December 31, 2008

-image-um, excuse me, I cannot talk to you right now

Because I am flush with Twilight saga fever. It’s true. It’s BAD. Basically, you turn into a teenage girl reading these books. Or, perhaps more accurately, you must turn into a teenage girl to truly enjoy the books. That’s what I think it is. Although, if you can’t or don’t want to remember the thrill of teenaged swooning, this probably isn’t the series for you.

I grabbed Twilight off the book shelf when we found ourselves at WalMart, of all places, on Christmas Eve morning, of all days, searching desperately and unsuccessfully all over town for chains, of all things, for our stupid car. We were supposed to be on the road already, to the deep dark middle of nowhere, but we’d heard a storm was coming along the pass where we’d be driving. And WalMart — a store I loathe for many reasons but mostly because, damn, them blue vests are grody — was, oh, our fourth bust of the morning, something like that? At that point, we were three hours behind schedule and hating each other a lot earlier than planned. As I wandered around the snack aisles, making eyes at the Little Debbie Snack Cakes, I suddenly realized I hadn’t packed any books. No. Books. Oh, no. NO. Sweet baby Jesus, NOOO!! I began to panic. One cannot go up to the deep dark middle of nowhere without being armed with a book to keep one from killing oneself and Twilight seemed the least objectionable of the selection available at GrodyVestMart.

But now I’m hooked. HOOKED. GAGA. HELPLESS AGAINST ITS POWER. Once I neared the end of book one, I even ventured to the one and only bookstore in the deep dark middle of nowhere hoping against hope that they’d have book two. When I saw they didn’t, I suffered a severe internal flip out and slowed waa-a-a-aay down on book one so I would not be bookless in the boonies. Once home, I basically sprinted to my bookstore and purchased the next two books — um, unmatching, such is my frenzy now. I mean, my version of Book One, Twilight, is a small paperback, with the movie Edward and Bella on the cover. My version of Book Two, New Moon, is a larger paperback, black with a flower, part of a whole cohesive look. And I bought the third book in hard cover, for Lord’s sake, because it’s not out in paperback yet and I simply had to have it on hand. The cover matches the look of my Book Two, but it’s hard cover. Nuts. I don’t buy hard covers. Or last time I did was during the Harry Potter frenzy. Sadly, I anticipate buying the fourth in hard cover too because I will need it. Like, Friday. I’m sure once my feeding frenzy has passed, the asymmetry of my collection of these books will really freak me out.

Finished book two in one day — today. Book three is for tomorrow, I guess.

Oh, and also? I even dragged MB to the Twilight movie yesterday with all the squealing teenage girls. I mean, I think we were the only people who weren’t squealing teenage girls. Still, not enough of a deterrent. Couldn’t you have waited for it to come out on DVD, Trace? No. No, I could not. Because I actually CHECKED and it’s not scheduled for that until Feb. or March. So yes. We went to the movie and looked like chaperoning weirdo parents or something. Whatevs. I do not care anymore. Gimme more teenage vampires. Gimme more star-crossed adolescent love. Gimme. Gimme. Now. I am completely vamped out.

(And …. I just clicked over and saw Sheila’s post about her books read this year and she mentioned this same thing. Just found that as I was writing this. Hahahaha.)

All this to say: Um, excuse me, I cannot talk to you right now …..

Oh, but Happy New Year!

2008, you can suck it. Boo-bye to you!

December 30, 2008

-image-good lord

Longest trip ever to the deep dark middle of nowhere.

I am now in Christmas recovery, rehab, detox, whatever you want to call it.

Stories to tell ….

Hope you all are having a lovely holiday season!

Oh, PS: Somehow the Chargers managed to make the playoffs beating the Broncos on Sunday, 52-21. Um, we finished 8-8. Hahahahaha. It’s a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!

December 23, 2008

-image-merry christmas!

MB and I head off tomorrow morning — Christmas Eve morning — for the deep dark middle of nowhere and the steady stream of people barging through unlocked doors and the looming snowy mountains and the room with the tortoise in the drawer.

