Saturday, December 29, 2007

Guest post: The 'firsts' of 2007

by Kristen Bjork

This year, I spent the first Christmas of my life without my mother. Christmas was her favorite holiday -- my parents built their house specifically to accommodate an enormous 12-14 foot Christmas tree. Every year, we'd haul the gargantuan tree in, struggle (sweating and cursing) to get it upright, and tie it to a beam. Every year, my mother would watch us and intone a chorus of, "Al, be careful! Al, don't fall! Al, are you sure that is tied on tightly?" (Al, of course, is my father's name.) And, every year, after it was securely tied, she would proclaim this tree the best one ever in the history of Christmas trees, bar none. (My mother was a bit like the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog—everything that our family had was the best.) Of course, we would all nod our heads in agreement.

Putting up the tree was a very different experience this year. There was no one to constantly chide us for being unsafe (well, Margaret, my partner and a doctor, did mention that fractures in 77-year-old men weren't a good thing) and no one to declare the tree superlative. It was a strange moment when the three of us looked at the tree (which was securely tied to the beam) and didn't hear her voice. I know we all felt it. Another first in a year of horrible firsts.

Strangely, the hideousness of 2007 has really done only one thing: it has reminded me of how precious life really is. Sounds kind of pat, doesn't it? I suppose it is and yet it is true. As we drove home from my father's house after our Christmas celebration, we talked about how special it is to be alive; to breathe the clean air, marvel at the stars, and bathe in the glow of a perfect sunset. And, I began to think about how special it was that I had so much time with my mother. We made it through my rocky and hardheaded childhood, my prolonged young adulthood, and my coming out to her. Then, suddenly, when I was 22 years old, my mother got a job at the company where I worked. People told me that it was crazy and that it would be impossible for us to work together, but I found the opposite was true. It was at work that we gained the respect and admiration for each other that we felt until the end. We worked together from 1987 until her retirement in 2005. We were colleagues and friends. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad to have had it.

I will remember the Christmas of 2007 as a good one. It might even qualify as a great one -- we made it through! Without my mother singing every word of every Christmas carol ever written. Without my mother's delicious cooking. Without her obsessive love of presents. Without her.

My mother is gone, but her love of Christmas lives on in me. I've read Sara's blogs on her Christmases past and am grateful that my holidays were different than hers. Her memories of Christmas are tangled up in the awful experiences her family put her through, my bad memories cleared by the good -- wiped clean, thank goodness. My family did have its tough times, but nothing like hers. I feel incredibly and profoundly lucky. And, now I have my own family to pass this love of Christmas down to, my two boys to impart my family's Christmas traditions on. We will put up that gigantic tree and curse. We will listen to the Messiah. We will open presents, drink eggnog, and eat ourselves into comas. I will keep every one of the traditions she loved alive.

Every year, I will take a moment to remember my mother. I will remind my boys of their grandmother and how much she loved them. And, I will cherish my life and the family and friends I have. And, I will hope for a future in which everyone can cherish the life they have and the lives of others.

That's how it should be.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I empathize with your story. It brought me back to the tremendous void that I felt this Christmas for a loved one deceased last year. This was the second Christmas, and although not as raw as the first, still very difficult. I don’t think getting over or past this is probable for me. “Getting through”- my sentiments exactly. Thanks for sharing.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous donald said...

beautifully written. don't ever let go of those wonderful memories!

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Christy said...

That is beautiful. We all go through that same feeling every year as we are putting up the decorations for my grandmother. My grandfather used to do this, but he has since passed. Things are never the same, but somehow we manage to accept the differences in tradition and forge new ones.

Thank you for sharing.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Oh, boo boo. I hate the fact that we have done so much together over 20 years, one of the hardest was both losing our moms.

sure, we ended relationships- remember hauling my last girlfriend to the emergency room?- and a lot of our innocence- I;ll never forget you screaming at me I was going to ruin the earth by having children- but we never faced such a final, painful reality.

9:43 PM  

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