I think of my mom almost every day–when I clean or bake or make soup or go shopping or hear someone whistling or tie a balloon or notice how old my hands have gotten.   I think of her when I do something silly or foolish–turning the blender on without remembering to put the top on it, putting the potatoes in the oven to bake and forgetting to turn on the oven, repeatedly pushing the button on the elevator before realizing I’m pushing the button for the floor I’m on.  I remember her at those times because we used to call each other and confess whenever we had done something like that.  We’d laugh together–enjoying our shared foolishness.

But when she died suddenly in 1999, those phone calls ended along with a lot of other things.  I will never know her crab gumbo recipe or exactly how she made creamed corn from what she called field corn (white not yellow) or why her first marriage ended after only nine months.  I can’t ask her advice about my children or grandchildren.  I can’t tell her about my book or ask her to read it.  However, the truth is that it would probably be a different book if she were still alive.

If she were still alive, Christmas would be different too.  Don’t misunderstand–Christmas with my mom was hardly perfect.  Every year she would get so stressed and tired, she’d vow never to do it again.  Then the next year she’d do the same thing all over again–including the vow.

But most of the family didn’t know about that part of Christmas. They just knew there were a million presents, fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies every two or three hours, mimosas or plain fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast, dozens of boxes of Mallomars in the pantry, and the opportunity for almost fifty of us, four generations, to spend a few days together.  We swam, sang, played board games, ate and ate and ate, and talked and talked and talked.  We passed babies around and watched toddlers learn to walk.

I wrote HAPPY HOLIDAYS? shortly before Mom died.  I wrote CHRISTMAS CAROLS the Christmas after.

I hope all of your loved ones are happy and healthy this year and that you all are blessed with an abundance of love and laughter.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS?

We keep them in the attic or the top shelf of a closet

They are packed in frayed cardboard boxes or

red and green plastic crates

wreaths and garlands and bows

angels and santas and      holiday conflicts

wrapping paper and ornaments and strings and strings of lights

As we unwind the garlands and the lights

we plug in the tangle of private dreams and family needs

hoping to find the one faulty bulb that

threatens to darken the whole season

but there are so many bad connections

we tighten or replace one and another starts to flicker

We settle who’s bringing what to Thanksgiving dinner

when and at whose house and then

we have to decide what kind of tree

real or artificial           pine or fir

short or tall       cheap or expensive

and

who gets presents this year and what and

who goes where  on Christmas Eve and for how long and

how many places can we go on Christmas Day and

for how long and when do we take the tree down and

who’s gonna remove those lights and

do we have to recycle it and

how will we ever fit all these fears and dreams and unresolved conflicts

back into that box?

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

Hark the herald angels sing

it’s Christmas and

my mom’s not here

away in a manger

I have a

new grandchild

she has my mother’s name

but

won’t ever know her smile

We wish you a merry Christmas

but

my only grandson won’t

remember that she

called him pretty

peace on earth

but not in my heart

how will we manage

without her

O holy night

how will we manage

how will we celebrate

how will we keep from

crying

it will be a

Silent Night

without her quiet laughter

Joy to the World

but our hearts will

sing of grief and loss

We need a little Christmas

but

how will we find it

without her

to show us the way.

Lynn Moreland  12/10/1999