…without the one you love. Whit pointed out to me the other day that I haven’t so much as picked up a Christmas ornament since December 2001. That was the last Christmas my mama was with us. There are three times of the year that I just get unbearably sad and so lonely that I could just die. Christmas is one of them. (Mother’s Day and the anniversary of her death are the other two.)
My mama loved Christmas. It was always huge at our house. She’d start baking weeks in advance. There’d be a minimum of four cakes, half dozen pies, cookies, homemade candy and fruit by the pound. She’d start putting our toys on layaway in July so we never had a ‘welfare Christmas,’ even though we were certainly poor enough to have been ‘on the county.’
Even after we got grown she loved Christmas. One of her favorite things to do was drive around and see all the lights and decorations. It was no coincidence that the first time I really broke down and sobbed after her death was in the Christmas department at Kmart. I looked at the Martha Stewart ornaments and all I could think about was how much my mama would’ve loved them. I collapsed on the floor and just bawled, holding a cardinal ornament in my hand.
Damn you Mama. Why couldn’t you have loved you as much as I loved you? You always said I was strong enough to not need you, and that’s why you put all your effort into those other folks. Just like everybody else, you didn’t really know me. I needed you then, and I need you now. I need you when I lie awake at night scared to death that I’m doing everything wrong with Luke. That I’m going to ruin him and he won’t turn out to be the wonderful young man I know he can be. I need your calm assurance that despite everything, I am a good mother. I need you to see me, Mama. I need you to read my books and be proud, and tell me they’re too dirty. I need you to drag me kicking and screaming out of whatever corner I manage to hide myself in. You were my anchor, my backbone. You taught me to be afraid and do it anyway. Now all I have is fear. How could you? You knew for years that you had cancer and you didn’t tell me. Damn you, Mama. I need you so much. I know you were tired. I know I’m a selfish bitch, but Oh God, I need you.
I keep thinking that it’ll get better. That I’ll get some of my old enthusiasm back, but in fact it seems to get worse. As Luke gets older I imagine what she would’ve thought of him and my soul aches. I could care less about shopping. I have no idea what we’ve got for him. Other than Luke I haven’t bought a thing for anybody, and have no intentions of doing so.
I know I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to shake this if only for Luke’s sake. We haven’t really done Christmas at home in a while. I think next year I’ll insist on staying at home. Maybe that will force me out of this despondency, I don’t know what else could work.
The photo is from Luke’s First Christmas, in December 2004, he was six months old. This is one of my favorite pictures of him. I made the Boppy cover so that it would coordinate with the quilt and the rest of the nursery I made for him.