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Christmas With Mom
Do you ever notice that the older you get, the faster the years seem to fly by? It only makes sense too then that Christmas and those ultimate deadlines for shopping, baking and preparing for all of the seasons' festivities is upon us before we know it.
This year I have done pretty much everything I need to do to be ready. Things have not been that much of a rush for me, and while that may seem good - in fact it is with a heavy heart that I face this Christmas Season. This will be the first Christmas that my mom cannot come home from the nursing home to spend time with us, and it is the third Christmas without the love of my life by my side.
This story is about my mom!
When I was young I quickly came to realize how much my mom was putting into Christmas, making the time for everyone satisfying and enjoyable. My first real taste of this was the Christmas morning I woke up as a young child in Toronto, wandered into the living room to see under the tree not one, but three, porcelain dolls. These dolls were named Kathy, Honeybee and Virginia - a blond, a redhead and a brunette and they were all beautiful. They had been bought at the Canadian National Exhibition by mom and dad, and mom had stayed up late at night sewing wardrobes for each of them which were laid out in a huge box all tied up in brightly coloured paper and ribbon.
Over the years, both my sister and I can remember waking up in the middle of the night, hearing the sewing machine going in the kitchen. Mom would be busily putting the finishing touches on whatever she had made us for that Christmas. I have a photo that I love of Nanci and I in front of a wonky looking Christmas tree. We both have on outfits she had made us that Christmas. Nanci is in a snuggly bathrobe. The rabbit laying at her feet was also made by mom. I have on a lovely tartan skirt. I treasure this picture, even though the colour has changed over the years, and there is a small tear in the middle. It is a "memory of Christmases Past".
Mom Loved to Bake
Besides being an excellent seamstress, our mom loved to bake - and at Christmas she really knocked herself out. She easily made dozens of different cookies - and was expert at decorating them in exactly the way shown in the picture above. As well she fashioned candy cane shaped cookies with two different coloured doughs, shortbread and butter cookies, thumbprint with jelly in the middle, almond crescents (one of my favourites even though I normally don't like nuts) and various squares, apricot bars being another favourite.
She also of course made Christmas cake - not just one - but several mini ones which she proceeded to wrap and tie with pretty Christmas bows to give away as gifts to family members as well as special neighbours. Emptied Christmas Card boxes served as containers for her cookies which she also wrapped and gave away to "those special people". Often she made and decorated gingerbread houses. Honestly - I don't know what happened to me - because I don't care to do any of this. I am lucky if I bake maybe three different kinds of cookies for Christmas. It just isn't in me - and yet it is something I have treasured from my growing up years - and Christmas with mom.
And she loved to decorate. I really don't know where that wonky looking tree came from or what mom was thinking of when she and dad picked that one out - it was a real tree obviously in those days, but even though not much thought seemed to go into it - I think it is kind of neat. When I look at that old photo of Nanci and I, I think of it as our "Charlie Brown Tree".
Over the years she went to artificial trees, and they often changed - sometimes white, sometimes green with artificial snow on it, and sometimes just green. I'm not really sure if I like this one - but it is the only one I could put my fingers on in the hundreds of photos that I have - it will have to do for now. Really it was much prettier in person - Honest!
As we grew older and on into adulthood there was never a question that Christmas Eve and the Italian tradition would not be spent at her place with the table groaning from the weight of the different varieties of seafood dishes, many of them breaded and deep fried. And as if that was not enough there was always the pasta with red sauce and several varieties of seafood incorporated into it. All of this was naturally followed by the baked goods and Christmas cake. And then Christmas Day we gathered once again to have turkey and all of the trimmings that go along with it.
When mom turned 86 we finally wrestled Christmas away from her and held it at Craig's and my house. It wasn't easy; she did not want to give it up - and I have to say that the first year she sulked a little bit. But honestly it was past her at that stage with her neuro-muscular disease. The stress was too much, she was showing it, and we were not enjoyng it as we should have been able to do. So we persevered, stuck a small glass of Drambui in her hand that first Christmas Eve at our place, and eventually she came around.
But I still remember those Christmases of long ago and I am more than a little sad that mom will not be able to join us at home this year. We will of course visit her in the nursing home, but it is not the same. Life takes different turns, and we move on.
This Christmas Eve I am joining some of Craig's family - two nieces and a grand nephew, for the evening - my very first time in all of my years of moving away from that Italian tradition, even though my sister and I had changed it up through the years, this is yet another change.
My step son has announced he is doing Christmas this year - even cooking the turkey himself and that will be boxing day. Christmas Day my sister, her husband - my step daughter and I will gather for some appetizers and drinks - along with a cousin and her husband. I am certainly not hard done by with three days running and people to share with, I am luckier than most and I know it - but still it has changed.
I wish all of you peace and happiness through this Christmas Season. Cherish it and cherish your loved ones with a special hug and an "I love you". For we don't always have the promise of tomorrow! I think the song below is very appropriate for this time and I dedicate it not only to Christmases Past and my mom, but also to the families of those precious lives lost at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.