Here I am sandwiched between a mother and daughter who are my friends. They invited me to participate in the annual Christmas cookie bake among their children and grandchildren. It was a glorious, messy ritual in a kitchen warmed with the oven and love. Heart, Hands, Health, Home = 4-H, to which I’d add Happiness.
4-H was predominate in my teen years in the little farm community in Indiana. I baked to obsessive perfection, so that my family dreaded another angel food cake or batch of yeast rolls. I have about 50 blue and purple ribbons in a box somewhere. On the recent Christmas baking day at Judi’s house, we baked with abandon. We mixed, rolled, and sprinkled. We laughed, talked, and cherished. Happiness was predominate.
I am wearing a special logo sweater that’s been in my closet for five years. My sister-in-law retrieved it at my request when my mother’s clothing was being taken to Goodwill. She didn’t need them anymore because she was garbed as an angel is heaven.
I was shopping the after-Christmas sales with my mother twenty years ago. She was in the midst of active breast cancer treatment. The foray was after I’d taken her to select her wig, a process that hurt her, yet it helped her. The inevitable was her hair falling out. The wig was a proof, not a prevention of her cancer. And the rest of the family believed that she’d inevitably be dead from the disease.
But I believed different. I had faith. I was not accepting negativity and dire ideas. It was and isn’t part of my mental perspective. We saw the sweater on the sale table and smiled together. I said, “Mother, you should get it. You love Christmas cookie baking. Let’s do it when we get home. Get the sweater. It’s your size. It’s on sale…”
My mother’s eyes sparked alive. She grabbed the sweater, held it up to her lop-sided chest, and took it to the cashier. I was surprised and pleased: my mother seldom acted impulsively and, in a perniciously-bound household, she seldom spent money for luxuries, for her self. But more important, Mother had moved from despair to determination. She committed to herself with a Future.
We baked cookies that afternoon. It was glorious fun. It was a watershed event, moments after The Moment that I will always remember.
Mother didn’t die of cancer. She lived another 15 years and often wore the sweater in the winter of Indiana. It has taken me 5 years to gain the courage to wear it in her stead. She’s gone, but not forgotten.
Well written, PJ!
I have so many fond memories of the kitchen, especially at Christmas time. We Norwegians make lefse, which is already baken and ready for our children and grandchildren wnen they decend on Monday evening. It’s actually just a vehicle for butter and sugar, but even more, it will be the transporter of Christmas stories past, and we hope, creator of new memories from 2012.
A blessed Christmas to you and Larry!
Thanks, Jim. I hope that the recent allday lefse bake session at your sister’s home made the special memories you hoped for – and that they tasted good, too. So very much on your diet!
What a beautiful story – so glad you were able to find the sweater and put it on. I am sure your Mother is smiling in heaven. Maybe i can help with the cookie baking next year!!!!
Thanks for adding your assurance that Mother is smiling in heaven. She smiled often on earth – and she encouraged my writing. What a gift
Awesome story PJ, I am so happy that you were able to bring out the fabulous sweater and share the story of your mother! What a blessing memories are! And, what a blessing friends are!
Thank you Sister Judi for having a cookie bake in time with my resolve to step into Mother’s shoes, I mean, sweater 🙂