The other day I packed up all my Christmas coffee mugs. By "my" Christmas mugs I actually mean my Mom's, that from now on will spend every December in my cupboards.
The day after that I took down all the Christmas tree ornaments so I could haul the tree outside for tree pick-up.
Tonight I finally packed up the ornaments and put each one back in its box. So many are from her. So many memories with each one. The one of a red house that she bought for Paul and I because our first house was our "Old Red House" and we'll cherish it forever. The pink ceramic Care Bear she made for me when I was a little girl. Now my girls love that one. The buffalo one she bought me in Yellowstone when she chaperoned my 8th grade youth group camping trip. I was so mad she was going to chaperone, but then I was so glad she was there. A girl needs her mom. The Mickey & Minnie ones she bought for Evie and Lily when she and my Dad went to Disney Land 5 years ago. The Barbie one she bought for Evelyn, and the Rapunzel one she bought for Lillian. The cute little boy sleeping on the moon she bought for Gregory.
The absence of ornaments from her to Griffin is pain-stakingly obvious. They didn't get to meet.
Yesterday I shook off all the pine needles from my quilted tree skirt and put it back in its box with Christmas linens. She helped me make it several years ago on a "girls quilting retreat" at her house with my sister and I. That tree skirts holds tremendous memories of laughing and tons of coffee and choosing fabrics together and getting mad about having to rip out seams every time I screwed up and my Mom finally just ripping my seams for me laughing until we cried.
The hem still isn't finished. I just hadn't gotten around to it, and you can't tell when it's under my tree, and you know, I just always assumed there was no rush since my Mom would always be here to help me. But now that she's gone I just can't get myself to finish it. I want to leave it the way it was when she left.
And now its in a box again. Until next year when the memories fill my living room again.
Still to pack up is her gorgeous Christmas quilted wall-hanging that greets us when we walk in our front door. It's so beautiful. Do I really have to take it down? And the Christmas quilted table runner on our kitchen table. And the Christmas plates and bowls and platters that are still in my cupboard.
And it's like I'm saying goodbye, again. And it aches. Oh how it aches.
Everyone tells you and warns you that the holidays are going to be so hard without your loved one. And it's true. The holidays are so painful. Good and beautiful and still treasured. But painful and different forever. When you serve your very first, and then second, Thanksgiving turkey and neither time your mom is there to say "Good job!" Painful. And when you hear a million different versions of The Little Drummer Boy and you cry every single time because it was her favorite song. Painful. And when you unpack her Christmas dishes into your own cupboards because now they are yours. Painful.
Beautiful too, the constant opportunities to celebrate her favorite holiday, to remember her and cherish it.
But painful nonetheless.
And everyone warns you about it and expects it.
But no one can prepare you for when it's all over.
Because you see, even though it was so hard to eat Christmas Eve dinner on her dishes at my table, it was also wonderful. A piece of her was right here with us, tangible. And every Christmas ornament that was hand-picked by her and hanging on my tree was another little tangible piece of her, a story with each one. And walking in my front door to see her gorgeous Christmas quilt...it welcomes you like her giggle. And every morning drinking coffee out of her Christmas mugs was a tiny bit like drinking coffee with her, which I'll never get to do on earth again (I hope there's coffee in Heaven so I can drink coffee with her again). And during every version of Little Drummer Boy that came across my pandora station this Christmas, I could see her dancing and hear her drumming her fingernails on the counter as she hummed along.
And she was with me. In my kitchen, on my table, on my tree. And now I'm packing it all up.
Oh I know. I know she's always in my heart. And I have a hundred other quilts from her around my house. And a hundred other pieces of her. I know. But this was CHRISTMAS. And she's my MOM. And nothing else is the same. It's just not.
Turning off my Christmas music last week was one of the most painful things I've done since she left us. It was saying goodbye all over again. She loved Christmas music more than anyone else I know. Don't all of our moms? They are the ones that introduce us to our first Christmas albums...those ones that become like the epitome of our childhood Christmases. For me it was Kenny Rogers and Amy Grant and Neil Diamond. So having Christmas music in my kitchen for 6 weeks was a tiny bit like having her in my kitchen for 6 weeks, and I loved it. I treasured it. I savored it. I turned it loud, belted it out, and danced. And now it's over.
And the ornaments are in a box. And the mugs are in the storage room. And at some point I'll have to bring myself to take down the Christmas quilts and fold them into the linen closet. And my heart aches.
So goodbye again. Until next Christmas when your coffee mugs are in my cupboard again and your Christmas quilts wrap our home in warmth again.
I'm so glad goodbye is temporary.
I'm so glad that one day we'll be reunited so we'll never have to say goodbye again.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”