When her first grandchild was born in the early 70s, my grandmother sent away to Bronner’s, Christmas kitsch capital of America, for a glass globe ornament with the baby’s name etched on it. The result delighted her so much that she not only ordered one for every subsequent grandchild, she eventually got them for all of her children and their spouses. Four decades and three generations later, the ornament collection is so big it has its own gravitational pull. If Grandma still bothered with a Christmas tree, she could trim the whole thing in name globes; as it is, even with the tree long abandoned, the spheres hang every year from the archway between dining room and living room.
For my family, those globes work like a family Bible: Jebediah of the green ornament did wed Mehetabel of the blue and begat Abednego of the silver. Steal our money; break our hearts: once your box arrives from Bronner’s, the only way for your ornament not to get hung is to die.
I hadn’t planned on coming out to my grandmother. Ever. But wedding planning squashed that idea. (“Well,” my mother said, “if you invite your aunt, you should invite your uncles. And if you invite them, you’ll have to invite your grandmother, because we can’t lie to her.”) Just after Halloween, my heart hammering like a caged beast, I mailed the big coming-out letter. And heard pretty much nothing in response. I figured no news was good news and went back to guest lists and dress designs.
Six weeks later, I was in Grandma’s house in Michigan, nerves jangling, introducing my grandmother to my fiancee, Leora. No one made a scene. It was very decorous and slightly disappointing. Leora and I were setting the table when Mom zipped by. She paused as she passed and jerked her head toward the ornament archway. “Did you see?” she asked.
I couldn’t believe she meant what I thought she meant, but I cautiously raised my eyes and scanned the archway. The ornaments don’t go in any order, so it took a while to find it: a gold globe proclaiming “Leora.” I grabbed Leora’s arm and dragged her over to show her. Then I kissed her out of sheer unbridled glee.
You can keep your mistletoe; I’ll take a kiss under an archway of glass globes any day.