Yesterday I was baking my cookies, thinking about who would be getting their holiday tins and plates, when I suddenly realized that I’m going through my first Christmas without Mom.
It happened when I was cutting out the sugar cookies. Mom always really liked them — or, in a reflection of the loyal, unflinching support we kids always got from our mother, at least said she did — and this year will be the first time in a long time she won’t be getting to eat an iced Christmas tree cookie that I made or sample one of my new efforts.
Of course, it made me feel sad and wistful, and the feelings caught me off guard. When a loved one dies, time helps you deal with the everyday sense of loss because life goes on, but then a special memory or event that you shared with them sneaks up on you and you feel their absence all over again. I remember one of my friends talking about how difficult it was to watch the OSU-Michigan game for the first time after his father’s death, because they had always watched it together. In my case, baking Christmas cookies is what brought it back.
So I sat there for a few minutes, listening to the holiday music that was playing and thinking about Mom. I thought about how I was with her the first time I ever helped in making Christmas cookies, when I was a little kid and the Webner family kitchen was a madhouse of flour-covered people with rolling pins and cookie cutouts and icing and bright sprinkles. That’s one reason I’ve always liked making Christmas cookies. And then I thought about how most of the Christmas music I listen to during my baking days, from Bing Crosby to the traditional carols to the Nutcracker pieces to the Chipmunks’ Christmas song, and just about everything in between, were songs that Mom loved, too.
And I’m sure I’ll think of her when I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at some point over the next few weeks, because Mom was a movie person and it was one of her favorites that always provoked some loud and happy laughter, and when I look at the little Santa mug with “Bobby” painted on it that she gave me years ago and I remember how there were little Santa mugs with names of each of the five Webner kids painted on top that were lined up on the fireplace mantle for Christmas — and then I’ll remember how much Mom loved Christmas all over again.
It made me realize that, although she’s no longer physically with us, her spirit and sense of fun and the little family traditions she created and the memories of those shared holiday events will always be with us. I may be technically Momless, but there’s still a lot of Mom in my Christmas.