Christmas, Mothering

The Stockings Were Hung

Stockings hung with care My mother excelled at Christmas stockings. She made our charming red, felt Christmas stockings, decorated to a fare-thee-well with our names sparkling down the leg. She had a knack for finding the right little thoughtful things and making them fit into the stocking in the most interesting way.

When I began to have children, she embellished the rather plain stockings I first hung for them.

Accordingly, I have spent many years putting pressure on myself to do the same thing. I wrapped all the tiny little presents in white tissue paper and tied the packages with ribbons color-coordinated to each stocking.

It's what mothers do to show their love, right?

Well, no.

It's what *my* mother did to show her love. 

And because her words of love and affirmation were so few and far between, I relied on the Christmas stocking as proof that she really cared.

This also means I've put pressure on people in my adult life to make the stocking happen, as if that were the only way to show love. This year I told my children, "We're going to keep Christmas low-key. Let's just do little things that go in the stockings."

Well, heck.

I managed to put the pressure on all of us to excel at the one thing that someone who has been gone since 1993, I kid you not, would have done so beautifully, a person who has been gone so long that the last time she filled a stocking for me or for my boys was 1992, a person who never, ever knew my daughter or filled a stocking for her. 

In other words, no one else even knows what I mean. I'm creating an unmeetable expectation.

Today LP expressed concern that she hadn't gotten me enough presents. She is worried about my stocking not having enough.

Dear Baby Jesus, please make it stop. Please make me stop. In this family we express our actual feelings with words. All I really want for Christmas (besides that awesome, mind-blowing, life-altering trip to the Boston Pops) is to worship tonight and to have my three children at the dinner table together tomorrow. 

Next year, I promise, I will set no gift-giving guidelines.

My stocking is already full, as full as my heart.

Children, Mothering, reverb10

Moment — #reverb10 day 3

Here's the third prompt for #reverb10:

Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Laundry bag The car pulled up in the driveway on a Tuesday afternoon in August, the summer air the kind that feels good on your skin. All summer communication failed between us. He lost one phone when things flew out of a convertible, then broke the go phone replacement. He finally had a new phone, but packed the charger deep in the trunk of a small car full of four kids' summer luggage. I held back from running to him, waited for him to get out. He unfolded himself from the crowded back seat; his face appeared over the top of the car, a broad, lopsided smile shining as he met my eye.

The words in my head were scattered: alive, home, love, happy. The kids with him didn't know me, but their goofy expressions told me they understood. My boy, so nearly dead, had lived and returned home, and no one who heard him tell the story could doubt the wonder of it. He had to learn how to hug, this one, but on that day we hugged a summer's worth, a life's long.

Then I met the others, learned their names, shook hands, got his things out of the car. He seemed to have nothing but laundry bags. He had to explain it to me. The suitcase did not survive the accident. 

(This is my worst nightmare for a writing prompt, to be assigned detail. Ugh. I am aware of emotional details and the physical things that point to them, but rarely the other way around.)

Mothering, Poetry

Make It Better–a poem for Mother’s Day

This is one of mine, written last year, hopefully worth repeating as they are on my mind today.

Make it Better

When I think of God as mother She has the darkest skin

Black coffee, licorice, bittersweet chocolate

The skin of Eula who carried me, who rocked and changed me,

Of Catherine who stood me on a stool where I mixed boxes of Jiffy Cake 

In a bowl, flour everywhere, messes wiped up magically:

Her broad nose, the Great Mother, Her strong arms and capable hands

Kindly guiding when we go astray, Her deep voice raised not in anger

But in a song that calls us home, where a kiss will make it better.

Eula and Martha Sept 5 1961

(With Eula at Virginia Beach, Sept. 5, 1961)