Not even 36 hours into December, and it already feels like a long month.
Last year around the first of December, my mother asked me if I thought she’d live to see Christmas. I told her I didn’t know, with a not-so-hopeful tone to my voice. Her shoulders fell, and she turned her gaze downward- she mostly communicated with her body language; her gestures betrayed the feelings she so rarely voiced. I quickly added that I hoped so and gave a weak smile, but it was too late.
I wonder why I needed to be so brutally honest in that moment. My mother loved Christmas. The holiday music, the tacky sweaters (she owned at least 6), the family gatherings. I wish in that moment I had held her hand, and looked into her eyes and said something upbeat, like “why not?” or “Christmas with you would be wonderful!” She would have done something like that for me.
She didn’t live to see Christmas, but she almost made it; she died on the 13th, and she got to enjoy part of the holiday season. Christmas of 2011 was nothing like Christmas Past, but her cousin artfully decorated the inside of the house, and we strung multicolored Christmas lights along the roof that cheerfully twinkled in the long, dark nights. I found CD after CD of Christmas music, and played the familiar tunes softly for my mother as she was unconscious in her bed. The machinery of thoughtful friends and community members kept us fueled with sugar.
This year, the holidays have returned to semblance of the norm. I participate in the holiday parties,the home decorating, the gift exchanges. I unfurled dusty decorations that haven’t seen the light of day in two years; my husband hung multi-colored orbs from our mesquite tree that sparkle in the Arizona sunshine.
Holiday rituals bring me joy, but I feel her absence so acutely. The songs that ushered her out of this life fill my ears and I long for that which has slipped away on an invisible current.
I will always remember her padding in the kitchen, making cider or cooking up a beef dinner for her relatives wearing her latest Christmas sweater acquisition, jingle-bell earrings flashing under the fluorescent light. She would flash me a big smile and say without words that yes, this is the best stuff of life.