(We may have to drive with these things called “chains.” God help us all.)

Merry Christmas, one and all! See you next week!

-image-christmas eve eve

So this time, I’m at the bookstore to Christmas shop. And for pity’s sake, it’s today, Christmas Eve Eve, yet, apparently, I engage in this activity without any nod to reality or consequences or the fact that other people actually exist.

Within 10 minutes, however, I behold the snaking line — 5,000 selfish shoppers deep — and retreat, hyperventilating, to the refuge of the store cafe, with a small coffee and a Real Simple magazine. I’m always drawn to this magazine with the condescending name, hoping against hope every time that I will suddenly find that everything IS real simple after all. But, obviously, Real Simple has never been to this particular bookstore on Christmas Eve Eve. So, you know, do shut up, Real Simple.

Next to me, at a larger table, sits a little man with slick dark hair. His tucked-in shirt is red, his belted jeans are “mom,” his tennis shoes and socks are black. When I glance down, I can see his black socks peeking beneath his mom jeans with large red letters proclaiming USA! His companion, an older woman, sits across from him, wearing huge googly glasses. His mom, perhaps? I don’t know. She quietly reads a Gourmet magazine while he noisily spars with the latest edition of Hello! I’m not kidding. He doesn’t just read it; he attacks it, debates it. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch him zip through it, turning pages with a wild fling of his arm. Sometimes he stops and thumps the page in dismay, barking to the woman in a foreign guttural tongue. Enraged by the latest photos of Brangelina’s brood? Driven mad by Britney’s shenanigans? Who knows? He looks so mild-mannered, a Turkish Bruce Banner maybe, but I fear his Hello! magazine is pushing him to some horrible Hulking brink. With each outburst, the woman across from him murmurs shhhh …. shhhhhh … soothing him like a colicky baby until he quiets down again.

For maybe thirty minutes, while Real Simple compares olive oils for me, this is the routine: the thumping uproar, the growling upset, the soft shushing. Shhh ….. shhhhhh. They seem accustomed to this procedure, as if it’s some strange companionable groove they’ve carved out over the years.

Thump …. grrrrr …. rrrr ………. shhhh …… shhhhhhhh ….

I never look at him directly, just sideways, but I can see that when he’s done with one magazine, he slams it shut and shoves it to the side to make room for the next one. I have to admire him, really. He’s fully present, fully engaged, doing his thing his way, in his own little world. Nothing and no one else exists for him, it seems. Just those magazines with all those vexing people inside. Each time he’s shushed, even, he responds to the sound, but not to her.

Finally, done with all his magazines, he jumps up and rumbles at her until she gets up, too. As he tromps past me toward the door, I hear him grumble behind me, quick and low, “Merry Christmas!”

And, I don’t know why, really, but I begin to cry.

December 22, 2008

-image-love these

Seriously, pippa. I am LOVING all your answers to this survey. I keep going back and reading them and cracking up, picturing all of you living your various versions of Christmas.

You guys are great. Hahahahaha.

-image-“fear not”

Well, I suppose it’s not Christmas on this blog unless I trot out my beloved Philip Yancey. Every year at this time, I seem to be excerpting this and excerpting that, so in keeping with that, well, tradition or compulsion, whichever you prefer to call it ….. an excerpt from what I think — I think — is my favorite Yancey book, Disappointment With God. How can a person read that title and not want to read the book? I’ve said this ad nauseum, but I don’t care: Philip Yancey’s books are a life raft to me as a Christian. He gets it. He gets it. He gets how much being a human gets in the way of being a Christian. He just gets it. I love him. I owe him.

