Christmas With A Little Grief

Grief and the Christmas season sometimes go hand in hand. Real grief plays itself in every day life just like we see in this story written for a Story Dam prompt.

Alma sat at the large wooden antique dining table staring at her hands. They were dry, cracked and showing some wrinkles. The gray in her muddy brown hair framed her face and gave her the appearance of being older than her 43 years.

“Grief does that to a woman. I mean it makes you age before your time,” she overheard her best friend telling another friend.

Was she aging faster since Mama died? It did seem her mind was slipping as she was forgetting simple things, like where her car keys were or why she had gone to the store. Sometimes she’d be in the car driving and forget where she was going. She felt as if she was in the midst of a heavy fog  that refused to lift.

Alma reached for the pale red and white-flowered tablecloth that lay draped over the back of the chair next to her and pulled it close to her drawing in a deep breath smelling it. The fragrance of moth balls and her mother’s Sweet Honesty perfume lingered in the threads of the cloth. She knew it needed washing since using it last Christmas but that meant the scent of Mama’s memories would be lost forever and Alma couldn’t bear it.

Standing with the tablecloth in hand she unfolded it and noticed the familiar cigarette burn. Almost poking her pinky finger through the hole, her eyes filled with wet tears as she remembered the day her dad dropped his Winston on the cloth.  He and Uncle Benny were sitting at the table, cigarettes in hand, beer bottles close and a broken clock radio. Daddy’s tool box sat open on the then new tablecloth as they discussed the repairs to make. Alma stood in the doorway watching and waiting for her radio to play again. The two men were deep in thought when Mama walked through the dining room seeing the toolbox and beer bottles sitting on her new purchase.

“What are you doing with all that on my brand new tablecloth?!”

Startled by the sudden outburst Daddy and Benny looked up, hit their bald heads together and Daddy dropped his cigarette burning a hole in the cloth. Seeing the cigarette singeing through to the table he poured his beer  on it to stop the burning causing Mama to scream in a loud frantic tone.

“What are you doing?! Stop!”

“I’m just trying to put the fire out!”

“You two just get out of here!” She ran out of the dining room and was back in a flash with a towel to clean up the mess.

The front door slammed bringing Alma back to the present. Alma’s daughter Cindy walked toward the dining room taking off her jacket.

“Whatcha doin?”

“Getting the table ready for Christmas dinner.”

“Here let me help.”

Taking hold of each end the two women spread the old faded tablecloth across the large wooden table. Cindy picked up the poinsettia flower arrangement to place over the cigarette burn as they did every year to hide the unsightly mark. Alma reached out to stop her.

“No not this year. I want to see the cigarette burn.”

Alma pulled out a chair and sat down. She rubbed hand over the burn and thought she’d wait one more year before washing the tablecloth.

I’m linking up with my new writing community Story Dam. The prompt was:

Wet Feet – Just by looking at all these pieces you probably already have few ideas for stories. Use only one piece and build the rest of the story around it. I picked the red and white piece. Obvious? I really hope so.


  1. Grace,
    I can relate to your post and I appreciate you writing it. I miss my grandma more than words can explain. Christmas is the hardest for me because it seemed like she made it happen with helping me put up the lights, make cookies, wrap presents…this is harder to write than I thought. Thank you for letting me share.

  2. I’m loving all of the different places people went to by looking at the same puzzle pieces. I thought thhis was a very strong piece and I felt like I became part of her story for a minute. I’m able to get a really good visul of her memories and of the present. Very nice.

  3. I love the direction you went with the puzzle piece. The first few holidays after the loss of a parent are incredibly difficult, and you captured that resurfacing of grief from boxed away memories perfectly. Beautiful.

    • Thanks so much Donna. It is hard but time helps doesn’t it?

      • Time does help. A lot. But I think it’s something that will stay with you always. My dad’s been gone for quite awhile now, and I still fall pray to sudden tears for the strangest reasons. As much as it hurts, I almost hope that feeling never goes away. Your piece brought him to the surface of my thoughts for the first time in way too long. I thank you for that.

        • Your welcome Donna but it was hard to write. Both my parents are gone and Christmas is hard. It takes me awhile to get in gear for the holidays because the memories are so strong and it’s just sad to celebrate without them. I guess you understand that.But life goes on and my family needs the celebration.

  4. This was such a bittersweet piece. I loved how she was remembering her mother so fondly, but it broke my heart how much she missed her. The ending where she left the cigarette burns untouched and decided not to wash the tablecloth was the perfect ending.

  5. Oh Julie, I am in tears! I lost my Gramma a couple of years ago, she was more like a Mom and I miss her everyday. I have a couple of things I pull out of plastic bags every once in a while just to smell, it takes me back to their home and to the comfort it gave me. Thank You, I needed that cry 😉

    • I’m sorry about your Gramma. I got tears in my eyes reading your comment. I finally washed my Mom’s clothes last year after holding on to them for 5 years. I had them in a plastic trash bag. Didn’t want to wash the last little bit of her smell away but I did it as an act of closure. It helped and I was able to do some more things I had been putting off. So thankful for memories.

  6. I have my memories too, and every once in awhile, I’ll catch that smell or that memory–like the other day when I went to a playdate with my youngest to a neighbors house…she had already decorated for Christmas and she had this German windmill thing that my grandma used to have. I haven’t seen it in so long, I actually voiced aloud that I missed it and wondered who had it. It was one of my favorite childhood memories of my grandmother’s Christmas decorations, that and her cookies, and how she always had a little chicken for me because I didn’t like ham.

    Hugs to you for the pain you’ve experienced to write this so well. I have no concrit to offer you. It’s believable, relatable, and tugs at your heart. I love that she left the cigarette burn uncovered and refused to wash it. Those little touches were so perfect.

  7. Wow, Julie! You really brought your “A” game this week too! This was a very sweet story. It pulled me in, like I was watching it. Great job with that.

    Just a little more fine tuning and you are there! The first part could honestly just be my writing style. I don’t know, but you can still let go of a few unnecessary words in the paragraph where she smells the table cloth. Specifically here: “…chair next to her and pulled it close to her…” (it’s a little redundant) and where you say the smell in the “fibers of the cloth” (you don’t have to tell us its a cloth).
    The second would be to work on the transition into the flashback just a little. Just to make it smoother for the reader. (I have problems with this too, lol!)

    Other than that? Bravo! You’re improving already. I love it! Give yourself a pat on the back. 🙂

    • Like, “she sat in the chair and pulled it close.” Leaving off both “hers”? yes transition is a fine art one which I intend to work on. Thanks for the great comment Brandon. It gives me the encouragement that I’m headed in the right direction.

  8. Hi Julie,
    This is a very touching story. I love that the memories come back to the character through different senses. I also like that she broke the tradition of covering up the burn mark on the table cloth. The little things we do to hold on to memories!

    • Yes I have done and still do some pretty weird stuff. I still have the last cigartte butts my dad put his lips on and that was almost 13 years ago. Strange huh? One day I might just let go of them but I keep thinking what harm does it do.

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