Reminders of people whom you cared deeply for, but now are dead, are never easy to experience. That game you used to play together, their favourite holiday, a gift they gave you… little flutters in the back of your mind initially make you happy, then a little wistful, ending in ‘there’s-something-in-my-eye’ sad.
My Grandma, who died just about a year and a half ago, did everything when we were little. She made my whole highland dance troop kilts (yes I highland danced – shut up), sewed Halloween costumes, baked, hiked, camped, made all the grandkids their own stockings, dyed a wedding dress black for me in the start of my goth phase (again, yes and also shut up), taught me to sew and basically crafted like a crazed, bedazzling motherfucker. So, there are very few times that I go through daily life without being reminded of her.
This christmas, I wanted a happy reminder that she was totally kick-ass when she was alive, without the sad aftertaste.
My family grew up fairly low income (for many generations) and have learned to be very creative. My Grandma had continued the tradition of making “jumble jar art” out of covering various items with modge podge and sticking interesting found ‘art’ to it. Grandma was so into this that she had an almost hoarder level of craft supplies when she passed and not much else. So, much to my delight, my inheritance was a couple of bags of miscellaneous beads, buttons and broken pieces of interesting looking crap. (Note: This was real delight.)
Crap craft pile in hand, a two year old who I wanted to impress, and some nap times I’d rather not fill with laundry left me with the question: How do you invite your dead Grandma over for Christmas?
I decided to make a Grandma advent calendar. I’d fill it with little toys and snacks that I thought Grandma would approve of, and I’d tell my daughter the story of how awesome my Grandma, her Great Grandma, was. I’d tell her how she lived, how she died and that now her ghost gives her treats in containers stuck to the fridge, every day for the month before Christmas. Boosh.
Disclaimer: I’m an Atheist, and I don’t believe in a god or ghosts at all. I kind of believe in Santa… but I firmly believe that childhood should be filled with magic, so lying to kids about things like fairies and dead Grandma ghosts is totally acceptable.
I gave myself constraints, which I love for art projects. You always end up being intensely creative when you’re working with limited supplies. I only used the inherited craft junk and the traditional jumble jar methods, aside from some scrap book paper and puff paints, as Grandma only had ribbons and lace. I’m sentimental and all, but I have standards too. For the containers, I shelled out $53 for magnetic spice containers from the Container Store. Not the cheapest option, but good for space challenges and food safe for snack storage.
Making the calendar was time consuming and required proper use of modge podge. For those who actually want to make one, the trick is to paint it on thick and let it dry for a while or else you will be holding it while it dries, screaming the whole time about why-the-fuck your relatives loved using modge podge and not hot glue guns.
Then it’s all about what could you possibly make given a pile of random shiny things and channeling a dead Grandma, so that you can make your kids’ Christmas as magical as she made yours. When your child is thanking her “Great-Magga” for almonds on the 2nd day of December, the memories of her stay happy.
Happy holidays, from me and my dead Grandma.