I am sitting still on the phone listening to my friend complain about going from her mother-in-law’s house to her own mother’s for Christmas dinner. I inwardly shake my head. I love my friend, and at the same time I want to yell at her on how lucky she and her kids are to have family fighting over where to go for Christmas.
It has been 26 years since I shared my last Christmas with my mom. I can still hear the wrapping paper crinkle, ice in her rum and coke tinkle and the squeal from my younger sister over what Santa brought. I can still feel the warmth of her hugs. It was the last year of my childhood. I was ten years old.
The years that followed without her, I could not get into the Christmas spirit. It was not the same. The void always darkened the room despite other family members trying to make it a good day for us. I still missed her and didn’t understand why she was gone. The grief engulfed me when I became a mom. My girls did not have their grandmother.
Then something changed for the better. I began to talk about my mother to my young daughters by showing them pictures of my childhood and sharing memories. I relived the singing carols, watching her favorite holiday movies and the fun she made just being with her. By opening my heart’s door it made her the grandma she is which made me feel better and lighter. I had buried many of the happy parts of my childhood until now. Though I know she will never be back, I can not ignore the fact in talking about how amazing she was, and still is, in my heart.
After many discussions with my husband, we decided to have a quiet house over the festive holidays. We had nowhere else to go as other family had passed away or moved out of town. After gifts were opened and played with, we stayed in our pjs for as long as possible. Games are a plentiful and movies are replayed over and over. Big Christmas dinners are replaced with snacking all day long on favorite foods. The car remains in the garage all day long.
When we let go of the sorrow and what we can’t control, we build our children’s memories of this time. We enjoy the magic of the season with each other.
As my friend wraps up the call, I take a sip of my wine. I smile as I say good-bye. I am relieved that what I thought I wanted for my daughters is not the reality of traditions that we have built. The legacy that we give them any day of the year is unconditional love. We need to stop the coulda, shoulda and woulda in our lives. Our life is what it is. Our family may be small. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
8 thoughts on “A Motherless Mom’s Christmas”
It is so hard with something like this to find the silver lining, but it really sounds like you’ve managed to do just that.
You’re making wonderful memories for your children. ❤
I have no other choice. I owe it to my girls. Thank you.
I too am a motherless momma and I miss my mom every day still. I was 15 when she passed away, but 13 when she got sick (lung cancer). Having two daughters of my own makes my own pain seem so fresh some times. I despair some times that they will never know her. I despair that I can’t share them with her. Mostly though, I want her to be proud of me and of them.
I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face because the conversation you describe with your friend is one I have had many times over the years. Not having my mom makes me appreciate those I do have.
You are a wonderful writer and I am so happy Amber had you post on her website!
Heather-thank you so much for sharing. I so crave approval from my mom. No one can replace her.
Thank you and hugs.
Only just this week did I put a photo of my mother on display in our apartment. Something about Christmas inspired me to do it — I had been writing for my blog about embodying the meanings of our lives through traditions and such, and suddenly it seemed wrong to me that my mother was absent from our home. “Opening my heart’s door” (as you put it) can be difficult, because our relationship was difficult, but it’s the only way that I’ll be able to find the good things to share with my little 2-yo Critter.
Best wishes for a lovely Christmas to you and your family.
I lost my mother at 10 years old as well. I’ve told my daughter stories about my mother, my son is still too young to pay attention, but I feel compelled to share her with them. My daughter sometimes talks to me about her as “your mommy” and will ask me questions. Her middle name is my mother’s first name and it makes me so proud when she tells people this.
Christmas is always particularly hard. My mother died January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas, quite suddenly. Her birthday was December 1st. No matter how hard I try, every year I find myself working hard to pick myself up from Thanksgiving to mid-January. Her last Christmas with us plays like an old taped family movie in my head. I have a CD of the Christmas music album she played over and over that year as we decorated, then prepared for people to come over, then again during our dinner celebration. It was also my great-grandmother’s last Christmas and all I can remember of her is seeing her sit in a folding chair talking to me about the socks she’d gotten me. I remember it all with the same eyes of my 10 year old self, gleeful and a bit confused at all the adults. Despite my constant inner reel of this memory, it is something I don’t share with my children. I play the CD and buy them socks, but I am waiting to share it with them until they are older and can appreciate it a little more.
As for the conversation with your friend, I used to listen quietly to people complain about their mothers until one day I decided they needed some perspective. I started with a co-worker, who I told, with as much affection and compassion as I could muster, that while her mother’s daily calls were driving her crazy, she was so blessed to be so incredibly loved. That when her aging mother was gone, she would have so many memories of phone conversations and talks with her mother to remember, so maybe take a few extra minutes each day to enjoy her mother’s calls and make them count. I don’t know what she did, she never discussed it with me again after that and I soon changed jobs, but I have to tell you, I felt good inside. I felt like my mother would be proud of me. So I did again the next time something like that happened. I give my little slice of truth to people. I do it with love and I’ve had some reactions that were a little offended, many that were quiet, but a few that thought it over and came back later to thank me. No matter their reaction, I felt good inside. My message is always “Cherish you mother.” In encouraging other people to do so, I feel like I’m honoring my own mother.
Both my daughters hold one of my mom’s names as well. Thank you for sharing.