Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My father and stepmother have a beautiful tradition for Christmas.

Back when my grandfather was alive, he and my grandmother collected scallop shells on the beach near their cottage in Truro, Massachusetts. Grandpa carefully drilled tiny holes at the top and strung them, in pairs, on florist's wire to use as Christmas tree ornaments. They made dozens and dozens of them.

After both of my grandparents died, my father inherited the scallops. Somehow, he and my stepmother came up with a wonderful tradition. Each year they take a sharpie marker and inscribe the names of friends or relatives who have died during the year. Then they spend an evening putting up all the shells that have accumulated over the years. It is a very moving process. One by one, they read the name and talk about what that person meant to them. Plenty of tears flow. (Usually plenty of scotch, too, I think!)

Last year, in Newfoundland, I was part of this for the first time. I came across the name of my friend Gig, who had died a couple years before, during Holy week. And my granny. And other friends of the family. My mother in law. Even beloved pets.

In the midst of the tears, we had such joy at having known them.

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