Saturday, December 11, 2010


You Never miss the water till the well has run dry
—Irish Proverb

The year three of us decided on homemade gifts Karen made a Christmas wreath out of woven branches—branches either pruned in her backyard or in the woods near school.

What do you make for two teacher friends—a conundrum for me?

I remember creating an Egyptian themed collage for Karen. She taught English, but loved anything to do with the Kennedy family or ancient Egyptian history. Karen’s wreath dwarfed all the other gifts—it measured thirty inches at it’s widest. She had woven a number of branches into a circle—each branch moved in and out creating a fullness that added substance to the wreath.

“There’s no bow because bows are so individual.”

Over the next twenty-five years I replaced bows—everything from a velvet look to a CVS big red plastic bow. Each year I took out the wreath and hung it on the staircase balustrade overlooking the living room. Occasionally I replaced the thin wire used to twist it around a Baluster. After January 1st I took the wreath down and placed it in a plastic garbage bag where it remained for the year.

Hanging the wreath, checking the bow, became a ritual each December. Karen died of breast cancer ten years ago and each year when I hung the wreath I recalled some of her stories. She loved telling long Irish stories—especially tales about Irish wakes.

Last year I noticed that many of the wreath’s branches had split ,but when I went to put the wreath in its plastic bag for the winter several branches broke. I tried to coax them into shape, but after twenty-five years they were too brittle.

This year there’s no woven wreath up and I can hear Karen saying—“Imagine lasting that long.”

I miss it.

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