It’s the tradition in our family to celebrate on Christmas Eve. This year my kids — Erin, Trevor, and Caitlin — will be here, plus Erin’s boyfriend Mike and my twin brother Brent. I look forward to our family traditions (like, everyone brings something to read after dinner) and the new things we’re doing too.
We’re doing away with our traditional meal. There will be no turkey this year. (I haven’t told Brent yet.) Erin got the idea to make shabu-shabu, not exactly a Norwegian dish, but we’re all for diversity.
Sometimes there are friends here but this year it will just be family. I’ve insisted. It’s what I crave more than anything.
These are tender times
There’s been a lot of loss this year for friends and acquaintances. A husband, sister, mother, father, brother, or friend will be sorely missed.
I’ll be missing Mom and thinking about her legacy in our family.
I already miss her handwritten holiday letter and her beautiful penmanship. (Even Russ is enthralled by her handwriting). She wrote lots of letters to friends and family at Christmas. I’m glad I’ve kept all of mine. I miss the packages of lefse she’d mail to us so we’d always have lefse on our dinner table on Christmas Eve. I miss the phone calls sharing all the details of who’s coming, what’s being baked, how the kids are, and did Russ get his jar of licorice. (She liked to spoil him.)
Accepting the things we cannot change
Back in August in Minnesota when I was culling through more of Mother’s things, I came across a letter I’d written to my parents. I wrote it on December 24, 1998.
I packed it in my suitcase and brought it back to Sonoma. Reading it now gives me some comfort. You see, I have worried that because she left us so unexpectedly that she may not have known how much she meant to me. After her fall and her brain injury, it was hard to know if she heard the words, I love you, Mom. She didn’t live long enough to recover from her injury. Did the words get through to her? Did she know it in her heart? I want to think she knew, but how can I?
When I read this letter, I am assured that at least in December of 1998, she knew. When she received the letter at 1438 Sheyenne Street, West Fargo, North Dakota, she’d have gotten out her letter opener from the desk in the kitchen and sliced it open at the top. Then she would have gone to the living room and sat down in her favorite chair–maybe with a cup of coffee in her hand–and read it.
Dear Mom and Dad,
The turkey’s in the oven, the kids are out finding a T-shirt for Uncle Brent and I’m enjoying a peaceful moment before the flurry of the evening. It’s such a lovely time to reflect on the year and to acknowledge the love I feel for you both. It’s been such a great year for making memories and while I tell everyone how great you two are and how much fun and love we share, I’m not sure I tell you often enough.
This year was so very special. Is it possible to fall in love all over again with one’s parents? I’m so happy my parents are YOU. I definitely landed in the right family. Cait wait to see you in January. I can’t wait to share you with the kids and my friends. You’re such special people. And I’m not the only one to discover that. It’s fun for me to see how much you mean to others. I hope to be half as compassionate and caring as two are when I grow up.
In time I may accept that she knew how much I loved her. In the meantime I’m still learning about her and appreciating her.
Sometimes when I’m kind to a stranger or make a joke to lighten a moment, I know she’s right by my side.
I’ll be putting one of her pretty tea cups on the table on Saturday night. She’ll be there with us. She might think we’re a little crazy for having such a non-traditional holiday meal but she’ll join in the fun, anyway.
Gosh, Mom, I love you so!
I wish you and yours comfort this season and the chance to share memories and love with the people you hold dear.