This week I came across a video of my Mom and my oldest grandson. The video was nine years old. Max was two, Mom was a very spry 78. It was Christmas 2009 and mother was decorating a gingerbread house she’d baked. Max was ‘helping’ with the candy. I watched it again and again though it squeezed my heart and made me cry. It was sooo good to hear her voice again. I miss her. I miss her every day and this week I’ve thought of her a lot and am so grateful to have had her in my life.
I have never had a bad Christmas, a Christmas where I was disappointed, a Christmas where I hurt. If Mom is my Ghost of Christmas Past, she comes with no regrets, no fear of the future.
Our Christmas was never about the presents, never about the booze or the parties. It was about family.
Dad cut the tree and if it needed a few holes drilled in the trunk for extra limbs, that was an easy task. The lights were his responsibility too and he would have them strung out and have that electrical gadget checking each one to pinpoint the bad guys and fix or replace them. Mom did the decorating. The tinsel on the tree – one strand at a time. And then it was all taken off – one strand at a time – and saved for the next year. Twice-loved,
Years later, when I returned home after being away for a bit, nothing much had changed, except maybe they had added the crafts and getting their little shop open for Christmas. It always looked so lovely, as much care put into decorating the shop as decorating the house. After the tree was finished and the lights turned on, Dad would sit back with his cigarette and his one glass of whiskey and quietly admire Mom’s work. Mom meanwhile, forever flying around like a Christmas elf, always humming Christmas songs and carols, getting her puddings done, her baking, her cards in the mail. Enjoying every single day leading up to Christmas and every day after.
When Ralph came along, it added to the fun once again and the elves came back in full force. Not that guy you bring home from Walmart but the real Christmas elves. They had flitted about the house when I was a child and returned again when Ralph was little. These guys were sneaky; you could never see them, never catch them. They had a full time job watching us to make sure we behaved and reported directly back to the big guy. The elves were regular visitors at our house and unlike that rigid doll that sits in one spot and performs incredibly ridiculous acts, our elf was non-stop busy. It was his very important job to keep the children in line. No-one wanted to make the naughty list.
The Christmas Eve service at beautiful St. Peter’s. Mother wouldn’t miss that for neither love nor money. Her faith was central to it all.
Then there was Christmas dinner. Everything had to be just so: the tablecloth ironed, the napkins starched, her finest dishes, Aunt Jeans’s silver napkin rings, the crystal wine glasses. And no-one cooked a turkey like Mother. You know it, right?
And so here it is once again. Christmas morning. A quiet Christmas morning as I sit her alone with my coffee. Everything has changed. And nothing has changed. It’s still a time for family, for appreciating how blessed we are in knowing our loved ones are safe and near in heart.
And later today, we’ll sit together, those of us nearby, and enjoy Christmas dinner. Family and friends. Jackie has made Mom’s Christmas pudding for us. Mom would like that.
And perhaps tonight, I’ll pour myself a drop of whiskey, sit back, enjoy the Christmas lights and be thankful for the all the little things that aren’t really that little after all.
Mom … keeping Christmas well