I began writing this several weeks ago. I put it aside, but I guess I’ll go ahead and finish it today.
Snippets of blog posts have been churning in my mind for days — weeks, actually. I’ll be driving down the road thinking about the last few months and words tumble over each other in my mind, like rapids in the wilderness. Bubbling, frothing, splashing — and much like the water falling wildly over the rocks, my words are without order, spilling over any boundaries that might resemble sentences or paragraphs.
The holidays were strange. My family and I had the challenge of “firsts” a relatively short time after Mama passed away in August. We took my niece to college mere weeks after the funeral, so my poor sister had to deal with the grief that comes with losing a parent and the ache that comes when a child leaves home for the first time almost simultaneously.
The next few weeks, I threw myself into going through the papers and photos and other things accumulated through the years. My goal of getting most of it done before going out-of-state to visit a childhood friend in October was achieved. It was good to get away for a bit. To think of other things, happier things, besides the last few months of bad news, illness, death.
November rolled around and with it, Thanksgiving. For the last several years, my sister drove to Alvin to pick up our mama and bring her to our house in Jones Creek. We would enjoy the afternoon, eating all our family’s favorite recipes. As the evening wound down, we developed a tradition of watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, which was one of Mama’s favorites, and then I packed up leftovers for her to enjoy and drove her home.
This year, we had all the right foods and we watched the Grinch. It was a good day, to be sure. But Mama was most definitely missed, and when I split the leftovers between us and my sister, I struggled with wanting to get out extra containers to fix some for Mama, too. I used to get frustrated with her, because two or three weeks before the holiday, she would start asking me, “Have you decided what you are going to cook?” This, in spite of the fact that we always made the same dishes, since to skip the favorites might mean a riot in the kitchen. I’m not a natural cook, so I don’t pore over cookbooks for enjoyment. My mama was a champion recipe clipper. She loved to clip them from the newspaper, and she loved to talk about recipes. I wish I could call and ask her a cooking question again.
Christmas Eve, I usually picked Mama up and took her to Angie’s, where we would enjoy a non-traditional meal like tortilla soup and open our gifts to each other. Mama did her Christmas shopping at home the last few years – choosing things from her treasures she thought each of us would enjoy having. The last Christmas she was with us, she chose a box for each grandchild. She had a thing for boxes – trinket boxes, jewelry boxes, display boxes. She gave her grandson a display case to put treasures in, her granddaughter an ornate box with a jeweled medallion on the center of the lid, and my daughter, a rich cherry wood jewelry box. She gave my sister and I each a piece of petticoat glass: a cake stand for Angie, because she’s the baker in the family, and a pretty bowl for me. I remember her serving Watergate salad in that bowl when I was a kid. When I picked Mama up last year, even though she was worried about getting to Angie’s on time, I drove through a couple of neighborhoods so she could see some Christmas lights. She always loved them, and I’m so glad we did that. It’s a good memory for me.
This Christmas Eve, we decided to do something completely different. My sister would be coming off a 12 hour night shift at the hospital where she worked, and it just seemed silly to try to prepare food after working so hard the night before. She took a nap and we went over mid-afternoon to open gifts. Afterwards, we went out to dinner at a very nice Brazilian grill in Clear Lake. It was really nice, and I think a little easier to handle, since it was different from our normal.
We’ve had a couple of birthdays since then, and I think my birthday was the hardest day I’ve had since she left. Every year since moving away from home, she would call me and sing “Happy Birthday” to me. If I concentrate really hard, I can hear her singing it in my head.
It’s been six months and I still miss her. I always will.