Saturday, November 23, 2013

It Looks Like Gross Candied Fruit to You But It's Much More Than That

Can we please, please just skip over to January?
To you, this looks like a bunch of gross candied fruit.  To me, it's 45 years worth of memories of holiday memories with my mother.  To me, it represents hours sitting together chopping the sticky fruit into small pieces for fruitcake cookies.  To me, it's the days we spent in the warm kitchen baking pan after pan of cookies to have and share for the Christmas holidays.  To me, it's the day my godmother came into that kitchen for coffee one morning, and when she came back eight hours later for a "bee-yah" (beer, to most of us), we were still baking in hysterical laughter.

Two weeks ago when my local supermarket set up their Christmas baking aisle and I saw this fruit sitting there, my heart lurched and I had to catch my breath.  "Holy crap, where did that come from?" I thought.  I walked faster and brushed the tears out of my eyes, feeling like a plum idiot for bawling in the grocery store.

For the past several weeks, ever since the holiday commercials have starting running on t.v., I've been dreading Christmas.

I just can't do it.

I don't even know....I seriously don't think....I can even put up a tree.

When my dad died some twenty years ago, putting up the tree was therapeutic.  He went into the hospital right after Thanksgiving that year and died January 3.  It was an awful Christmas.  But working on the tree was an escape for me; hanging those damn icicles one by one on the tree took days.  And when it was finished, I'd sit in the dark living room with a glass of Crown Royal and gaze at the tree long into the night, praying he would not suffer and trying to figure out how in the world we would manage without him.  The tree was comforting.

This year there is just no reason.  My children are grown.  For multiple reasons, the annual Christmas gathering here won't happen.  Nobody is going to come this year; mom is gone.  She died in March.  I'd been at her side, daily for seven years taking care of her as she declined.  We were together every single day.  I was the one sibling who was here, who lived close by, who cancelled vacations, who put her own life on hold to take care of mom for seven years.  How can I possibly do Christmas without her?  Why bother with a tree?

I might put up some decorations.  I probably will.

But all those commercials with big happy families and sappy Christmas movies?  Screw it.  I'm not doing it this year.  It hurts too much.

But the fruitcake cookies?  That's my one small way to fight back.  I'm going to make the damn cookies.  I'll cry all the way through it, but I'll do it.  I'll make mom's fudge recipe, too, because there are still people I love who love to get my little Christmas care package each year.  Billy, Mary, Hattie: they'll be missing mom this year too, and I'll share a little bit of her with them in each fruitcake cookie and each piece of fudge I make.

But really, I'd rather just skip to January.  I'm totally not ready for this.


Adrienne said...

I remember the year I felt like you do now and didn't put up our tree. Worst decision of my life. It made a miserable Christmas even more miserable.

One thing I have done is to replace my larger tree (yes - it's fake) with a much smaller one. Keeps it simpler.

P.S. I love fruit cake cookies. If I lived closer I'd come and make them with you and eat all your fudge.

edutcher said...

Do the tree, put up the lights, deck the halls, ho a few ho's.

Among other reasons, because Mom would want it that way.

Chuck Monson said...

God bless you Pat. I am so sorry about your Mom.

Steve-O said...

We all go through this.
I lost my mom in March of 2007. She lived in Shreveport most of her life, and I had always made it home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Each Christmas since has never been the same, but that is life. And death.
It leaves a void, but it is filled by a special place in my heart where she will always reside.
Put up your tree, enjoy her memory, cry, laugh, drink good bourbon (I recommend Blanton's :-)).
You mom will be there, because she will be in your heart.

Pat Austin said...

Ok, ok. I'll get a tree.

Sarah said...

I tried leaving a comment but I don't think it showed up. I don't remember what it said, but I will be thinking about you, and if I had the power to skip to January, I would so do it! Take care.