Tag Archives: Patti Crouch

Lost Blossoms by Patti Crouch

Patti CrouchIn the family portrait, my grandmother sits prim and pretty in a white party dress, hair fastened by bows, eyes solemn. Behind her is a wall of black suits, slick-haired brothers with faces like bulldogs. Her father stares at the camera, thin-eyed and well fed; her mother curves her shoulders forward, perhaps hunching around the baby whose long christening gown glows white against her black dress. The baby was an afterthought, raised once the sons had graduated and departed, the only daughter allowed an education. My grandmother went to work at twelve in a hat shop, crying for months as her dreams fell away like petals.

I imagine her behind a counter, ribbon in hand, dreaming of lights strung between trees, the swish of a silken dress, the lush chords of a band. After the war she married a gentle Swede whose service in the balloon corps let him float above the mud and carnage unscarred; they settled in a house rimmed with lilacs. I never knew my grandfather, who died while my mother was in college–a heart attack, she said, from working so hard to pay tuition.

Like all the Jansen women, my grandmother had beautiful skin, high cheekbones, a slightly bulbous nose. The only German things she retained were a stiff formality and the Christmas ornaments her mother brought over on the boat, four little birds made of silvery glass, glazed and sprinkled with glitter. Their tails were plumes of glass fibers, and each bird bobbed on a tiny spring soldered to a metal clip. My mother hung them at the very top of the tree, out of our reach, but still they wobbled sideways, the colored glaze chipping away year by year.

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