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by Amy on December 1, 2016

My mother passed away nine years ago on November 30th at 3:07 pm. I am in the kitchen this morning. We are getting ready for the day. My mother’s collection of snowmen are on display. The kids are near ecstatic because their “elf on a sheft” aka “Elfy” came last night even though it’s not officially December 1st. I do everything in my power to whip them into an even greater holiday frenzy because their joy brings me joy so I am also playing holiday songs and defusing “holiday joy.” 

As I pour my coffee “Mary’s Boy Child” begins to play — a Christmas hymm set to a Jamaican beat that my mother used to love. I can see her doing that goofy dance she’d break into whenever it came on. And I am suddenly overtaken by a familiar sadness and grief. For a moment I stand there paralyzed, my back to my children, clutching my coffee, remembering. Remembering her, wishing for her and my heart breaks once again because they never got to meet her.

“I’m going to tell my teacher that Elfy came today!” My six year old says to me, her eyes are wide and she is so clearly thrilled.

And just like that I am giddy. And grateful for the snowmen and my mother’s goofy dance and the Christmas legacy she left behind.

Today I am thinking about “wabisabi,” the idea that beauty comes not from perfection but from the opposite:

The chip in my mother’s favorite vase, inherited after she passed.
The missing teeth in my six year old’s smile.
The lines solidifying around my mouth, proof of forty-three years of joy, sadness, fear, self-doubt, celebration…

It’s the idea that true beauty is what’s real. It comes not from the new, shiny thing we were able to acquire but from the relationships we’ve developed over time and the story that each object, person and place has to tell. It is the beauty of our losses, our imperfections, our vulnerability.

And it is, to me, the permission to be at peace, even joyful, in the times when things are not perfect.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Virginia Reeves December 2, 2016 at 2:49 am

Amy – I know how it is without a Mom anymore; it’s been14 years for me (although I have 23 years on you). Mine really liked Christmas too. When she passed I found 4 brand new wreaths with adorable dolls on them in the back room that I immediately spirited away to my van before anyone else saw them. Fortunately, only one is totally in the holiday spirit (a reindeer with trimmings) so I can have the others out around the year (and not look totally weird – not that I care what others might think).

Had to laugh at Elfie – just last night one of my nieces was telling me how she re-positions her elf each day and has it ‘doing’ something different too. More creative and ambitious than me – my decor stays the same for two months (by Thanksgiving until the end of January). Tom and I enjoy the color and joy of the window clings, banner flags, knick knacks, cards on the wall and more so we leave them up for our pleasure.


Ginger December 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Hey, Amy, this is such a touching and well-said tribute to your mom. This time of year marks a sadness for me too–I lost my first pregnancy about time of year and thought I’d never have kids (I was 36). To my absolute astonishment and joy, I had 2 kids alive and well within 3 years. I always feel like my oldest one is there too, along with my darling mother, who left just after my youngest child was born. I think now of how life ebbs and flows–sometimes at just the same moment so that there is that sort of boiling, like when a wave is coming in just as another is going out. And if I can step outside my self a little bit I can feel the sadness and the joy at the same time and be amazed. Thanks for this. Ginger


Rhea December 21, 2017 at 10:49 pm

I feel for you, I know what it is like to loose a loved one the month of Christmas . My mother died 2004, in December. Merry Christmas.


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