This is my second Christmas without my mom. Last year, still being in shock and denial that she was gone, I mostly felt numb. This year, my heart is heavy as I go through the motions of the holiday, both because I miss her and because of the guilt I feel since I kind of avoided my whole family the year before because of certain toxic people I didn't have the strength to handle (including my now-incarcerated brother and a difficult, cruel stepsister). Had I known it was her last Christmas, I would've choked back the bile and endured the passive-aggression, fighting, screaming, and door-slamming that I heard about after the fact just to spend that last holiday with her.
Over the last few weeks, I've listened to friends and coworkers alike agonize over what gifts to buy their parents. About how they're dividing their time between parents and in-laws. About how far they have to drive. I feel their pain, but have nothing to add to the table. These conversations remind me that I have no parents to share the holidays with, for better or for worse. I think to myself, is it possible to be a 45-year-old orphan? The holidays lose their luster a bit when there are no parents to visit in my case; no grandparents to visit in my children's.
My mom loved Christmas. Her house was beautifully festooned with trees, knick-knacks, garlands, and several Nativity scenes. She gave thoughtful gifts, and loved entertaining. On Christmas morning, she made a fancy breakfast and read the Luke 2 story to us from the huge family Bible. We all outwardly groaned, but inwardly delighted, during this reading. I drove past her house yesterday, which is now inhabited by strangers. There are no lights, no topiaries on the porch, no decorations evident anywhere. I stopped for a moment and cried. Why did she have to die? She was only 64. My flaw was not knowing how much I needed her until she was gone. Now, there is a mom-shaped hole in my heart.
I suppose every year will get a little easier - at least, that's what I am told. I do have wonderful aunts, cousins, and the best extended family a girl could hope for (my immediate family is a little, well, dysfunctional, but everyone else is a delight). They're supportive, kind, hilarious. But there is just something devastating about a Momless Christmas. It's also weird that I am the mom now for my own kids. I must carry the mantle of creating a beautiful holiday for them, and tell them the stories of their Nannie so they don't forget.
Today, I'm baking cookies and watching A Christmas Story in her honor. I look around at the Christmas village she gave me because I loved it, with houses in it that were my Nana's before her. I think of the wonderful women who have touched my life and then passed on. I'll probably be a little quiet and teary today, and for the next few days. But as Longfellow writes, "the tide rises, and the tide falls." The years will go by, the sadness will lessen, but I will always mourn the Momless Christmas.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.