Onto the excerpt … a Christmas excerpt. It’s not too long:

“Fear Not”

We hear these words every Christmas season at church pageants when children dress up in bathrobes and act out the story of Jesus’ birth. “Fear not!” lisps the six-year-old angel, his bedsheet costume dragging the ground, his coat-hanger-frame wings flapping ever so slightly from the trembling of his body. He sneaks a glance at the script hidden in the folds of his sleeve. “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Already he has appeared to Zechariah (his older brother with a taped-on cotton beard) and to Mary (a freckled blonde from the second grade.) He used the same greeting for both, “Fear not! …”

These were also God’s first words to Abraham, and to Hagar, and to Isaac. “Fear not!” the angel said in greeting Gideon and the prophet Daniel. For supernatural beings, that phrase served almost as the equivalent of “Hello, how are you?” Little wonder. By the time the supernatural being spoke, the human being was usually lying face down in a cataleptic state. When God made contact with planet Earth, sometimes the supernatural encounter sounded like thunder, sometimes it stirred the air like a whirlwind, and sometimes it lit up the scene like a flash of phosphorous. Nearly always it caused fear. But the angel who visited Zechariah and Mary and Joseph heralded that God was about to appear in a form that would not frighten.

What could be less scary than a newborn baby with jerky limbs and eyes that do not quite focus? In Jesus, born in a barn or a cave and laid in a feeding trough, God found at last a mode of approach that humanity need not fear. The king had cast off his robes.

Think of the condescension involved: the Incarnation, which sliced history into two parts (a fact even our calendars grudgingly acknowledge), had more animal than human witnesses. Think, too, of the risk. In the Incarnation, God spanned the vast chasm of fear that had distanced him from his human creation. But removing that barrier made Jesus vulnerable, terribly vulnerable.

The child born in the night among beasts. The sweet breath and steaming dung of beasts. And nothing is ever the same again.

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man …

For those who believe in God, it means, this birth, that God himself is never safe from us, and maybe that is the dark side of Christmas, the terror of the silence. He comes in such a way that we can always turn him down, as we could crack the baby’s skull like an eggshell or nail him up when he gets too big for that. (Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark)

How did Christmas Day feel to God? Imagine for a moment becoming a baby again: giving up language and muscle coordination and the ability to eat solid food and control your bladder. God as a fetus! Or imagine yourself becoming a sea slug — that analogy is probably closer. On that day in Bethlehem, the Maker of All That Is took form as a helpless, dependent newborn.

“Kenosis” is the technical word theologians use to describe Christ emptying himself of the advantages of deity. Ironically, while the emptying involved much humiliation, it also involved a kind of freedom. I have spoken of the “disadvantages” of infinity. A physical body freed Christ to act on a human scale, without those “disadvantages” of infinity. He could say what he wanted without his voice blasting the treetops. He could express anger by calling King Herod a fox or by reaching for a bullwhip in the temple, rather than shaking the earth with his stormy presence. And he could talk to anyone — a prostitue, a blind man, a widow, a leper — without first having to announce, “Fear not!”

December 20, 2008

-image-ah, yes

Christmas in San Diego.

obtree.jpg
The Ocean Beach Christmas tree, with beach ball ornaments and inflatable candy canes. Um, naturally.

December 18, 2008

-image-the best christmas survey ever

In the continuing spirit of minding my own business, which is my life, I offer up this Christmas Survey which I insist you do:

(Copy and paste into the comments)

1. Opening presents: Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

2. What do you do with all the paper as it’s being ripped from presents? What about the ribbon?

3. Do you take turns opening presents or is it a free-for-all?

4. Does someone act like Santa, passing out presents?

5. Do you play Christmas music in the background whilst opening presents?

6. I have just given you a gift of socks. Tell me what you say to make me believe you like them, you really like them.

7. Do you like egg nog?

8. Are there any other kinds of nogs that you’re aware of? If not, why not just call egg nog “nog” if it’s the only nog there is?

9. Are there any pre-dinner drinks or snacks available at your house on Christmas and, if so, what are they?

10. What do you wear for Christmas dinner? If you wear elastic pants and admit it, please know I admire you deeply and may very well fall in love with you. Please do not panic.

11. If you’re not hosting the dinner, do you assist in the pre-dinner prep?

12. If so, have you ever considered starting to play with the nearest child immediately upon your arrival at said Christmas dinner, causing him or her to REQUIRE your delightful company up until the very moment dinner is served thereby making it impossible for you to leave the little angel’s side and assist in the kitchen lest a loud, unsightly tantrum ensue? I’m just sayin’ is all. I myself would not do this, oh no, but I would not judge you should you decide to give it a whirl.

