I knew, when Mom died, that the Holidays would come back around. They always do, right? It was about a year ago now that she started saying she was having trouble swallowing, and she started looking really thin. At Thanksgiving, she had to rush off from the table because she was choking. We all sat there, helpless, listening to her gag on the other side of the thin wall, in the bathroom.
And now, Advent is only two weeks away. I remember Mom laying on the couch during dinner, so she could feel like she was sharing mealtime with us, even though she couldn’t eat, and she felt so awful. We would eat dinner, then we’d take the advent wreath to the coffee table (why didn’t we just leave it there?) light the candles and read the devotions. Advent is a time of darkness, of waiting, and I think, on some deep level I knew we were entering into a time of unparalleled darkness in our personal lives. I think Mom knew, too.
We tried to celebrate the Holidays last year. At least we made a beginning. We got through Thanksgiving. Next was my birthday. Mom took me out to dinner at Cover 3, and actually managed to eat most of her dinner. It was a sweet night. . . the last dinner we’d ever eat out together. We had our annual family ‘Deck The Halls’ night a few days later, and got all of the Christmas decorations up, including every single last piece of Mom’s sprawling Dept. 56 Snow Village. Mom and I played our private little game where we’d listen to the classic crooners sing Christmas songs and try to guess if it was Frankie, Dino, Bing or Perry. Mom always knew if it was Perry. Perry Como was possibly her only true love! Eleven days later, we took her to the hospital, and she never made it home again.
So, I have been bracing myself for 10 months now, waiting, dreading, knowing that the Holidays would come. I was prepared to cry when we started decorating the house. And, I already have cried some. When we started getting out all of the Thanksgiving decorations, I just sat down and wept. All those little smiling Pilgrim and Scarecrow faces really got to me. Mom bought almost all of them, and Autumn was her favorite time of year. She would always make her amazing Pumpkin Bread and start hanging garland of brightly colored leaves all over the place. She would get very excited if I made Apple Crisps or Harvest Stew. We would light cinnamon scented candles and savor every moment of the season. Because of Mom’s zest for Fall, it has always been a warm, cozy, wonderful time of the year for me, for as long as I can remember.
I have been expecting that decorating for Christmas would be difficult. Mom loved Christmas! She loved everything about Christmas except snow, and since we live in South Texas, that was not a problem for her. What I was not expecting was that all of the Christmas decorations, and especially the Holiday foodstuffs in the grocery stores, was going to kick me right in the stomach. So many memories just wash over me of shopping for Holiday meals with Mom, every time I go to buy a gallon of milk!
And, I’ve started really noticing how many women there are, everywhere, about my age, out with their moms. That has been an unexpected source of sadness. I’m happy for them, but I want to grab everyone of those women and say “Enjoy your mother! She could be gone by next month, without warning! Cherish each moment!!”
Mom used to always comment, every year, on how the Holidays were often the most difficult time of year for many families, because of financial hardship, and because of loved ones who were no longer there to celebrate with them. It’s almost like she was warning me that someday I’d be missing her, too. My family is amazing, though. They all are determined to celebrate the Holidays, with joy, and honor Mom in doing so. I may cry a lot (Everyone is prepared for that by now, I guess!) but I know that celebrating is the right thing, no matter how much I may want to throw in the towel and just go to Florida and check out Harry Potter World instead!