Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas Double Glo

I took a memoir writing class in the fall at the Darien Library. I didn't know whether I would ever write a memoir, I just thought it would be fun to learn a new writing skill. Turns out, everyone had to write one piece and present it during the final class. I ended up writing something about my mother. Here it is. I hope you like it.

Lynn Russo Whylly
“Merry Christmas Double Glo”

I was sitting at a red light on Washington Boulevard in Stamford when I saw it. The sign for the cross street – Henry Street – loomed large in front of me. It was the first time I passed through that part of town in almost 40 years, and it caught me off guard, giving me chills.
     I turned my head and stretched as far to the right as I could to get a good look at building – it was long, and brick, with windows that went on forever. Of course, the building was completely renovated now, but from the outside, it still looked like the Christmas decoration factory I remembered – the place where my mother, Nancy, was the switchboard operator for the last 13 years of my childhood.
     My mind flashed back to a day when my brothers, sister and I had visited my mom at work. Diane was 12. I was 10. Jimmy was eight and Tommy was seven. It was the sixties and I remember I was wearing straight-legged knitted stretch pants with stirrups under the feet. They sound hideous now, but back then, they were all the rage and I had a pair in every color of the rainbow.
     As soon as we walked through the front door I could see my mother, off in the corner behind the small glass enclosure. Her tiny cubicle looked lonely and barren in that big empty lobby with its pale green walls and high ceiling. Sitting behind the black switchboard with the headset covering her ears and the microphone in front of her mouth, I watched over and over again as she pulled wires out and up, plugging them in little holes, criss-crossing one over the other to connect callers to their requested parties.
     She had that stereotypical nasal voice of a telephone operator when she answered the phone. “Paper Novelty, one moment. Hold plee-ehs.” “I’ll try that number for you now.” “Paper Novelty, one moment.” “Paper Novelty, I’m sorry, he’s not available right now, may I take a message? Thank you.” “Paper Novelty, hold plee-ehs….”
     Her pointed, cat-like glasses perched on the bridge of her nose. She was wearing her favorite belt – a wide black one pulled tight around her tiny waist, overlapping her dark green blouse and black skirt. Her black hair was pulled to one side. Her long thin legs and black high heels were crossed under the desk.
     During the Christmas season, she would answer the phone differently, saying “Merry Christmas Double Glo.” Double Glo was the nickname for the company logo that appeared on all the packages of decorations. An oval droplet with points at the top and bottom, the top half was green and had eyes and a smiling mouth; the bottom half was white. After Paper Novelty closed its doors in 1975 and my mother went on to work somewhere else, I kept up the tradition by calling her every Christmas season and saying, “Merry Christmas Double Glo.”  
     She decorated her tree well into my adulthood with vintage Paper Novelty ornaments and I loved seeing it every year. White angels for the treetop. Doves sprinkled with gold dust. Teardrops, pointsettias, honeycomb bells, and tinsel. Lots and lots of tinsel. The hooks came in little green and red boxes with Double Glo’s smiling face on them. Now, the ornaments are gone, and as a tribute to my mother I use the box as an ornament, hanging it on our tree using an original Paper Novelty hook.
     My memory shifts to January 2011; times have really changed. My mother is lying in bed in the intensive care unit at Scottsdale Shea Hospital in Arizona. We’re all there, two on each side of her bed. Her eyes are wide open but the ventilator prevents her from speaking. Behind closed doors, it took my brothers, sister and me several agonizing hours to accept the terms of her living will, and to take her off the ventilator.  
     As the holidays get closer, everything reminds me of her. Driving past the street where she used to work. Shopping for the holidays and remembering when the whole family was together at her house. Setting up my Christmas village and my manger, each individual piece a gift from her.
     A horn beeps and I snap back to reality. The light is green and I have to move, but I  strain my neck to see the old building one more time. My heart aches to look at it. “Ohhhh,” I say out loud, feeling the pain. “Oh ma, I wish you could see this.”
      My eyes well up with tears and I want to let them flow, but I’m on my way to a job interview at Pitney Bowes headquarters on Elmcroft Road. I can’t go with puffy eyes and a face blotched from tears, so I take a deep breath and blink a few times, gently dabbing at my eyes with my shirt.
Then I tuck the memory away for another day, another time. Merry Christmas, Mom, Merry Christmas Double Glo.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.