13. What’s for Christmas dinner? Along that same vein, what time should I be there?

14. Do you have a kiddie table and will I be forced to sit there?

15. Who is tipsy at your Christmas dinner, besides me, of course?

16. Is there something that is tradition at your Christmas dinner that you cannot stand or simply do not understand?

17. Turkey: White meat or dark meat?

18. Turducken: I know what it is. I need to know why it is. Please enlighten.

19. Cranberry sauce: yea or nay?

20. What happens after dinner? Napping? Squabbling? Frolf?

21. What’s for dessert?

22. What’s the best Christmas dessert, in your opinion?

23. Now that it’s dessert, who is snockered? You can tell me.

24. How many pieces/helpings of dessert do you have? Just know that whatever number you tell me, I will double it in my head to get closer to the truth, ‘mkay, Peaches?

25. Will Christmas carols be sung loudly and off-key, ad nauseum, until baby Jesus cries?

26. Will you be forced to pose for photos at some point by someone making their giddy artistic vision your immediate personal burden?

27. Finally … Christmas day exit strategy: What’s yours?

December 17, 2008

-image-intersection

I am at the bookstore the other day, sitting in the cafe area at one of those high tables, bar tables, whatever they’re called. I don’t really know. I only know my feet don’t touch the floor when I sit in the chair and yours probably wouldn’t either. I am minding my own business, because, as we all know, that is my life. Minding my own business. After a while, a woman with long silver hair and brown leather clogs sets up camp at the high table, too, with her notebook and a pen and a paperback called It’s So Hard To Love You. I decide she is New Agey, because apart from minding my own business, the only other thing that is my life, as we all know, is making snap judgments about other people. She has long silver hair and wears brown leather clogs so she is New Agey and her name is probably Gaia. After a few short moments, she quickly fills a page with splotchy dark blue notes. I am spying on her, because that, too, is my life. Minding my own business, making snap judgments, and spying. I’m also worrying about the quality of her pen because her notes look so gunky and messy, but this is none of my business. If Gaia wants to fill endless volumes with blotchy blue notes from a book called It’s So Hard To Love You, well, who am I to object? There are obviously larger issues at work for ol’ Gaia. She ignores me better than I ignore her and I try not to be offended that I am so uninteresting to her, but I also decide she is sensing my intrusive energy in her New Agey way and consciously trying to ignore me. Because I am a narcissist.

Notice me, Gaia!

Alas, I am a wellspring of hideous need which I sense she senses. Wisely, she continues to ignore me.

Along the wall, next to our bar table, is a line of bar chairs. Extras, I guess. An older man strolls up and perches on one of them, casually, cradling his coffee like a crooner with his mic, about to sing or banter with the audience. I pay attention to my work now, yes, I do, because I surely don’t want the Old Crooner to notice me noticing Gaia. His presence represses me and I resent him deeply. Oh, no. Here we go. He’s going to speak to me any minute, I sense it, in my non-New Agey way.

Suddenly he makes a weird sound deep in his throat, all rasping and choking. A likely medical emergency which I choose to ignore, as any compassionate person would do. He chokes and rasps again, overplaying it if you ask me, but that darn Jesus makes me speak to him.

“You okay?”

“Oh! Yeah! Wow! I have lava throat from the coffee.”

“Oh, ow.”

“Yeah!”

We fall silent and I assume our lives will intersect no more.

I am wrong.

“Yeah. I don’t know what’s worse, lava throat from something hot or brain freeze from something cold.”

“Well, they’re both uncomfortable,” I say.

“That’s for sure.”

Silence again. Now I’m feeling some pressure to continue to chat with the Old Crooner, but not that much pressure, I guess, because I stay silent but simultaneously shift my position away from him, slyly rotating on the axis of my bum. Gaia remains serene and silver. She could help me out with the Old Crooner, you know, but she doesn’t and I just might be starting to really dislike her and her single-minded preoccupation with her So-Hard-To-Love person.

