Christmas was wonderful, the older son and his family came and friends sent cards and gifts. It was noisy and full of toys like it should be, then it wasn’t. Like clockwork my son, his wife and my grandaughter went on their way for a second round of gifts and another home cooked meal. The annual afternoon naps in our P.J.’s took place and the house got peaceful and quite. But, something about the afternoon felt off… Something was missing and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt like I had missed something important, something that I had was always done Christmas day, like a religious ritual was missing. That something bugged me for hours until just before dinner, then I finally remembered. I cried most of the rest of the afternoon and night. Everything about the holiday had been great fun until I remembered… I had not called my Mom for Christmas. I had not picked up the phone one time all of Christmas or Christmas Eve.
I have lived far away from my childhood home for over 30 years. In all those years, I chosen to never go home for Christmas. It was a choice I was fine with, I never felt bad about it. I always called my mom Christmas afternoon. It was a ritual. Usually I would hear her with a house full of guests and I would talk my brothers and their families. It was a short moment of bonding. In her later years, I would talk with her at the nursing home about if she had a nice meal and who had visited. I never missed a phone call and she never stopped saying she was so glad I called. She would always rush me off the phone and tell me to get back to my kids that they needed me and she was doing ok. I always hated telling her goodbye, and at times missed sitting at her dinner table for a family holiday. It was my choice to stay so far away in the mountains of West Virginia. It was also because of her that I never went home. It was always so hard to fit into the image she had created for me. It was a image that just didn’t fit and made me uncomfortable when we had to stay with her.
As the first wave of memories and tears fell, a second came, with memories of my Mother in-law, and all of the Christmas dinners we eat together as a large family. Then other ghost like spirits creeped in with more Christmas memories. My wedding during Christmas to a childhood sweetheart who is now passed away. A Christmas in Germany drinking hot mulled wine in the streets. Christmas snows in Colorado where I would walk to Village Inn on Christmas Eve to see my high school friends. “Going Out for Coffee”, lasted years until we were all old enough to go out for Holiday drinks. All of us hated spending to much time with family over the holidays and some of us didn’t even have families at home over the holidays. One of the many images burnt into my brain is a gift of a huge stuffed dog my brother gave me at the age of 10. He drove around Boulder with this huge dog in the passenger seat of his old Jeep for several days before dropping it under the tree one Christmas morning. I remember getting Co-Op peanut butter from my aunt and uncle for 6 or 7 years in a row for Christmas. How if loved that home ground peanut butter with its oily flavor and ruff texture.
Clearing my eyes of tears, I felt driven to dig out photo albums and look through the photos for just one photo of me and my mother at Christmas together. I don’t think there are any, I don’t have any at all. She was always behind the camera and I was always in front. She took photos in her own personal way, many off center or poorly lighted, but they were her memories of good moments in our life. Now looking back maybe I was wrong for missing those holidays, now maybe I wish I had gone home just once. I also now realise that I can’t even call home anymore and my habit of picking up the phone over Christmas will fall to my brothers and my friends. Calls to them will take the place of calling home to speak to my mom. They will have to hear about the gag gifts and the looks of surprize at a gift and hear me saying, “thank you so much for remembering me and the kids”. They will have to listen to of how hard the year has been and that I miss spending time with them so much. We will have to rush off the phone and say our goodbyes with love. They will have to help me fill the space that once belonged to my mother.
Hoping all of you had a happy and healthy holiday and that we are all blessed in the New Year. Remember to pick up the phone and wish someone you love a Merry Christmas for me. It is the smallest things that we remember about one another and sometimes it’s just a phone call that says I love you!