The other day my daughter asked me to watch “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” with Jim Carrey. It was the first snow of the year, and it seemed like a fun thing to do, even though it was way ahead of the holidays. It’s a fun movie with a heartfelt message. When the movie ended, I started to cry. Not little sniffles, but heaving sobs. When my daughter asked me why, I explained that it was the first holiday season without my Mom.
These “milestone” moments are always hard, particularly the first year. We liked to make fun of her (as all kid’s do) for being the “crazy Christmas lady”. If you even thought about shopping on Black Friday, you would be exiled from the family. After all, that was the day to put up Christmas decorations!
Every inch of our home was decorated with garland, mistletoe and holly, right down to the Christmas toilet paper (it was scratchy – give me Charmin any day). It’s funny that I don’t remember the presents as much as the festivities. Think about it … people cherish the memories … the gifts are short lived.
When we eventually moved my Mom to a skilled care facility, I still flew in and decorated her room. I wrapped her door like a giant present, complete with gift wrapping and a bow. And then because the other patients were so jealous, I had to do everyone’s room up and down the hallway! Be careful of those good deeds!
There are things I will miss terribly … the homemade chocolate chip Christmas cookies that were so thin, you had to place the chips one-by-one. Singing carols that would make Blake Shelton from The Voice vote us out in the first round. Then there are a few things I will miss not so much: the annual Christmas picture where the kids had to dress up in uncomfortable matching clothes and inevitably got the “evil eye” for complaining.
No matter how busy we were, no matter what age, we went on an annual pilgrimage to a woman’s shelter, dropping off food, gifts and presents. I always felt a little guilty that I didn’t appreciate what I had more. And that I imagine was the purpose – not to forget the true meaning of Christmas – it’s not about what you get, but what you give.
People cope with death in different ways. So as the holidays approach, here’s some suggestions I have received that may help you as well:
- Do something different for the holidays. Vary the menu, try some new recipes, go on a trip, or just change the locale.
- Keep certain traditions alive so that your own family and friends will carry them on. My Mom started my daughter an ornament collection when she was born. Now that she’s 21, we almost have a whole tree full! But never and I mean never stop making the homemade cranberry sauce that Mom made every year and became one of the family favorites.
- Adopt a Grand Mom and invite her over for the holidays. They have an Adopt-a-Pet program, but no Adopt a Mom program, so I decided months ago to start my own. I went to our local nursing home and asked them to “adopt” an elderly woman who had no family and friends. “Ellie” has become a part of our lives – we go shopping every Wednesday and we alternate cooking family dinners twice/month. Since she’s Italian, I have learned to cook awesome pizza and lasagna something my Polish Mama never taught me!
And as I go to hang the Christmas stocking this year, there will be one for my Mom. Only it will be filled with gift cards for the people at the women’s shelter … a tradition that will hopefully be passed on through the generations!
The other day my daughter turned to me and said: “you’re becoming the crazy Christmas lady just like Nana.” That was the greatest compliment she could have given me.
The Crazy Christmas Lady lives on!