"Mom! Hey, mom!" I heard a cherub chirp from around the corner as I washed up the dinner dishes, wondering why *I* am washing the dishes when I have a house full of able-bodied children whom I could force to do it. "MOM!" The chirping turned to screeching when I didn't immediately reply. I turned off the water so I could hear the most urgent need of this darling fruit of my loins.
"Yes, precious muffin. What can I do for you? Please let me know." (Hey, it's my revisionist history. Shut up.)
"When are you going to put up the Christmas decorations?"
"I'll do it in between my manicure and leisurely lunch that I have planned tomorrow, as I have nothing better to do." (This is not true. I said something along the lines of probably over the weekend, if I have time at home at all between trips to drive "you kids" places, or between meals and cleaning up. I laid on the guilt so thick that said child slunk upstairs and wasn't heard from again until morning.)
What I really wanted to do was cry and/or shout, "Put up the d$#& decorations yourself!" What kind of woman/mother/homeowner am I? It was the third of December, and I had nary a twinkly light nor a Christmas village house adorning my home. The Christmas plates were still ensconced in their box in the garage. I hadn't even thought about a Christmas card. I'd been working 10 hour days for weeks and still felt behind, and I didn't WANT to put up the Christmas decorations, even though I knew I'd love it once it was done. I was exhausted, empty, and resentful, because let's face it - even though the cries of feminism and equality ring through the air and over social media on pages like Pantsuit Nation, the brunt of these things is borne by the woman of the house.
So this past Sunday, after guilt grabbed hold, I dragged in the boxes of yuletide cheer from the garage and began halfheartedly decking the halls. My children helped some, my husband carried heavy things; they all wandered off at some point, leaving me alone in the room to put the finishing touches on what now resembled a Christmas explosion.
As I set up the Christmas village, I was rendered immobile by a fit of nostalgia. Many of the houses in the village were my Nana's and then my mother's. Mom gave me the Dickens houses a year before she died, as I had coveted them for years. She said I could have them for that year, and she'd take them back the next. She didn't live to see another Christmas. I thought of the hands that had touched these houses; the places they'd lived. The boxes bore handwriting of women who'd decorated their homes before me. Familiar, warm, distinctive writing which exemplified Nana and Mom both. I thought of the care that had been taken to set out and pack away these precious family decorations, and tears pricked my eyes. I miss my mom. I miss my Nana.
I realized that my lack of motivation is tied up in the sense of loss that comes out the most at the holidays, not necessarily my work/housekeeping/driving kids around schedule. Family is everywhere this time of year. People doing things with their parents and loved ones. I have loved ones galore, but the loss of parents is acute and leaves one feeling decidedly lonely.
Once everything was set up and the happy lights of the tree and village cast a warm glow over the front room, I loved it, as I knew I would. I doubt the loneliness of the holidays and the wish for just one more Christmas with my mom will pass, but I can speak her story and handle her things, and hope to give the gift of love to my family this season.
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.