Wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day!!! When you look up, see love!
The most significant relationships are never forgotten. I am fortunate to have had Mom in my physical life for about fifty-three years and six months, including the time inside her womb. I knew her intimately for nine months longer than I knew anyone on this planet. I learned to recognize her voice. I slept to the beat of her heart. I felt her emotions.
She gave birth to me the same year she turned 36. Mom met Dad, who was in the Air Force, through mutual friends. Their first date was a USO dance. They married several months later, on Christmas Day, 1943.
I grew up listening to music from the Big Band Era and loved seeing my parents get ready to go out dancing at the Supper Club. I had gone inside the building a couple of times. There were booths and tables and a huge wooden dance floor. My favorite parts were the ambient ceiling lights. They were recessed so only the light glowed and reflected off of what appeared to this small girl to be a giant upside-down oval bathtub.
Mom made Christmas so much fun for our family. We decorated the tree a couple of weeks before Christmas, with glass bulbs of all shapes and colors that had been in the family for years, and a few bubble lights that slowly made their way into history. We used the C-7 multicolored lights on the tree. Silver tinsel strands, placed a few at a time on each branch, reflected off of the colorful lights and made the meticulous job worth all the effort.
As the days slowly progressed toward Christmas, wrapped presents magically appeared under the tree. Little by little, by the time Christmas Eve arrived, the tree was circled by various sizes and shapes of wrapped packages with hand-curled ribbon, and a tag made out in Mom’s handwriting.
We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve after dark, around 9 p.m. First, we piled into the family car and went to candlelight service. By the time we got back home, Santa had already visited! I couldn’t believe how we barely missed him each year!
On Christmas morning, Mom got up really early to prepare the turkey and make all the rest of the dinner. She did it all on her own. She didn’t have time for children under her feet in the kitchen. It was too distracting from the task of ensuring everything was ready at the same time for our late afternoon Christmas dinner.
The table was beautifully set with a white lace tablecloth, real silver utensils that tasted odd, the best china, fancy goblets for water, a beautiful green pine bough centerpiece with red ribbon and red taper candles, and all the steaming food filled in the gaps.
Mom’s deviled eggs were the best ever! Her turkey stuffing was like nobody’s. It was delicious! Her mashed potatoes and gravy were always smooth and yummy! And the relish tray! Dill and sweet pickles along with green and black olives. It didn’t get any better!
The grownups sat at the table and the children sat at a card table nearby that sported a poinsettia-flowered tablecloth. I loved being at the little table! That’s where I learned how to put black olives on each of my tiny fingers before plucking them off with my teeth, one by one.
It’s been six Christmases since Mom left earth for a new adventure. She and dad would have been married 71 years today. I celebrate Christmas a little bit differently now, but Mom’s spirit is always with me. An angel statue next to her photo near my own little Christmas tree reminds me she is in excellent company.
The end is never the end
It allows space
Into a new beginning
May your own Christmas be full of joy and peace, along with much love.
Note: the photo above is from when I first learned how to wink. Merry Christmas!
Copyright 2014 Patricia Westbrook All Rights Reserved
‘One Last Poem’ is a prelude poem to a poem I wrote for my mother. She is the one my first book is dedicated to, signifying the love I feel for her, even though she is no longer on the same plane as those of us who are ‘living.’
She carried me inside her womb for nine months and cared for me until I could care for myself. I cannot imagine early life without her. I remember being heartbroken when she had to go to the hospital for a week. I was only three or four years old and cried on the back doorstep.
She was my proem. She was my prelude. She was my preface, my introduction into the world. She was my promise. She was the one I could run to for a hug anytime of the day or night, until I could not.
She was the one who rocked me after I fell down the basement stairs as a small child and comforted me after I tried giving our cat a bath. The poor kitty dug her claws into my arm and scalp like a climber’s pick into ice. I realized in that moment that cats did not like water.
Mom was the one who took me to coffee hour each week with the neighbor ladies. I was too young for school. One neighbor had two Siamese cats who were wild and crazy curtain climbers and howlers. Another neighbor cared for her own mother and auntie who spoke in thick Scottish brogues. I could not understand a word.
Mom was the one who celebrated each family member’s birthday with gifts and a cake. She was the one who made and placed our Easter baskets on the dining table early Easter morning. She was the one who boiled the eggs. We drew lines on them with wax and dipped them in food coloring added to vinegar water. The Easter Bunny, depending on the weather, either hid them outdoors or in the house. Rain and snow were never conducive to finding eggs. After being discovered, the eggs rested in a dish on the dining room table until they were all eaten, a week or so later.
Mom was the one who took me with her each week to her hairdresser, Maurine, who always had the latest McCall’s magazine. She handed me scissors to cut out the paper doll and dress her while she fixed Mom’s hair. Occasionally on a hot summer day Mom treated me to an icy soda pop at the lunch counter in the five and dime.
Mom was the one who held my hair with one hand on my forehead and her other hand under my belly whenever my stomach became upset and vomited its contents in the middle of the night, on countless nights. She was the one who soft-boiled an egg and dry toast to settle my gut the following morning.
