Christmas is hard without you, Mom.
I know you know that, but it truly is. Aside from Mother’s Day and your birthday, it’s the hardest time of year for me. It’s when I miss you the most, when I grieve the deepest, and when loneliness is my closest companion, despite the friends and family that surround me. It’s when I can’t ignore the great loss my heart has felt. I can’t even pretend to the way I can throughout the rest of the year.
Just like every cloud has a silver lining, so does this time of year. It sounds crazy, but it’s during the holidays I see you most. Every year, around this time, I go looking for you. I look for you all year, but around the holiday season, I look hard. Really hard. And I want you to know, I see you. Not in picture albums or home videos, but in my real life every day world.
At Christmas, I see you, Mom.
I see you now, even though it’s been eleven years since your eyes closed to sleep the eternal sleep. How many minutes have passed since then? How many memories have you missed? Still yet, how many memories have I forgotten we made, only to be reminded when someone you touched during your treasured time here on earth brings up your name? I see you, then. I see you in the conversation that plays out between friend and daughter, both reminiscing over the lady you were, the lady they loved, the lady they won’t ever forget.
I see you in all the little things that are Christmas. I see you in the flurries that fall and listen for the snow. Yes, listen, because on a tin roof like ours, we could hear it. I see you in the blow-up Santas and inflatable Rudolphs. I see you in the aerosol cans of snow used to paint the windows, but we painted our tree with it instead. It was white from then on. To some it would have been tacky. But to us, it was crafty, just like you.
I see you when I’m making candy. It’s not like the candy you would make at all. You had to leave before I found my interest in the kitchen, so it’s a collaboration of my mother-in-law and Google. Still, when I roll the peanut butter balls and make pinwheel, you’re there.
I see you in the lights we loved to look at on the way to your out of town doctor appointments. It was dark on those December nights, but I didn’t have to see your face to know you were grinning from ear to ear. You’d point out the lights to me, afraid I’d miss them. You loved the simple sense of wonder the lights represented. I still love it, too. And when I see those Christmas lights go up year after year, I see more than just the blinking bulbs. I see you, Mom.
I see you in my hands, shaped just like yours, when I’m wrapping presents. Well, attempting to wrap presents. I’m awful at it. My fingers just don’t move right. I can’t crease and fold the way it should be done. But it doesn’t matter really. The gifts get covered and there’s something to tear off, so mission accomplished.
I see you in store bought fruit cake, the kind most people snarl their nose at. You loved the stuff! I still can’t for the life of me figure out why. You eagerly took it off the hands of family members who couldn’t stand it. To this day, I can remember you spying said fruit cake on the table at Mamaw’s house on the way home one night. Our exit was delayed as you flipped on the light, pulled up a chair, unwrapped the cake, and happily started eating. I see fruit cake and have to smile, because I see you, too.
I see you in my son’s smile, the grandson you never got to meet. I look at the joy radiating from his angelic face and see you. He shares your smile, and your zest for life. He finds joy in everyday things I forget and take for granted. He reminds me not to. He reminds me to slow down, to play, to tickle, to skip, to live like a child. And when I do that, when I take a deep breath and let his joy wash away the stress of the day, I see his smile, really see it. I grab onto it with all my might, letting my heart absorb it in all its splendor and wonder. And there you are again.
Christmas will never be the same without you, Mom. I’d like to say it’s happiest time of the year like you’d want me to, but it’s not. It’s painfully beautiful. It’s dreadfully exciting. It’s achingly wonderful. And sometimes, it’s overwhelmingly grief filled. But I want you to know the grief doesn’t stay.
Because I see you, Mom.
I miss you more than ever at Christmas. But every year, the December wind blows in a lot more than snow and chills, more than Santa and his sleigh, even more than the loneliness I dread. On its breath it carries your love, the greatest gift you could ever give me. And every year for the rest of my life, it will be the gift I look forward to the most.
And every Christmas it will be the gift I always wanted and exactly what I need.