Tuesday, December 24, 2013
To My Mother, On What Would Have Been Her 80th Birthday
For all of her difficult ways, my mother had much to recommend her. Besides being beautiful, she was also brilliant with a sharp wit, and a keen mind. She could cook like a demon, often making up recipes on the spot, based solely on what was in the fridge the day before grocery shopping day. She was funny and appreciated that I was funny, too. She loved animals, often to a fault (someday I'll tell you about our 22 cats).
My mother had a way with the holidays that made Christmas in our house always fun and always a joyous celebration. Though she was an avowed agnostic, Christmastime was a sacred holiday of the inner spirit, and it was set aside as a time of peace, beauty and appreciation for humanity. Arguments and fights were rare, and the house was a singular place of calm and good will. Whatever our difficulties, whatever our finances, or the world condition, my mother "kept Christmas well", as Dickens wrote. And others kept it well around her.
In the past five years, though I am rarely ill, I have gotten fairly significant upper respiratory infections over the Christmas holidays. In 2011 and 2012, I lost my voice entirely for several days, in fact. This year, third year running, I am suffering from a deep chest cold, that appears to be settling in my throat. I don't think this is an accident. I think I am missing my mother. As my anger toward her has melted away, I am feeling sad for the things that went unsaid and unexplained, on both sides. I don't think those things could have been said when she was alive, but it doesn't change the fact that the words hang there, in the open, like sharp icicles, waiting for gravity to claim them. I think this is why my voice goes away. It goes away for all the things we never said, and should have.
So, I say them to her now. Not here, in public, but privately and between us. But here, I will say, "Happy birthday, Mom. I hope, wherever you are now, you are able to have the peace and happiness you created once a year, every year, at this time of year."
Peace and Merry Christmas to all.