She was the one who prepared all the family meals and presented them on a tablecloth covered table, in their special bowls and on their special plates. She ensured our meals were nutritionally balanced from all the food groups with much variety. Home-canned fruits and vegetables fed us all year long until the following year’s harvest.
She was the one who sewed tiny Barbie doll clothes on the sewing machine to be sold for our Camp Fire Girls’ fundraiser. She must have had the patience of a saint. The clothes turned out lovely, even though she hated to sew. I understood why after taking home economic classes in Jr. High school. Nothing I sewed years after turned out. I finally gave up the practice.
She was the one who helped me study for tests by quizzing me the night before. Good grades in school were very important in our home. She was the one who drove me to Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, and all other activities after school. She was the one who joined the PTA. How she made the time for it all, I’ll never comprehend.
She was the one who ensured we visited the cemeteries on Memorial Day as a family. Arrangements of flowers, homegrown purple or yellow irises, or pink peonies, depending on which were in bloom, arranged in a coffee can with water, found a new home at each family headstone, along with some family history for our impressionable ears. It was a full day’s outing. It always left me feeling sad when I was young. That was before I fully understood that the soul was eternal.
She was the one who contacted the Tooth Fairy when it was time for him to fly in through the window and leave a shiny nickel under the pillow in fair trade for a recently lost tooth. Of course the nickel would be spent at the candy store…
She was the one who packed the brown wicker picnic basket for Sunday outings and for the July 4 celebration every year. She was the one who filled bread bags with homemade popcorn and quart-sized Mason jars with ice water when we went to the drive-in movie theater in the summer, a very special treat. Six of us poured into the family station wagon, sleeping bags laid out in the back, the littlest ones already in our pajamas.
She was the one who made chili (and packed extra crackers) and hot cocoa for our winter outings to the South Hills to inner tube down the snow-covered mountain somewhere behind the ski lodge.
She was the one who didn’t like to play board or card games, but couldn’t stop herself from answering a game question out loud from the kitchen.
She was the one who made Christmas the most special holiday of the year, fully expecting all of her children to be there every year. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She was the one who wrapped all the presents when we were little and made a tradition of oyster stew with canned smoked oysters along with her own special twist on the recipe for Chex party mix. I can still smell it baking.
She was the one who looked like a princess when she wore her blue chiffon floor-length formal for an especially special evening of dancing with her prince on New Year’s Eve.
She is with me always. I can feel her spirit nearby and appreciate her for sharing her love so freely with me. She’s in my heart and in my voice.
Being a head over heels, hopeless romantic can have drawbacks. Always a sucker for romantic movies, a woman I know has watched them often throughout her life for as long as she can remember, even as a very small child. They mesmerize her. She doesn’t know why. They’re kind of silly, really.
Maybe it’s the on-camera chemistry or the close-up shot of a beautiful couple in a loving embrace. Kissing is her favorite. They seem so perfect together. Perhaps it’s the sexual tension and the playful flirting. Their humorous banter is fun and entertaining.
Lovers in movies are very predictable. She wonders if that’s the draw. Happy endings are what she always looks for in movies and romantic movies usually have them. Every rule has an exception, though.
The movie, ‘Love Story’ to an impressionable and hormonal young teen had the perfect ending. A realistically devastating ending. Three times she spent her savings to see the movie and sat near the front with her closest friends, where she could be completely absorbed into the screen. She never cried so hard in her life. All three times.
She hoped nobody remembered that young girl bawling her eyes out not only in the movie theater, but outside on the sidewalk while waiting for a ride to pick her up. It was gut-wrenching. Sobbing so hard, gasping for her next breath.
She loved it. It released the brakes on the pent-up emotional roller coaster that was a rite of passage for every youngster. All kids went through it at some point.
Even though she knew what was coming in the movie, she liked to think about alternate endings. What if the woman in the movie had never gotten sick? Did love really mean never having to say you’re sorry? Could theirs be a love that lasted forever?
Falling in love turns your world sideways, in a good way. The endorphins run rampant across the synapses, brightening the world and everything in it. All of life is wonderful and beautiful. You feel like you could live like this forever.
‘Elf’ is my friend’s absolute favorite Christmas movie. The part where Buddy says, “I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it,” offers proof of the giddy feeling of falling completely in love.
Why do they call it ‘falling’ in love anyway? Why isn’t it flying in love or jumping in love or something more flashy? Falling seems like you have no control–oh, yeah…
Love and what it leads to, babies and (usually) long term relationships, takes commitment along with compromise from both partners. Equally. Commitment has many layers and is deeper than many of us realize. It is much more than being sexually faithful to a partner. It’s about becoming better together, encouraging each other along the way. Being there for the other.
Compromise can be difficult, especially when someone is used to getting their way. It sometimes becomes most difficult to be flexible as time moves forward. We change, usually not together nor in the same way. It’s about give and take, yin and yang. It’s about balancing each others needs and desires and supporting one’s partners’ dreams. Selflessly.
I am happy to have been in love during my lifetime. I look back joyfully on memories and forward to making better new ones. Falling. Head over heels in love. What could be better?
What do you think about falling? I’d like to hear from you. Thanks for reading.