Help me, Gaia! Notice my distress!

Nope. Nothing.

You see, secretly, I always rely on the kindness of strangers and, therefore, I am usually disappointed. On the other hand, it’s fair to say that I sometimes have unreasonably high expectations of strangers and how they will help make my life easier.

But, lucky me, the Old Crooner tries to drag Gaia into the awkward social fray, all by himself. He gestures toward her book with his coffee/mic and says, “Oooh. I don’t even wanna know what that’s all about. Oooh-weee.”

Gaia just smiles at him. She just smiles. All unperturbed-like. What is going on? What is the deal here? Her serenity sickens me. Is she surrounded by invisible healing crystals? Does she have a perfect pink aura? Is she in tune with the global harmonic convergence, blahdie blah blah? Something is askew here. My inner Jesus narrows his eyes.

Still, unfazed by Gaia’s silence, the Old Crooner rambles on about her book. He seems determined to break her and, well, I’m not proud of it, but I now love him.

“Yeah. Wow. That thing there, that’s trouble, you know. It can’t be good.”

Finally, finally, Gaia’s healing crystal shield cracks a bit and she says, “Oh, well, stuff like this helps me with my work. I do energetic healing.”

BINGO! I take an inner bow, hitchin’ up my smartypants.

“Oh, yeah?” says the Old Crooner.

“Mmm-hmmm.”

“Wow.”

He seems suddenly uncomfortable with himself which seems only fair to me because I have been uncomfortable with him this entire time. He stands and shuffles a few feet to the comic book stand.

Again, silence. Gaia has retreated behind her healing crystal shield, drat her. Several seconds pass. Perhaps as many as thirty whole seconds pass in silence.

But then.

“Wow! Hahaha! Wow!” crows the Old Crooner.

I lower my head. Gaia does not move. He turns back to our high table, waving a Wonder Woman comic book in our direction, pointing to the cover image of Wonder Woman in her red-white-and-blue molded-breastplate glory.

“See this? This isn’t the Wonder Woman from when I was a kid! Look at that six-pack! Oh, brother!”

He’s standing closer to me, unfortunately, so that darn Gaia leaves me to schlep the growing social burden alone.

Gaia! What about the sisterhood of man, Gaia?

“Well, it looks like a breastplate,” I say.

“Well, maybe, but …. look at those biceps! Ohh, brother!”

“Mm-hm. She’s pretty buff.”

“Yeah! ‘Hey! Look at me, I don’t need a man!'”

She’s Wonder Woman, dude.

Not getting what he needs from me, he steps toward Gaia, who, I notice, has now obscured her silveriness in her book.

“Yeah. That’s trouble, that book.”

Silence.

“Hey, I bet it’s about those people … uh, whaddya call ’em … uhm …. oh, they’re not enablers; they’re –”

“Co-de-pen-dent?
” Gaia breaks in, every syllable a bullet, her tone a deathly desert. Her very voice has changed the temperature in the room. I am agog.

“Yeaah ….. co-dependent!”

Gaia stares at him, a perfect blank. The Old Crooner wavers a moment, cowed in the fixed plane of her gaze, then turns to tippytoe back toward the comic books. I decide that without invisible healing crystals or a perfect pink aura or oneness with the harmonic convergence, I must be nothing but a fickle wench because in that instant, I am deeply in love with Gaia. Turns out, nothing about the Old Crooner has escaped Gaia’s silvery notice. Maybe she noticed my distress, after all. Wanted to help. Sensed what would make the perfect moment. You know, for me. Because if it’s not all about me, then darned if I know who it IS all about.

Gaia glances at me. I can only see her eyes, their corners crinkling. I smile back, my best friendly-and-not-at-all-needy smile. Who knows what that even looks like? Who cares?

Gaia noticed me!

Uh, yes, Trace. You just keep practicing that not-at-all-needy smile.

Moment over, Gaia goes back to her book, I go back to my work, and the Old Crooner peruses a Batman comic book in silence.

And our lives intersect no more.

