The pomegranate is rich in myth, symbolism, and history. I fell in love with the story of Demeter and Persephone, especially after I became aware that Sicily is known as "Persephone's Island'. My mother's maternal grandparents were born in Sciacca, Sicily, and since my grandfather was adopted (perhaps by Sicilians, also, I don't remember), my mother's family considered themselves Sicilian more than Italian.
However, I didn't adopt the pomegrante as a symbol just from myth. At Christmas, my mother always bought odd, tropical fruits to serve after dinner. This was the part of the meal that I looked forward to as a kid. First off, it was the course that preceeded dessert, which was the course around which the holiday revolved, the course for which the holiday existed in my kid cookied-crazed mind. For Pete's sake, when we were going to get to EAT the 10 tins of cookies that we had made in the weeks preceeding Christmas? After all, once the gifts were given, the only thing left was the cookies.
It was not just my sugar-obsession that made my anticipate when my mother put out a centerpiece of tangerines, clementines, perhaps some berries, slices of melon bought at great cost in midwinter, and always, these odd, strangely shaped fruits that we only had at Christmas. My mother also bought figs and dates, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts, dried fruit (which no kid would touch), and a pomegranate and a prickly pear. Then, just as the women and conscripted older children finished up the first dishwashing and drying, a great pan of chestnuts would come out of the oven and be placed on a silver tray and we would use our linen napkins to grab the nuts and squeeze off the husk and papery inner lining, and be rewarded with a mouthful of warm, sweet, creamy chestnut.
The first pot of coffee would be perked and the table would be set with cups and saucers and dessert plates. The men would loosen their ties, the littler kids would disappear to the living room to play with their toys, and the women would replace their wedding rings, bracelets, and watches, and sit down. My grandfather would peel an apple with a pen knife in one spiral swoop; the nuts would be passed and nutcrackers handed out; and my mother would make all the kids squeal in disgust when she sliced open that strange prickly pear and ate it.
I have this memory of my mother placing a pomegranate on a large dinner dish so the red juice wouldn't stain her Christmas tablecloth, and slicing it open with a fruit knife. She scooped out a tumble of glistening seeds onto a white saucer and passed it around. The seeds were much prettier than the gross prickly pear, so we each took a few to try. As we picked at the pomegranate seeds, and the men crushed nuts, and grapes were nibbled, and the candles burned down to stumps, the stories began to be told about the great grandparents who were gone, and the days when they all lived together in one house like a 3-layer cake.
I'd listen to the stories and learn about Manana and Rocky Point and Boston and Uncle Baker and Dolly and these people whose names I knew but maybe had never met. Often the women would lower their voices and lapse into Italian and I knew they were discussing something they didn't want the kids to understand. It was a relaxing, informal time before the formal dessert course, before the next wave of relatives came and the table would have more places laid out and even a card table set up. It was the time when my mother would finally shrug off the stress of putting on Christmas and laugh, and not worry whether the silver was polished or the all our Christmas dresses were hemmed. I knew if I kept quiet and just listened, I'd learn much.
Eventually my father would light his pipe, make a risque joke, and my grandmother would laugh at it despite herself, her gold bracelets jiggling on her arm. Relatives would come and go, more coffee would be poured, the cookies would come out, along with cannoli and pastries and cakes and soon my stomach would hurt and I'd get sleepy and lean against my Aunt Anita and be ready to let Christmas go.
When I began pomegranatesandpaper (and for those still wondering, it is pomegranates and paper, not pomegranate sandpaper...) I wanted to have it be like that special hour after dinner, where you loosened your belt, sipped some coffee, and picked at the fruit and nuts. I wanted to give you the stories of family, of love, of the world. I wanted to give you the that moment in the day when the candles are burned down low and a pipe is lit and the smoke rises like incense as we bless each other with the words of our families and tell the stories of the generations.
I think I have done that pretty well. I try to stay true to the facts (I've certainly given you lots of nuts) ; I never sugar coat the truth as long as it won't hurt or embarass those that are written about; and I have become relied upon by my family, especially my children, to tell the story of our lives and those we love. It is a matter of pride to me that my children go to my blog to read about what happened when, and that some of the family are reading through old posts to pull together their memories of The Empress. My only regret is that I had not done it years before so I wouldn't have to squint as I try to decipher my hand-written journals from the pre-blog years.
My life has changed dramatically from when I started this. I spent the weekend dismantling my mother's dining room with its drawers full of tablecloths, serving dishes, candles, bobeches, monogrammed luncheon cloths, dessert plates, goblets, nutcrackers, salt cellars, and all the finery and bric a brac that her generation relied upon to entertain. I worry that I our family life is being dismantled, also, and that our stories will be lost as children grow and move and life becomes so much more frantic and work-filled and holidays become dinners ordered out and all these names are just words chiseled in stone.
I am wiser and less in love with my own words than I was ten years ago. I can't write much about The Empress without crying and I can't look at pictures too much from the past ten years without welling up at seeing her, so it is difficult to browse for photos to post. I censor myself so much more now as I so much more aware of how easy it is for others to find this blog, those people who may not hold my best interests above their own.
I have settled into a once a week posting, usually at the beginning of the week, which is working for me right now. My page views are pitifully low, but that is okay as I am no longer the woman who believed I could spin this blog into more than that it is and retire from my profession and monetize the crap out of this.
So much more relaxing just to share when I want, no? And how I treasure the friends I've made here. You are all friends, you know. I speak of you often. I preface it is always for my family with "a blog friend, so and so" and they've learned to understand that you are as important and special as those that I see in real life. And so many of you I have met or message off blog, and you've all become a special part of my world. .
I have nothing negative to say about blogging or the internet or social media except that I have to treat it like a dessert and make sure I live a balanced life so I actually read the books I promote and use the art supplies I talk about.
My goal for 2013 is less words (oh, I've fallen short already!) and more art and journal pages.
I hope you stick around for the Tenth Year. It sounds so significant, perhaps even a little ominous. I hope it will not be, I hope we'll just play together for a bit more as I find my way in a changing family world and find my face up against the window of the past, waving it goodbye, straining to catch a glimpse of the future.