For me, it happens just about every year around this time. Thanksgiving is done, and leftovers are being enjoyed. Black Friday shopping is thankfully over. And now it’s on to the next task of the holiday season, if you haven’t done it yet.
Decorating for Christmas. Getting out the tree. Or trees, in our case. And that’s when it starts. As I unwrap certain ornaments I can’t help but remember where I got them, and the story behind them. I remember the ones that were my grandmother’s, and my mother’s. The ones my mother bought for us, and ones she’d given us for her granddaughter, especially the baby’s first Christmas series. And my eyes almost always get a little damp….
I really think I’m over the loss, the emptiness of my mom being gone; of our traditions being over, or, I guess I should say, carried on in new ways. But then I realize I will never be totally over it, because you never are. The loss, and the memories, are always there.
It’s not just her empty place at our table; her not being around for our traditional Black Friday shopping; her name no longer on our gift list. Not being able to go to her house during the holidays. Her not being with us Christmas morning to watch presents being opened. She’s certainly with us in spirit, and always will be.
It’s the knowing she won’t be here ever again to share the joys of the holidays with us in our new ways. Her precious granddaughter Ashley is now married, with a beautiful daughter of her own. She never got to meet our Chris, or their little girl Rachel. My mother would have been over the moon in love with our little girl, and I’m sure she would delight in everything our granddaughter (her great-granddaughter) did, every gift she opened, just like she did with our daughter every Christmas. She’d have sat and played with her all day, while the rest of us prepared dinner.
And she’d be absolutely ecstatic knowing that next Christmas little Rachel will have a new sister that my mother would also totally adore. I can even picture the three of them playing together in the stack of new toys Santa delivered for both girls, with so much laughter and so much joy. She’d act like a little kid, right along with them.
My mom never laughed or smiled a lot after my dad died, but at Christmas time, when she had her granddaughter Ashley with her, that’s all we saw. Smiles and happiness. Laughter. Even when our toddler daughter was having a temper tantrum while shopping, or doing something else that wouldn’t necessarily put her on Santa’s “good list”, my mother just smiled and said, “She’ll be fine. Just let her be.” And she was.
I so miss those days. And I think of them even more often now that we have a granddaughter who is so much like her mother. I just can’t help wishing “if only my mother could be here….”
But the past is the past, and as much as we wish, and dream, we can’t change it. We can’t bring our loved ones back, as much as we’d like to. We can only imagine how things would be, picture them in our minds, and treasure them in our hearts.
No matter how old I get, no matter how many years will have passed, I will still have these feelings. They’re part of me; part of who I am. No matter how many years have passed I will still picture my mother the way she looked during her last years. Except her face will have softened, the lines disappeared, and that beautiful smile she had whenever she was with our daughter will be lighting up her entire being.
I wonder if some day our daughter, and our granddaughters, will have these thoughts, these feelings. Especially, many years from now, as they pull out the Christmas ornaments that used to be mine, and place them on their Christmas trees. Will they remember? Will they long for those “old days” as I still do?
The holidays are not only a time of joy and excitement. It’s also a time for dreams; for family; and for memories that we’ll treasure forever.
What memories do you treasure most from Christmases past? What are the things you’d most like to be able to re-live? And what memories do you hope your children and grandchildren will most remember about you?