"Merry Christmas, Darling" by the Carpenters comes on the music channel while I'm washing dishes. Although the kitchen is full of people, I'm sure no one hears me say that this song always reminds me of my mom. She would always put the Carpenters' record on whenever it snowed, or we were decorating. (Yes, it was a long time ago, and we had vinyl.)
Later that day, my mom stops by for tea and the same song comes on, and she says she loves this song, but it always makes her sad because "she" (Karen Carpenter) died.
I tell her about my earlier trip down memory lane and how this song makes me think of her. She literally tears up. I start yelling, "Why? Why are you crying? There's no crying."
What you should know is my mom can't read "Love You Forever," "The Velveteen Rabbit" or "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" without getting choked up.
When all of the Whos down in Whoville join hands, she loses it every time.
I, of course, make fun of her while avoiding eye contact. I can't let her take me down with her, for goodness' sake.
Anyway, she gets it together and asks if I have any other memories that are particular to her.
Um, yes, but I can't tell you now, or you may turn into a blubbering mess, and then where would we be? We get sidetracked as the children run through the kitchen, and I'm saved by the chaos.
The next day, we are on the phone discussing Christmas details when I ask if she's ready to hear my memory. She excitedly says yes, so I tell her.
One night it started to snow. Being a kid, I was ushered off to bed, in hopes for a snow day the next day. The next thing I know I'm being awakened in the middle of the night. Mom whispers, "Grab your boots and come outside." I get up and throw on my boots and coat and meet her on the front porch.
We had gotten about a foot of snow in a short time. It's dark, and the street lights are illuminating an untouched thick, white blanket of snow that stretches all the way down the road. There are no cars and no people, just us.
It's still lightly snowing as we run down the street together with only our tracks showing in the fresh snow. I remember thinking, "This is the best thing ever."
To my mom's credit, she held it together through this story. She tells me how much it means to her that I have this memory of her.
I guess I'm sorry I never shared this until now. Why is this coming to my mind now?
As a mom, there's a lot we're responsible for, especially over the holidays.
There is so much that we do with little acknowledgement, and sometimes we are even met with an attitude of entitlement and ungratefulness from the people for whom we are working so hard. It's easy to feel that all the details can go unnoticed and unappreciated, even to the point of questioning what we are doing and why.
I suppose I'm thinking of this now, as I'm more aware of how difficult this season is for some, especially for those missing a loved one.
Maybe I'm also thinking about my own mortality and what I want my children to remember.
How much of what I do will they remember? Will they remember the stockings hung by the chimney, Christmas pj's laid out for them, candy in their boots, the way the presents were wrapped, decorating Christmas cookies, drinking tea by the fire, driving around looking at lights and watching the classics. Will all of the planning and hard work be worth it? And above all this, and maybe selfishly, I want to know if they will remember me, and will those memories last?
When they are older and have kids of their own, when they are feeling overwhelmed by all of the holiday madness, questioning life and the meaning of all things, will they hear a song that reminds them of me and be filled with a sense of gratitude and hopefulness that they, too, will be loved and appreciated, and they will survive this difficult season of life because "If my mom could do it, then I can do it."
I suppose sometimes we never really see the fruits of labors until the end, but here's to hope.