Stuff & Nonsense

29 December 2018

Thinking of Mom: Advent Calendars

Some of my sweetest childhood memories are of the advent calendars my mother would give me every December 1st. I remember I would come home from school in a frenzy to pop open that day's little perforated cardboard door to see what lay behind it (a plum pudding! a squirrel!) and beg my mom to let me open the next day's, too. Of course, I wasn't allowed to open a day in advance (Mom knew where madness lay) and would distract me with a baking or decorating project.

Nowadays, you can get all sorts of fancy advent calendars -- calendars with chocolates or Lego, etc -- but way back in the early 80s an advent calendar was nothing more than layered cardboard printed with a Christmas scene. But, oh, my mother always picked out the best (imho) calendar the card shop had to offer. The calendars I remember best were glittering scenes of anthropomorphized animals readying themselves for Christmas. Rabbits in scarves decorating an evergreen tree in the middle of the snowy woods. Squirrels in Victorian dress getting their Christmas shopping done. Woodland animals having a snowball fight.

A few years ago, I began buying advent calendars for myself. Usually from the gift shop of an art museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but sometimes from Lindt as chocolate advent calendars are very much a part of The Husband's Christmas traditions. Chocolate or no, advent calendars aren't as exciting as they were when I was a child and I don't open each door as promptly as I once had, but they still bring back warm memories of my mother and the calendars she so carefully picked out for me. And that's what really matters.

27 December 2018

The Not Christmas

I knew the first Christmas without Mom would be a hard one, so I decided the best thing to do would be to make it as low-key as possible. The plan was we would go down Christmas Eve and stay overnight, spending all of Christmas Day with Dad. We'd eat lasagna and garlic bread I'd purchase, drink a lot of whiskey, and play tabletop games until we were too brain-fried, carb-overloaded, or drunk to feel the ghosts of Mom's Christmases Past.

And that was Christmas Eve. Christmas Day, Dad and I visited the cemetery in the morning and it was so peaceful and calm and full of birdsong that I believe my mother would be happy to know that's where she ended up. It's an old family plot in a very old cemetery in the middle of nowhere and lacks the regimented uniformity I associate with cemeteries -- the marching rows of headstones, the tightly clipped grass, the utter lack of naturalness. If such a thing is possible, it feels like a kind sort of place.

Later, we had met up with one of Dad's old associates for Christmas dinner at the casino buffet. Between the unchristmasness of the casino and the necessity of social pleasantries, we did not have opportunity to dwell on our loss or what Christmas ought to have been like this year.

My mother loved Christmas. Loved all the holidays, really. If it was a day you could decorate for, she did. But Christmas was the best, most decorated, most Holiday of holidays. Electric candles and crochet snowflakes at the windows. Wreaths on the doors. Garland around a mailbox stuffed with cards. A tree dripping with ornaments and tinsel. Nonstop Christmas music in the background. Tupperware full of cookies on the workbench for Christmas parties and swaps. Little Hallmark Christmas tchotchkes on every conceivable surface. And my mother at the heart of all of it.

So much happiness, so much light, so much love.

12 December 2018

#WordlessWednesday: A Bride

My mother with her mother and stepfather in their backyard on her wedding day, 9 September 1972.