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Christmas Pennies from Heaven

So many stories are told about grandmas’ attics, but my grandma’s attic was truly magical–especially at Christmas. Her attic was one big room with giant dormer windows on three sides. Against two opposite facing walls were brass beds with feather mattresses in which we grandchildren slept . . . or jumped.

A ping pong table stood in the middle of the attic, and around the edges of the room were old-fashioned trunks full of mysteries that grandchildren were not allowed to discover for they were locked.

On the fourth wall was a small, secretive attic door, not much taller than I was at the age of eight or nine. Behind it were stored fun things like Christmas presents. It, too, was locked and only opened on special occasions.

Under the front dormer window was an old vanity with a beveled mirror and a brush and hand mirror from ages past. Next to the vanity hung all of my mother’s old ball gowns from her high school dances in the fifties. I begged my Grandma to let me try them on, but she refused . . . so all I could do was gaze at their taffeta, lace, and silk beauty—and dream.

The attic held a not-so-secret spy hole which was actually the only heat source for the upper room. It looked down on Grandma’s dining room table where the adults would gather on holidays to play games after we children went to bed – which never seemed fair to us. Thinking we were oh-so-sly, we would drop pennies through the grate, while stifliing giggles, onto their game table. Being not extremely brilliant children, we always wondered how they knew the pennies-from- heaven were from us. “Go to bed,” my parents would gaze directly up into the heating vent, and we would scurry, laughing hysterically, across the cold floor to the warmth of the feather beds. We were certain that our games were more fun than theirs.

One Christmas Eve, my sister and I slept in the feather bed together, and in the morning we saw animal footprints in the freshly fallen snow on the roof next door. Keeping the Santa story alive for my siblings was part of the joy of Christmas for me, so I told her they were reindeer hoof prints, even though I strongly suspected they were made by squirrels. Her joy was so contagious that I began to wonder myself if truly we would have seen Santa’s sleigh if only we had stayed awake a few minutes longer the night before.

Pennies from heaven. Childhood days in Grandma’s attic. Moments of time locked in my memory. Gifts from the Creator of all good things—teaching me about mystery, joy, laughter, and grace.

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