Saturday, November 20, 2010


I've needed to write this post for a while but its been too difficult so I simply tried to forget about it. But every few days it would come lurking back nagging me along with all of the other posts I should have written in the last few weeks. There just hasn't been the time for all those other posts. For this post there just hasn't been the courage to sit down and actually allow the feelings to envelop me enough to put them into words.

Its time...

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of going to California to help my Mom put her cherished Christmas decorations up. From the first day of my Moms symptoms, when she and I were secretly talking about ALS when no one else would, she would look at me and say, "this is my last Christmas, I know it." In my heart I knew she was right and the hurt was so heavy it seemed to squeeze the breath right out of me. It was crushing, there are no other words to describe it.

If you have seen my Mom's home at Christmas you would understand why. Each year she transforms their home into a fantasy turned reality. Christmas is everywhere and I have always loved it. The boxes, smells, and music are permanently etched into my mind and heart. To see it as an adult is one thing but to grow up in the magic of it each year with the imagination of a child makes the experience surreal.

Knowing this might be the last Christmas with my Mom I wanted to be there when the boxes were opened. I wanted to know which pieces she loved the most and where they came from. I knew it was so personal for her too and I wanted her to be able to go her pace and let her enjoy it. If this truly was going to be her last Christmas I wanted to go through the entire process with her.

The first day was hard. Within the first 10 minutes of the week long decorating adventure we were embarking on she fell while trying to get on the chair to fluff the top of the tree. She fell 2 more times that day and it became painfully obvious that her legs no longer had the strength to push up. Another devastating milestone that came much to swiftly. Her fingers did not have the mobility to work the small delicate ornament hooks. She was relegated to sit by and watch as I decorated her beloved tree and put up the Victorian Christmas town that she and I have collected and enjoyed creating together each year.

I have seen my Mom decorate all these years but never appreciated the experience it is. Every bow had tissue paper stuffed into each of its folds to keep the ribbon perfect. Every box a perfect puzzle maximizing every inch of space. Each box labeled with a date, who it was given by, or where it was from. The labor and the love those boxes hold amazed me. She cares for everything so conscientiously. If a handle breaks on a box she repairs it making it better. The box from the Barbie Dream house I got one Christmas holds decorations, another box is from the He-Man Castle Greyskull given to my brothers. The boxes are as much a treasure as what they hold. Why does current society put such emphasis and pressure on things being new, perfect, and coordinating? We seem to have lost the sentimentality that comes with use and time.

Although I loved the decorations as a kid I never had plans to make my home the same wonderland mostly because I wanted to go home to my Moms wonderland. I wanted my kids to have the exact feeling from Christmas that I did. And yet here we are and my kids are 6, 4 and 1. Not nearly old enough to have those impressions etched deep enough to be permanent.

As I unpacked those boxes I knew that starting next year I will take Christmas decorating to a new level - to my Moms level. I want my children to have those same feelings of anticipation I feel when the air starts to turn crisp in the fall. The overwhelming feeling of comfort and warmth that comes each season and makes my heart long to go home.

When I returned to Utah I threw myself into life and tried to pushed aside all thoughts of decorating my own home. The decorating process was too raw and personal for me and I didn't want to think about what next year might be like. I knew I would need to do it because I didn't want Caleb and John spending most of their December in an undecorated home. Yet I was hoping to stay busy enough that perhaps it would be forced to be done at the last minute without the time to think and feel.

And then yesterday on an innocent errand to Roberts Crafts I ventured to the Christmas aisle. They had the cutest display of red and white rustic Christmas decor. I first read the sign, "Peace on earth" and my throat tightened knowing that is my Moms favorite Christmas song. Then I saw another sign that said "Believe in the spirit of Christmas." That sign touched me. My Mom understands the spirit of Christmas better than anyone I know.

I sat in the aisle deliberating. I wanted so badly to buy them and yet they were not on clearance - Ive never bought decorations before a Holiday, always on after clearance sales! It was more than that though, I wasn't ready to decorate again, I didn't want to face my own home and the pressure to create something as beautiful and as meaningful for my boys. I deliberated for about 10 minutes and then decisively placed the signs and some coordinating snowflakes in my cart.

When coming home I started putting them up without even taking Halloween down. I looked around and realized I couldn't do it like that. I finally had learned its not just about getting the decorations up - its about the process. I halted all decorating and carefully and deliberately put away all my Halloween and Fall decorations. Then I cleaned the kitchen spotless and I dusted the house. Next came the Christmas music, Alabama, the Carpenters, the Osmond's, all my Moms classics. Only then did I bring all the boxes in and open them.

It was a sweet afternoon.

First came our nativity, a gift my Mom gave us the first Christmas we were married and had our own little home.

Then the snowmen lace she brought me back from the little rustic snowman and Santa she gave me...then her leftover garlands that had been handed down to me. Everywhere I looked I saw things my Mom has passed onto me, things she gave to me because she thought I needed them, and many things she had given me just because she knew I wanted them. There are so many gifts that she has given me over the years...the potpourri holder she made me...the Santa's cookie plate that I left cookies on when I was a little girl...the Christmas books with her loving notes in the cover...the Alpine trees we bought with her on black Friday when I was pregnant with Caleb. Everywhere I look my Moms presence permeates our home.

I had a hundred things to do yesterday and all I did was decorate. After helping her in her home I saw mine so differently. Ive always hated that we don't have somewhere to hang stockings in our home and amazingly I noticed yesterday that my pot rack on the wall had 5 hooks! I was always decorating around what existed but yesterday I felt freed to turn my home into a blank slate.

I used thumbtacks, nails, scissors, wire, pliers, ribbon, hammers, and every ounce of creativity I had. Creating pushed back my fears of next Christmas and when I would start feeling overwhelmed I would look over and read my new sign:

Believe in the Spirit of Christmas.

I believe.

I believe that next year although my Mom wont be here, her spirit will stay with me and carry me through. Next year many of her decorations will probably become mine but her essence will stay with them. I only hope that I can use them to ignite the same magical feeling in our home that she created all those years for me.

Besides the gift of a Savior the best gift I have ever been given at Christmas was from my Mom...

She gave me the spirit of Christmas in my heart.


Grandma Caroline said...

OK, you did it this time, I cried! I'm glad in a way I have ALS, I have finally seen the heart and soul of you, my daughter. I can go in peace, you will be fine!

Sara said...

This was really beautiful and touching to read. Thank you so much for opening yourself for us to see and read.

Didn't Chad used to switch the baby Jesus and something else on your mother's nativity? When you go home next, switch them around and say it's from Chad with love. :)

The Queen said...

What a blessing to be able to spend that time with her.

Raelyn said...

You have all been in my thoughts.
Much love!
Enjoy this Christmas, with every single ounce you have in you!
That is what will be there forever!