Today, I'm posting a snippet from Ram and Marianne's story from A Grantham Christmas called 'Culture Clash'. As you read in yesterday's reveal, Marianne was bowled over when her in-laws unexpectedly show up at her and Ram's house. And, as you probably remember from 'Tap Dance', Ram and Marianne's original story, she and Ram's dad don't get along!
"You want to help me decorate the mantel?"
Her green eyes glowed and a smile creased her face. Ram's mother was an English rose with her complexion and red-headed coloring, which none of her sons had inherited. All three boys took after their father, having black hair and dark eyes although Turan's skin was paler than his brothers.
"It's been years since I've spent any length of time in a house decorated in the hopes of Father Christmas visiting," she murmured, her eyes running over the Christmas tree Ram and I had set up the weekend before. He'd made a couple of comments like his dad, about having a dead tree in the house when we'd picked it out, but Ram's tone had been teasing, not critical.
Joan stood in front of the lighted tree, her had reaching and softly touching the different ornaments I'd collected over the years. "Some of your ornaments mirror ones my family used to have back in Birmingham."
My eyes roamed over the branches and the different decorations. "A lot of them were from my parent's house."
I wasn't a fussy and felt no need to color coordinate my decorations to the décor of the house. In my mind, the standard Christmas colors of red, green and white were more than okay, but knowing Joan was the one who had furnished Ram's elegant, inviting home, I wondered if it bothered her.
"Christmas is different in America than in England," she confided as we strung the round ornaments on a wire that was to swag the shelf above the fireplace. "There's no caroling throughout the neighborhoods and very few midnight services, I've found."
I glanced up from what my hands were doing and saw her face was soft again turned to the tree, her eyes unfocused in memory.
"And I was surprised at the lack of Christmas crackers and crowns at my first holiday party here in the States," she said after a few moments.
"Christmas crackers?" I echoed. "I've never heard of them."
Her musical laugh competed with the snapping of the fire we'd started earlier.
"Not the kind you eat. They're small, wrapped cylinders placed on your holiday dinner plate. They contain small gifts and a paper crown. Growing up, my parents had all of us cross our hands to help pull them apart. Now you can buy them ready-made and that come open with a bang. But when I was a child, my parents made them."
I tried to imagine the scene as she described it.
"I don't understand the crossed hands thingie," I said, stringing more ornaments on the wire.
"You'd keep one hand on one end of your cylinder, and the other on your seat-mate's before pulling on both at the same time. When it comes apart, it makes a popping sound," she explained. "I don't know why but that sound always meant Christmas to me."
"And you never did any of that with the boys?" I couldn't imagine not having a Christmas, my kind of Christmas, without the traditions that I'd grown up with.
She shook her head as she bent back to her side of the wire. "I tried when Bharat and I were first married but he really didn't care for it. And once I'd started having the boys, he rather put his foot down. He said he didn't want them exposed to the blatant commercialism of the season. Because Diwali, one of the Hindi holidays, is so close to Christmas, I don't think the boys felt left out though. "
I eyed her trying to think of a nice way of responding instead of calling her husband the bully I thought he was. "That's kind of sad, Joan."
Her eyes caught mine.
"Yes, Marianne. In hindsight, I think so too."