Monday, December 23, 2013

The Nutcrackers, My Mom and Christmas Without

My Mom and I had a complicated relationship.

That sentence may qualify as the understatement of the year.

Possibly even the decade.

She was a complicated person. I am a complicated person. Though we shared little else in common, we shared that. Over time, all of the things that made us each who we were and are became insurmountable obstacles. When she died just over two months ago now, I hadn't seen her in over a year. It was hard. It was all hard.

Her being here was difficult. Her being far away, impossible, but in different ways. There was little about our relationship that wasn't part of some intricate web, some labyrinth of differing perspectives, some convoluted story with a past you had to muddle though to get to now.

And now she is just gone.

I miss her.

I miss who she was.

She loved Christmas in an almost unnatural way. She was the polar opposite of me.

She could listen to Christmas music year round. I cringe at it when I am forced to listen. 

She could seek out the little Christmas boutiques in every city we ever visited and spend hours touching everything, find something she couldn't live without. I haven't bought a Christmas decoration in years. 

She bought and bought and bought and bought. I try to be frugal.

We couldn't have been more different, her and I, not if we tried.

The last few years have been exhausting. I won't even begin to sugarcoat any of it. Maybe someday I will write those stories, but for now, they reside in my head and my heart, confirmation that I did all that I could until I couldn't do it anymore, and then I did what I had to do, even if no one understands.

Last Christmas was painful. My Dad had been gone almost two years, it was the second round of holidays without him and she had gone back, moved away from here. Not because we wanted her to, but because I think in her heart she felt like it was the right thing to do. I don't know for sure why she did because she stopped really talking to me so long before then. I never will know what her motivations were for much of what happened those last few years. I sense that she may not have even really known. What I know for sure is that she packed up and left one day and whatever hope I had that things could be better between us someday was crammed into that truck with her belongings.

I didn't understand it then, I don't understand it now, but rationality and reason haven't suited me well when it comes to her. They never have, so I don't know why I would think that anything would suddenly make sense now.

I think perhaps it is because I crave it so desperately. I want to believe that there is a linear time frame, that cause and effect exists, that things happened the way they did because there was no other way for them to. That, at the core of it all, was some rhyme or reason. Or maybe I'm just trying to convince myself.

All I know is that I feel a bit lost sometimes.

This navigation of the world without parents is bizarre, to say the least.

It's something I tried to prepare myself for, something that I thought I was prepared for, and yet here I am, struggling anyway.

She wasn't very maternal those last few years, that's for sure. Our relationship had flipped and I was the one trying desperately to take care of her, even if she fought me the whole time she was here then shut me out when she was gone. She wasn't always kind and loving, not anymore, not with me anyway. She wasn't my safe place, she wasn't the place that I needed her to be. She wasn't very much like a mother at all, certainly not when I could have used one, and hadn't been for a long time.

But she was mine.

And I miss her.

I've realized so much about my relationship, not just with her, but with my father as well, in these past few years, but I have learned even more in these two months. I've learned things I never wanted to learn.

The hardest lesson of them all is that even if what she and I had was broken and damaged and flawed and dysfunctional, it was all I ever knew.

And now it's gone.

Sometimes it still doesn't seem real.

Christmas has not passed without a hole in my heart in a very long time. Most years were occupied with a constant nagging, a feeling of being pulled somewhere else, dreading the inevitable, trying to squeeze every ounce of the bittersweet taste out of each moment. Even back before all that, it wasn't nearly as idyllic as I thought it was, I just had no idea. Maybe it was better that way.

Delusion can be magnificent when you don't realize you're in it.

Those days are over, though, and I'm here now. Eyes wide open, missing both of my parents. Wishing that I could have just one of those moments in the past back, knowing that it can never be, understanding that there is no utility in entertaining such fantasies.

I live, irretrievably, in reality.



This Christmas, I'm going to try. I'm really going to try. I want to live in the moment, remember the good times, shake the bad ones off quickly. I want to make new memories.

I need to make new memories.

I need to recapture myself this Christmas, whoever it is that I am now floating around this world without a mother or a father. I need to find my joy again, figure out who I am without them.

I need to remember how much my Mom loved Christmas and figure out how to do it myself.

I know deep down in my heart that she'd want that.

When we put out the decorations this year, a box of hers came up from the basement too. One that she'd left here, filled with Nutcrackers she bought in a frenzied insistence that she needed.them.all. They drove me crazy at the time she bought them, because they said so much about the chaos going on right at that moment. Now, they are bittersweet reminders. Pieces of her left behind that I still don't understand. That I'll never understand. That I've learned I must stop trying to understand.

On my cabinets now, the Believe sign she agonized over in the store one day, tracing the letters of the word she clung to when Dad was dying. Behind the sign, all the Nutcrackers. These little wooden statues are safely in a place where they will watch over her six grandchildren open gifts on Christmas morning, precisely where she would have wanted them to be, precisely where she would have wanted to be if she was still here, even if it had never been possible.

I'm trying, Mom. I am.

I miss you both so much.

Give Dad a kiss for me.

Merry Christmas.


  1. I'm glad Gary and his family are with you and your family this year. ♥

  2. Hang on in there and keep trying, lovely. This is a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to her. I wish you every success in making those new, beautiful memories, and hope that they are enjoyable and sustain you through the season and into the future.

  3. Although holidays such as Christmas are celebrated as they should be it also brings a heightened awareness of loved ones who are no longer with us. It is a very difficult time for you right now but enjoy Christmas with your family and especially your children. Focus on their delight and joy as well as your own happiness and joy in seeing them so excited and other family members who are celebrating Christmas.


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