s failing eyesight, dismayed over teenage behavior and commiserated about the onslaught of middle-age.
Eventually the ribbon candy was passed around. Just as inevitably someone would knock against the tree sending a fragile glass ornament crashing to the hardwood floor. Tiny shards and splinters of glass went everywhere. Bits of reflections scattered across time. Ribbon candy is like that when you hold it in your hand and rotate it. The color changes as the light moves across the surface. Break a piece free, shards and splinters of sweet reflections scatter everywhere.
The echoes of laughter, the rustle of wrapping paper, the smells of a Christmas dinner, the small talk while cleaning up the kitchen are suddenly brought back as clear as the pressed-glass dish overflowing with colorful ribbons. Ribbons of memories looped together revealing their prism of color. Some pieces are broken evenly; some remain whole, while some are just splinters; all in a bowl waiting for selection.
Memories made of broken promises and disappointments, of life’s fulfillments and joys, or of pain and sorrow. Every life has a little of each in varying intensity and hue. All entwined, these colorful ribbons are passed around the family gatherings in a transparent glass dish for all to share and feel.

EMM 4/22/98
rev 5/19/98

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