As with Thanksgiving, Christmas was a very special time in our household. My mother had a very strong sense of tradition, and even though I was an adult, my mother still looked forward to creating all of our special Christmas goodies.
On Christmas Eve, we had our customary appetizers: shrimp, ham, Italian beef appetizers, cookies, and whatever else my mom thought might be festive.
One of my mom’s special talents was giftwrapping. When I was little, presents were wrapped with military-precision, festooned with ribbon, and stacked knee-deep underneath the tree.
(Sadly, I do not share my mom’s talent, and it has been noted within the family that I wrap much like my grandmother who valued substance over style.)
In 2007, my Beloved and I were about to exchange our first Christmas presents. I was spending Christmas with my mom and the subject of the gifts came up.
Mom: What did you get Jon for Christmas?
Me: An iPOD!!!!! (I was so excited.)
Mom: Have you wrapped it yet?
Me (in a small voice): No.
Mom: Does Jon know about present-wrapping tendencies and how you wrap like your grandmother?
Me: No. Not yet.
Mom: Would you like me to wrap it for you?
Me: Yes, please. BUT you have to promise that you won’t tell him that you wrapped it.
My mom wrapped Jon’s present counseling me on the importance of hospital corners and curling ribbon. I was 33-years old.
(In the matter of full disclosure, I have also passed off desserts my mom made–with her permission, of course.)
(In the continued matter of full disclosure, I also hoard airplane pretzels, peanuts, and complimentary mints at restaurants. I carry a big purse–just like my grandmother.)
One of the things I love best is being able to create traditions of my own:
- My Beloved and I go to a Christmas Tree farm.
- We pick out a tree when I can longer feel my feet.
- My Beloved wraps the lights around the tree, and I decorate it using the decorations from my childhood while watching my favorite Christmas movies: Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Bad Santa, and Die Hard.
- I wrap Christmas gifts for the kiddos.
Then I call my mom:
Me: Hi. It’s Me.
Mom: Hi Me. Whatcha’ doing?
Me: Decorating the tree.
Mom: Did you hang the Sucrets box you made when you were ten?
Mom: Did you hang the red bows I made when you were six?
Mom: Did you remember to hang the ornaments along the back of the tree and the bottom, so the tree looks even?
Mom: I’m going to see you Christmas Eve! I can’t wait!!
Me: Oh, I know!
If I’d known that Christmas 2010 was the last time I would see my mom as herself, maybe I would have paid more attention. Been more mindful. Committed every small detail to memory. But I did not know, and neither did she, so we had our typical mom/daughter time, which was always fantastic.
We talked and rehashed old times and memories. (Mom and I are big rehashers.) We talked of big things and small:
Mom: Do you think my hair is too long?
We had Christmas dinner with Jon’s parents, and I hugged her extra hard good-bye, and she smelled like Mom: cigarettes, Giorgio, and that indefinable Mom smell that made her Mom.
Christmas 2011 was the first Christmas without my mom. For the most part, I managed to make it through the holiday somewhat intact. (Except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day where I cried and cried and cried–I did not know that a person the size of a hobbit could produce so much snot. Gross, but true.) We put up the tree. I watched my movies and hung my ornaments.
I also developed this weird little ritual with cards. My mom was a huge proponent of homemade cards. I received a card on every major holiday, a card just because she was thinking about me, or a card because it was Wednesday. Naturally, as the holiday began to roll around, I began to think about my Mom’s Christmas card.
Logically, I knew that my mother was dead. But maybe there was some kind out of magic out there, and a card from her would magically appear. I made crazy deals with the cosmos: “If two out of the three radio stations I listen to play songs I like, there will be a card there when I get home.”
And, of course, there wasn’t.
This is going to be the second Christmas without my mom. And that still sucks.
But you know what? This has been a GREAT year full of amazing people and trips and places and dogs.
And I think magic and miracles still happen.
Back in October, Bu and I took a trip home to Dallas where we spent a lovely afternoon knocking about town with her Aunt Susan. Aunt Susan is a true Texas lady–she possesses a dry wit–and is lovely both inside and out. We had a FABULOUS time. Aunt Susan and I have bonded over the years with our love of books and the printed word, so imagine my surprise yesterday, when I arrive home, and there is a package for me in the mail!
(I love the mail. I’m always hoping for something good.)
I didn’t recognize the return address, but when I opened the package and saw who it was from…it was like the magic had been there.
(I cried a little because I cry about happy things.)
The other wonderful thing: my Beloved and I went to Atlanta for the weekend where my baby cousin was getting married. It’s hard to believe she’s old enough to be married when I think of her as a little girl. I got to hang out with my favorite aunts and uncle and my other baby cousin–and what I love best is the relationship both of my aunts have with their daughters: they are so close and love each other so much.
I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas season. To those of you–if this is the first Christmas without your mom (or parent), a special hug to you.