Driving home late this afternoon I flipped around the dial as is my usual, searching for music. I was in an elated mood, having just been carded at the grocery store after what felt like a face sagging day of futility, fruitlessly hunting down Yule gifts for my boys, and heard the strains of Perry Como. Now, this is the first time in many many years that I look forward to the Yule season, and that Christmas songs haven't made me want to rage against the world. I sang along, looking at all the Christmas lights and decorations from the sublime to the ridiculous in the neighborhoods I drove through then, I was hit with the most sorrowful feeling imaginable.
My mother always made the holidays special. My parents did not have a lot of money but as kids we didn't know that. I only know now, while struggling to find the right balance for my own children, how much she did with relatively little. My memories are of warmth and lights and smells. My Mom was responsible for holiday expression in our home and each year that passes, it seems the memories become stronger. I don't recall what I didn't get, and I don't remember everything that I did, but I do recall the feeling of the holiday.
Bayberry candles were her favorite and signaled the start of the holiday. We had tall candles with a kind of sugar coating glazed scene illuminated by the lit candle. There was garland of holly berry that was strung up around the living room, the centerpiece of which was a kissing ball with an imish elf posed within. If these items were not hung, it wasn't Christmas. She would put out ribbon candy that was rarely eaten but looked so beautiful in the candy jar, and there was a plastic tree that she would have us decorate with gum drops of different colors. The trees always seemed like perfection in our minds, even though now, when going through photographs, we realize we had years of the Charlie Brown quality tree. These were the staples of each passing year. As we girls got older, we influenced her choices of decor, but there were always those key elements that if missing, threw off the balance.
I hadn't conciously thought of my mother as I drove home today, but something was clearly triggered by the music and the sights of all those houses lit. My parents would occasionally drive us around at night with the music playing and my mother singing along and as I pulled into our driveway, I looked up into our apartment dining room and was warmed by the lights I had strung across the windows. Our dining room is the main focal point for the holidays, and while it's not exactly as I would like it, I know that our boys wander in and stare at the lights, look at the decorations and enhale the holiday smells. My hushand has commented that our youngest would be crushed if I removed some element out of frusration.
Holidays are what we make them. We, as a family, celebrate the holiday as Yule, as Winter Night, and as Family. Some years have been bountiful, other lean, others virtually non-existent. Last year we were packing and moving between Yule and the New Year and told each other it was our gift; more room, separate rooms and new opporunities. I hope this year, with the space, time and opportunity to celebrate, the boys will remember the little things I did to capture their imaginations.
There is no place like home, be that a room, an apartment or a house. I am grateful that I have a secure place to call home that is warm and encompases the people I cherish. I avoid the malls like the plague, try to shop in the smaller, local shops when I reasonably can, and I am grateful for the very few close people in my life.
"For the holidays you can' beat home sweet home...."