As long as I can remember, Christmas Eve was more of a time of celebration than Christmas Day. Of course Santa came to visit Christmas morning, but my true and clear memories are of Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was the day we would be at my grandparents, Mama and Papa. We would beg to open a gift early even though the rule was it had to be dark outside and after dinner. Usually we could talk our way into opening one gift during the sunlight. Although it is not the gifts I really remember.
What I remember is cooking with my Mama and baking with my Papa. I loved going to a movie during the afternoon to pass the time until it got dark. My Papa never wanted to go, but one year we talked him into going… to see Dances with Wolves. He was so upset the movie was so long and we laughed about it every year after that. I remember laughing and more than anything there was so much love.
This is the 19th Christmas without my mom. To even say it has been that long is difficult. I am not the person I was when she died. I am now a professional, wife, and mother. Most years go by without me dwelling too much about her absence. Of course the first few year were extremely difficult, but as years went on so did my ability to move on with my life without my mother.
This year my heart aches for her in a new way I don’t understand or necessarily know how to describe. As I establish new traditions with Matthew and Keaton, I recognize why I cling to so many things. I insist on us celebrating with my family on Christmas Eve. I make sure to bake until there are no more cookies to be made. But most of all I am trying so hard for Keaton to understand how Christmas is much more than presents. The other night we were talking and I explained how Christmas is about being with family and being grateful.
I don’t remember the gifts my mom bought me. I don’t remember the number of presents I got each year. I have no clue if I was ever disappointed because I didn’t get what I wanted. I can tell you about her smile. I can tell you what it felt like for her to hug me. I can tell you the joy she had during Christmas and how it was contagious. I try to embody her compassion for others. Most of all I remember her unconditional love for me and how I still miss it today.