Christmases in My Family

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m sitting in the cabin at Starved Rock writing this. There’s a small fire in the fireplace, and I’ve just gotten done watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.We go to my dad’s at noon today, which almost didn’t happen because Christmas is strange in my family.

Christmas was my mother’s holiday — she decorated the house elaborately with red ribbons and greens and ornaments until it looked like a Victorian fantasy. She chose presents with care and wrapped them in a way Martha Stewart would envy (for my overseas visitors, look up Martha Stewart. She’s a personality whose fame is based on her overly-involved home decor aesthetic).  Mom planned menus and created a spread of Christmas buffet (but no cookies; she found those too fussy).

Even on her last Christmas in 2007, she orchestrated Christmas from the hospital bed in her living room when she could no longer make it up and down the stairs. She decided she would wear her grey robe with Christmas jewelry and direct the Christmas action from her bed. My mom died of the tumor in her brain just before Christmas.

I am my mother’s child, and I celebrate Christmas rather vigorously. My husband, luckily, loves Christmas as much as I do, so the house is decorated, Christmas carols play all season, and we have our yearly ritual of Starved Rock because there are few places so welcoming at Christmas as the Lodge there. But there’s still that remembrance of my mother mixed up in there, and all the complex feelings memories of my mother stir up — sorrow, joy, frustration, anger, love. 

So my Christmases are strangely textured now. I accept that, and I accept my remembrances of prior Christmases are likely romanticized. It’s all part of life. 

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