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.
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
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?
Hark the herald angels sing
it’s Christmas and
my mom’s not here
away in a manger
I have a
she has my mother’s name
won’t ever know her smile
We wish you a merry Christmas
my only grandson won’t
remember that she
called him pretty
peace on earth
but not in my heart
how will we manage
O holy night
how will we manage
how will we celebrate
how will we keep from
it will be a
without her quiet laughter
Joy to the World
but our hearts will
sing of grief and loss
We need a little Christmas
how will we find it
to show us the way.
Lynn Moreland 12/10/1999