Cambrian: Opinion

Sense of Christmas wonder shifts through the years

Jeanette ‘Nana’ Montgomery enjoying the holidays.
Jeanette ‘Nana’ Montgomery enjoying the holidays.

They say a lot of people are more mentally stressed/depressed around the holidays; more people get sick; more people die. Emotions are understandably charged around childhood memories, life experiences and expectations involving loved ones or not-so-loved-ones.

We all have a story to tell. Obviously the Norman Rockwell-esque scenes are a particularly nice read.

I myself find that whether it’s the holiday memories or that I myself am getting older (no way!) or that my younger son is almost a month and a half away from being an “adult,” I am on the verge of tears more often than usual this month.

No more babies at home. I had a hard enough time when the older son wasn’t able to make it for family gatherings. Now number two is finally starting to make his own way in the world, more or less. Add to that, I believe my mother has been passing by through the ether quite frequently lately.

Every time someone mentions “mom moving in,” “if my mom can find those things ” or “picking up mom from the airport,” the ol’ eyeballs glass over. She would have been 92 this past October. What can I say? I miss her.

As my mom worked nights at the Los Angeles Times and was not always there Christmas night, my aunt (her sister), often as not took us around to all her friends’ fancy homes for my two sisters and me to sing, to perform. Cold winter nights, bundled up, driving around the city with all its holiday trappings and all those treats we earned — we loved it!

It used to be the anticipation of something special under the tree that got me fired up, but as I had my own kids, it was being able to fill THEM with hope and excitement. I loved the decorations, the planning — and then your kids move away. Get jobs. Get girlfriends. Have adventures. Lives of their own.

What are the holidays for? A time to show, in an extra special way, how much you care for someone? An excuse to get together? How many “family stories” did you create at a gathering, the stuff of legends?

To my mom, it was a time of going the extra mile, to make things festive, to forget about much of the tension in our household, any worries that we may have had. What is it about colored lights, glass balls and the smell of hot apple cider that lifts the heart so? It did for us. And even though I preach about “less,” I can’t help feeling a certain twinge at the sight of it all.

And so, perhaps mom is just reminding me that she’s still there, that we are all energy, stored up in our hearts, in our senses, in the crisp nip in the air and the ribbon tied around a simple box. Another marker in time. Time.

And, whether my kids are here or not, whether we celebrate Christmas at a later date or at all, I want them to always have in their hearts a feeling, an image, of their crazy mother “making” a Christmas tree unsuspectingly out of poison oak or the “family letter” or Santa’s sleigh bells (my great grandfather’s) — just remember the love that shines slightly more brightly this season.