I’ve been cleaning up the Christmas tree this week, sweeping pine needles and thinking of the things I’ve never said to you. They are the very things no one says to me, that I would so love to hear. I’m late telling you what I’m about to write. Really late. I have grandchildren now. But I hope that “better late than never” holds.
Thank you for all the years upon years of Christmases when you decorated the house and the tree, cooked the holiday meals, shopped for the gifts, set it all up, took it all down, and cleaned it all up by yourself.
Christmas is a lonely time for mothers, I think. So much to do, and so much of it you can’t delegate to others. As I put garland around the doors and ornaments on the tree (no one wanted to help me), and wrapped gifts in a 12-hour straight marathon before Christmas all by myself, I thought of you—my own mama, who’d done the same for more years than I’ve been alive and never complained. You don’t even make an issue of thank you notes from everyone now.
Thank you for the time and energy in all of those things growing up. Because you provided Christmas so beautifully and effortlessly, we were able to have it and enjoy it and, alas, take it for granted.
You’ve done so many things for me and my brothers and my own family that have gone unsung and unthanked over so many years, it’s hard to know where to start to say thank you. So I’m starting with the post-Christmas mess around me today.
I feel a lot of grief for being the daughter who didn’t stop, her eyes shining, and say, “Mama, the lights! The stockings! The makeup I wanted that you didn’t want me to have! The ring we found in San Francisco! The snow skis! The bike! The books!”
Thank you, Mama.
But You Did So Much More Than Make Christmas Happen
But the thanks that are overdue cover much more than Christmases. They cover my entire lifetime—the middle-of-the-night massages for my aching knees while I thrashed in bed, the homemade soup when I was sick, and the dresses that you stayed up late to make for me (if you slept at all).
Thank you for taking me to ballet lessons and to choir practices and to girl scouts week after month after year. Thank you for having two birthday parties some years so that I could include all my friends. Oh, the lake trips! Oh, the sleepovers! Oh, the Halloween costumes! The homemade, handmade everything! It’s overwhelming when I look back at it all.
Thank you for encouraging me to try new things, to find my way to school and back on my bike, to ice skate the winter we lived near the lake.
Thank you for letting multiple groups of friends come for long visits, the trips to the city, the cinnamon buns for the train.
Thank you for my favorite memory of all—the breakfast we cooked under a tent in the rain in a vacant lot. It wasn’t the food or the place—it was having you all to myself and nothing else to do but be.
As I’ve grown, it’s been easy to focus on what hurt or was out-of-whack as I reflect on my life. I want to be done with that. I want to celebrate what went right and what gave me life and hope and health and a foundation so solid, that I’ve never doubted I’m loved. Those things came from you, Mama, and from God through you.
I wish I knew how to say all this along the way. I wish I’d reached out to you, told you how much I cared and appreciated you and needed you all those years. You once told me that children take a mother’s love for granted like they do the air they breathe and the water they drink. It’s just a given, like gravity. And they do. I did.
You’re near the finish line. Heaven is closer to you maybe than to me. I know you have friends and family waiting for you there. While I’m eager to get there myself some days, I’m not eager for you to go.
I want you to know that when that day comes, it will absolutely break my heart. It’s breaking now as I type these words. You have always been my biggest fan and most constant support. I’m afraid I’ve just griped and complained and cussed and dumped and expected so much of you over all the years, that you don’t know it, don’t truly know down deep where you need to know it, that my debt to you and my love and affection for you is deep and full. Deep like a tap root, full like the towering branches of our pin oak tree.
Thank you for planting and tending me, Mama.
I love you,
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