"Reflections Of Mother At Christmas"

Wow, it’s cold, in the twenties no less here in Georgia. I cried myself to sleep last night. Bedtime is hard when the heart is heavily burdened. It’s usually when I get still and begin to think about the regretful stuff in life. Crazy huh! I’m sure my son didn’t loose any sleep last night over hurting his mother’s feelings yesterday. He most likely doesn’t even realize he did. Funny how that is with our children. I’ve started with another upper respiratory infection on Sunday, so I’m just a little under the weather and that never helps with the emotions. Distorts one’s thinking when we are sick. I did some baking last night, made three pumpkin rolls, two to give away and one for us to keep. The holiday baking helped to get my mind on something other than this pity party I’m having right now.
As I laid in my bed last evening trying to quiet my mind from the surge of emotions in my head, I wondered how many times my mother may have cried herself to sleep through the years. Tears that were shed over the loss of not being with her children and grandchildren when time and distance separated us. I’m sure there were more times when she cried than I care to know about. I thought of the nine years I went without a visit to my parents home, because it was never convenient nor affordable to make the trip south to the Florida panhandle to see them. I wondered as I laid there, about all the Christmas’s when she longed for the community of family, and wanted to hover her children into her bosom once again. It saddens me that she missed the chance to love and be loved by my children more. She didn’t deserve to have that taken away from her and I regret having allowed the estrangement to take place for so long. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to go home and visit my parents, there just always seem to be a reason why we couldn’t go.
I felt my mother’s pain as I laid still trying to go to sleep last night. The essence of my mother’s memory is family. She loved her own parent’s in all their imperfections and she loved her children in the same way. Perhaps in a strange haunting way, I am reaping seeds today that I alone have sown. My sadness isn’t because of the hurt I am feeling, but because of the hurt and the disappointment I may have caused my parents through the years. What parent doesn’t value precious time spent with their grown children. In a strange prophetic way, things have come full circle for me and I understand as a mother myself now. Even in my mother’s absence she continues to teach me the lessons of the heart. Especially now at Christmas, as she’s so terribly missed. Her memory now serves me in a way that’s truly precious and valuable.
I can still see mother standing at the kitchen sink making her final preparations for the family meal to be enjoyed on “Christmas Day.” In my mind, I imagine the home spun decorations that graced the walls of my childhood home, and the kitchen table with it’s new plastic table cloth. I see the decorated table with it’s three tiered candle holder made from the wood of an old “Black Jack” tree decorated with fresh evergreens and red holly berries. Also embellishing the table would be a fresh bowl of seasonal fruit and nuts along with a vintage dish of traditional hard candies. Over the archway of the living room mother would carefully scotch tape the assortment of Christmas cards that came through the mail to also decorate our family home. Each card representing the thoughts of friends, that though we may not be together with the sender, we were certainly not forgotten by them at Christmas. During the good years financially by Christmas morning, mother would have filled all available space on the table and kitchen counter with an assortment cream pies, homemade cakes and fudge that she’d labored late into the night to prepare. Christmas Eve often saw her to the point of exhaustion trying to get ready for the early morning climax of the following days events. As a kid, I wondered why mother never seem to be very happy on Christmas Day. But now through the window of reflection, I begin to understand why a little better. Trying to live up to idealized fantasy our culture had embraced put impossible demands on both her and my dad. Poverty can make it a nearly impossible dream to create. The holidays were for mother a heart felt labor of love and she’d wholeheartedly embraced the fantasy. It drove her to excess to create just the right portrait of what family was really about. For my mother it was about seeing the first expressions of joy on her children’s faces as they woke in sleepy eyed wonder, to see all that Santa had left. It was all about the sounds, smells and noise of family, the music of her children’s laughter that drove her to excess to please. I so miss the warm flaming embers of my mother’s heart, now that she’s no longer with us. I’ve been left with an album filled with pictures that she created for me in my memory. In the prime of life, she was a five foot two power of energy that could work circles around most women of her time. She was tireless when it came to family and preserving all that she held dear in life. In the end she and my father together weathered the storms of family life valiantly for 53 years to preserve it. My parents are both deceased now, yet the story of our family lives on in each of their five children. Distance and the sometimes complicated way life can be, seperates us as siblings today. In my own life everyday that passes I am increasingly aware of how quickly life can escape us. Family life as it once use to be doesn’t exist in my world anymore. As a child on Christmas morning after opening all the gifts, we would pile in the family car and go from house to house visiting aunts, uncles and cousins to see what Christmas treasures were placed under their trees. Never did we leave a home without sampling an assortment of foods and baked goodies that were displayed in each house. The days end would find each of us exhausted from the travel, playing with the cousins and lulled into a food coma from all the things we’d eaten. For reasons I’m not sure I’ll always understand, I’ve had only a few chances to see my children and grandchildren on Christmas as the years have presented themselves. My children have vested themselves in the lives of their spouses, along with their families and friends. Having chosen rather to create their own album of memories which very often doesn’t include photo’s of this mother and grandmother. The years I spent raising my children were so wonderful for me. The time with them seem to pass much too quiclky and sadly that’s where the memories stop. What’s left to comfort me in old age won’t be many of the rewards of memories created by the off spring of my womb, but simply the few cherished memories of a childhood that has long ago left me. Along with the memories, a few shattered emotions of what trying to create a fantasy can do in family life. A happy home would have been a much better gift than a few toys that have long since been forgotten! You see Christmas is really about Him, “Jesus Christ.” Not a manufactured gimmick that seeks to exploit the small financial wealth of all families in our culture, especially the poor. There’s a wave of sadness that sometimes haunts me in trying understand the present. But in knowing the truth and feeling it’s sometimes cold ugly chill against my face, I’ve learned to reach for the warm covering of my memory quilt. Along with my memories, the knowledge of a God who loved me enough to send his son “Jesus,” to bring me comfort in my winter days of flight! As for my children, I have loved them more than they could ever possibly know. My time with them was much to brief and honestly, I’m very sorry that life has evolved as it has for us. Being their mother, watching them from afar become prospering adults and seeing them with their own familes helps to lessen the mistakes I’ve made in life. It also causes me to believe that perhaps there were a few redeeming qualities of having been their mother. Maybe one day they’ll forgive me for the choices I made that hurt them and caused them to be disappointed in me. For their sake and not my own do I pray to that end. To my parents, thanks Mama and Daddy for every labor of love you gave to each of your children and for your unselfish service to our family. My prayer is that you are both dancing around the throne of our great God and His Son, “Jesus Christ!” We’ll see you soon and Merry Christmas too! With Love Always Your Daughter, Barbara

"Reflections Of Mother At Christmas"

franticflagwave

Lawrenceville, United States

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Artist's Description

I wrote this piece December 18,2007. It had been a year since mother passed away and I was reflecting on her and my dad’s memory at Christmas. The photo was taken 1959, my dad had just returned from a tour of duty in Germany. One more brother would arrive a year lated on December 22. I’m the redhead on the left seated on the floor. My dad used a Roleflex camera on a tripod to take the photo, Something he bought for himself in Germany

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