With two-carts of groceries, the grape juice, egg noodles, green beans and a thousand other items to feed 12 people for four days in addition to serving the Big Dinner, making beds of every sort in every possible nook, gathering extra blankets and towels and pillows, wrapping gifts and hanging festive lights, remembering both cranberry and stuffing recipes, lining the mantle and every table top with Santas galore, setting up the creche, first airport run, second, arranging for the third, lighting the tree star, rolling out the dough, baking pies and decorating sugar cookies, hanging the stockings, getting the turkey in the oven before noon, popping a few corks, conducting a proper Yankee swap with plenty of steals, giving the cheer, sharing our blessings, holding hands to voice our thanks before the feast, the walking talks and monster hike and ping-pong and even a new Star Wars! All done without our Shinning Christmas Star who would have loved this holiday; loved for those who came despite their sorrow, for those who came despite their inevitable travel snafus, and for those who brought extra cheer to fill the gap. Despite the long shadow, Christmas 2015 will be remembered for the best reasons.
2015 was the last for my mother, but for almost two decades she enjoyed our traditional Vermont Christmas more than any other gathering, and so, without a question, 12 of us honored her by coming together this year too. Thankfully our new home could accommodate the majority, albeit cozily. Christmas was just her favorite holiday. She loved the gifts. She loved the party. She loved the miracle. Whether bracing a biting wind for a snowy walk or getting cozy by the fireplace afterwards, she reveled in the time spent together talking up dreams. My mother loved plotting future gatherings, she attended every graduation and wedding and birthday of not only her children and grandchildren but nieces and nephews and family friends. Even loved a good funeral. Yes, she could work any room. Her laughter rang like a proper bell heralding life. All year long she was our Christmas Star, shinning in every glimmering moment we lived along our diverse pathways.
My mother never mourned those absent, only rejoiced in those who came. Fortuitously, this year we had three new additions to our Christmas table, and each added a healthy sliver of love. Each guest reminded us to celebrate that generous spirit of our mother/grandmother for no one came into her presence without feeling better. And so, around our table, we raised our glass to those who shared this Christmas with us and made our experience even brighter. Can we ever ask for more than family being there for each other, and for that family to grow, as organic as flowers across the fields, as pretty blue across a sky, as sturdy as a mountain ridge? This is our heritage. Family growing from deep roots into long reaching branches. From heritage to future, we are one complicated line.
Around the table there are those who believe our mother is as close as the twinkling Christmas tree gracing the living room, that she is watching and guarding and swelling with pride over our persistence to maintain family tradition. There are moments I believe this too, then there are days I break from the loss. Just break. I miss her Christmas red sweater. How she dragged out every bit of silver I had and gave it a good polish. Every visit. Her low flower arrangement on our table. Her creamed onions. Her part in the gravy making. Her grace. Her enormous pile of gifts. Her stories. No one held such high opinions of us like my mother. She turned every mediocre accomplishment into a newsworthy triumph. Certainly she embellished. But we all gained a sturdy stride from her grand vision and occasionally believed her version.
Now, in her absence, we must follow our individual rainbow, keep our eye high on the horizon. Time together gives us the strength to do just that. Our eldest son must navigate the demanding business world, our daughter her desire to paint and paint and paint, the youngest a career shift into the beats he so loves. Niece? Breathing room. One brother, a new marriage complete with step-son, another, his job and life in a wondrous place, sister, her training and advancements in her field; and for my love and me? Finding our way, just like the rest.
After our short holiday respite together we are renewed. We enter 2016 separated but not alone. No, not a bit alone.
Happy New Year my friends. I believe 2016 will grant everything we set our mind to do. So work hard and imagine those dreams a tad bigger. See yourself with all the embellishments to firmly believe in the impossible. Keep family in the foreground and your horizon will shine with a trillion stars plus one. I don’t know what happens after death. I don’t know if those who have left this world still care about our mundane concerns. But, in the case of my mother, and yours, those indomitable spirits could never really ever be fully gone. Soul connections are something I do believe. Those crazy strings bind us through generations.
There certainly is a new Star ready to burn bright this night. Do raise a glass in her direction, and in mine. I promise to do the same.
***Dedicated to my sweet brother who is getting MARRIED tonight! May love always remind you and your beloved to look up and see the sparkle, xxoo