Last night as I was climbing into bed at 12:30, I found I was not yet sleepy and glanced over to the bookshelf which houses some of my older selections.My eye fell on a book I found among my mother's things about a year ago. Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession, by Erma Bombeck. This particular book,published in 1983 has been sitting on my bookshelf since the day I brought it home with me alongside a book by Kays Gary, another of my mother's favorites.
How many years need to pass before one feels they have made peace with the death of their mother? I once took a course on grief that was designed to help teachers help their students understand death and the grief process. With all my book or handout knowledge, I was still unprepared for the journey through the years of "letting go" of that very special person in my life. It seems with every momentous event,such as the arrival of my newest grandson or the celebration of the holidays, my mom makes her entry and I am always surprised at her sudden appearance on the scene. Last night was one of those times.
I believe that I have unconsciously been thinking of my mother throughout the preparations for Christmas. Her recipes show up as I wade through the hundreds of recipes in my recipe box. I, like my mom, seem to have this affinity for reading recipe books believing I will one day try them out . But alas, I find myself returning to the traditional recipes my mom made or at least thinking about making them just for the comfort they might bring.
It's not just in the kitchen I find my mom's presence re-entering my life at this season. When my children were small, she bought each of them a special ornament for our Christams tree. Every year I think I will shop the after Christmas sales and purchase some matching ornaments and/or find a theme to decorate my tree with more of a modern flair. I just can't seem to part with the sentimental feeling I have as I lovingly place the collection of ornaments she bought on the branches of my tree. This year I decided to pass on some of these very special things to my grandchildren. I would love to have seen her smile as she saw each of them place these on their own tree at home.
You see, my mom was a very sentimental person. Christmas seemed to be one of her favorite times of the year. She never seemed to think of herself but could be expected to give "just the right present" to those she loved. I'm sure there were sacrifices she made in order to bless us and our children with the 'very thing' we wanted. But it's not those things I remember this time of year. It's not the dolls, the clothing, the record albums that I just 'had to have' that I continue to think about when Christmas comes around again each year. It's the sacrifice and the thought she put into our gifts that will always warm my heart.
So, what does Erma Bombeck have to say about mothers at Christmas? I confess I flipped through the book just now to find the humor she included on this holiday. Well, I'd love to share from the chapters,'The Spirit of Christmas and Other Expenses' or 'What kind of Mother would tell her children if they didn't come home for Christmas, she'd be dead by New Year's? but I fear the humor of Mrs. Bombeck would be lost lest I included all the details.
As I read the first three chapters of her book into the wee hours of the morning, I was forced to repeatedly remove my glasses to wipe off tears of laughter coursing down my cheeks. I have to believe my mother was watching from above and laughing along with me. As I put the book on the nightstand and snapped off the light by my bed, I could hear my mother's laughter just like she was there beside me.
As I thought about this experience, I realized it won't be the toys I buy for my grandchildren this Christmas that will bring comfort to their hearts when I am no longer with them. It will be the sound of my laughter, the memories of things we enjoyed together,and the traditions we establish together as a family that will fill them with a sense of peace and goodwill.
Love, joy, peace and goodwill are things we are looking for at Christmas. Those are the things Christ's birth promised to each of us. I like to think laughter is included. Can you hear the laughter of Mary and Joseph as they doted on their baby son or listened to him coo for the very first time? There came the time when they would no longer have Jesus with them but I believe He left behind moments of laughter and memories of times shared with his friends and family. Surely,a part of the resurrection to new life includes the presence of our family members gone on before us to eternal life will be with us at this holiday celebration.
This Christmas I am making a choice to focus on the intangible gifts we give each other that will live long after our time here on earth is done. I purpose to love, laugh, and spread joy to my family this year as I make some of my mom's recipes and light my tree with the sentimental ornaments.
Tangible objects can deliver intangible gifts... a book holds the laughter you long to hear again... an ornament holds the memory of a Christmas long ago, a piece of mom's nut roll or pecan pie can bring the comfort of your mom's warm kitchen or your grandma's arms about you. I pray you will find the gift inside the tangible objects this Christmas and that you will laugh, dance, sing and remember... Merry Christmas!