maria shriver, in her book and one more thing before you go, wrote, “but for your mother, empty-nest pain and grief is genetic…she took care of you, nurtured you, enjoyed you, is in awe of you – and now she’s letting you go. how could she NOT have deep feelings about it? …think of the alternative. do you really want a mother who doesn’t care….”
“it’s the most wonderful time of the year” is playing in the background as i write this. it transports me back to my growing-up years…my sweet momma and dad played christmas carols on the stereo non-stop at this time of year. frank, dean, burl, jim, robert – all household names playing on old 33’s or on the local fm radio station. i can see out our front window, i can taste the hot cocoa on the couch with my mom, i can see the old thin-glass ornaments and the tinsel my dad patiently put up strand by strand. we got the luminaria ready for the neighborhood christmas eve gathering in the street before the 11:00 church service that let us out into the midnight turn into christmas day. we anticipated.
years later. each season it was late into the night that we wrapped gifts, closing off the dining room so that even if one of the children came downstairs, too excited to sleep through the night, we would be able to prevent them from coming into the room laden with gifts in the midst of santa wrapping them. christmas carols played in the background. before i went to sleep i would sit in the living room – with all the lights off- and gaze at the christmas tree in all its splendor. and i anticipated.
i would get really excited right around the time i needed to drive north to pick up the girl or the boy from college for the christmas holiday. readying their rooms and checking to be sure all the gifts i had purchased were adequately hidden, i would drive -with christmas carols playing in the car- to pick each of them up, with all the stuff they needed for the break. with great anticipation.
when the girl and the boy could drive themselves home or get a ride from a significant other, i would wait and wait. i would try not to text too many times “where are you now?” and i would double-check my menus and run to the grocery store. i might wrap a few gifts, but i still waited until the middle of the night on christmas eve – with carols playing in the background – to wrap most of the stocking stuffers and the presents that would grace the base of the tree. and i anticipated.
this year is the first year that i won’t have both the girl and the boy here for christmas. the boy will come from the big city to be here, but the girl is high in the mountains teaching other people how to have great glee on a snowboard. she told me on the phone late last night “i told someone today that my mom is probably having a hard time with this – the first time i won’t be home for christmas.” she’s right. this is tough.
i now know what my own sweet momma felt each of those years i could not be at their home for christmas. it is in our dna to want our children to be happy, to feel fulfilled, to find joy in the simplest things, to celebrate each day, not just christmas. but the physical presence of your children makes a big difference. it’s huge. seeing them happy and fulfilled and joyful, seeing their faces and hugging them…hovering isn’t so bad, we moms think…it’s the holiday. ok, it’s any day. because in all the world, in its twists and turns and ups and downs and ebbs and flows, there are only a few things that remain the same. one of them is your mom. this is the first year my sweet momma will be celebrating christmas in heaven with my daddy. this is tough.
the christmas carols are playing in the background. they transport me. each one of them. each one of them has a story. each one of them has some history in my mind’s eye and in my heart. it is a mixed bag of emotions held together by ribbons of love, by wishes and times of joy, by memories and times of wistfulness and sadness, by dreams and great anticipation.