December 15, 2008

-image-tradition: “the christmas mother”

I’ve posted this every year for, what, the last three years, so I see no reason to stop now. It’s kind of a Christmas tradition around here at this point. It’s a bit long, you’ll need tissue — I cannot stress this enough — but I just love the sacrificial heart of this (true) story. It seems even more relevant now, in these uncertain times. Makes me want to be a better person, you know?

As a kid growing up in Chicago, the winter weather was cause enough to remember a few Noels with a twinge of discomfort. My brother and I, however, had other things working against us as well way back in 1925.

Our dad had died three years before, leaving our mom with only her pride and a strong back.

My brother, Ned, was four years older than I and went to school. It was necessary for my mom to take me with her to the only job she could find — a cleaning lady. In those days, work was scarce and money scarcer. I remember watching Mom hour after hour scrubbing floors and walls, on her hands and knees or sitting on the outside of a window sill washing windows, four stories up, in freezing weather — all for 25 cents an hour.

It was Christmas Eve of 1925 that I shall never forget. Mom had just finished working on the near Northside and we headed home on one of the big, red, noisy and cold Chicago streetcars. Mom had earned her $2.25 for 9 hours of work plus a jar of tomato jam as a Christmas present. I remember how she searched through her precious few coins for five pennies and a nickel. Her fare was 7 cents and mine was 3 cents. As we sat together on the cold seats, we held hands; the roughness of her hands almost scratched my cold hands as she held them tightly in hers.

I knew it was Christmas Eve and even though I was only 5, the past few Christmases had conditioned me not to expect anything more than some extra food, a visit to Marshall Fields’ window display of animated toys and snow, and other kids’ excitement. With Mom’s hand in mine and the knowledge that our Christmas basket had been delievered by Big Brothers, a charitable organization, I felt a warm sense of security as we headed home.

We had just passed a major intersection where Wieboldts, a large department store, was letting out the last of its shoppers before closing for Christmas Eve. Their feelings of holiday cheer, cries of joy and happiness could be felt and heard over the noise of the traveling streetcar. I was insensitive to the joy, but as I looked up at Mom I could feel her body wracked with pain. Tears streamed down her weathered face. She squeezed my hand as she released it to wipe away her tears with her chapped and cracking hands.

I walked close to Mom to stay warm and looked into the front room windows that framed brightly lit Christmas trees. Mom walked straight ahead without a sideways glance, one of her ungloved hands holding mine, the other holding a paper shopping bag which contained her soiled uniform and the jar of tomato jam.

Our flat was a corner unit in the middle of the block. Each Christmas, Nick the barber sold Christmas trees on an empty lot next to his shop. In those days, tree lots were sold out long before Christmas Eve, leaving only broken or dead brown branches. As we passed the quiet, emptied lot, Mom dropped my hand and picked up a bundle of broken, discarded pine-needle branches.

Our second-story flat was without heat except for a small, pot-bellied stove in the kitchen. Ned and I fed the stove with coal that dropped off rail cars a couple blocks away and with wooden fruit boxes that we found in the alley next to our house. It was natural for us to bring home anything that would burn.

As we climbed the dingy, uncarpeted, wooden stairs to out flat, I’m sure my relief was only minimal compared with Mom’s. We opened the door to the front room that felt like a refrigerator. The still air actually made it colder than it was outside.

Off of the front room, there were two bedrooms which were no warmer. Other than two beds and a lion-clawed wood table with four chairs, there was no other furniture or floor covering in the entire flat.

Ned had started a fire and had pulled close to the stove to absorb the little heat it afforded, as he delved into an old issue of Boy’s Life. Mom unbundled me and sat me next to the stove, then prepared the table for our Christmas feast.

There were few words spoken because the season was about joy and giving and receiving and love. With the exception of love, there was an obvious void in the remaining three. We sat facing the little wood stove as we ate canned ham, vegetables, and bread.

At bedtime, we washed our hands and faces in cold water, brushed our teeth, and made our usual charge to our respective deep freezes. I curled up in a fetal position between the two sheets of ice with my socks and Ace cap still on. There was no great anticipation of what I would or would not receive for Christmas, so I fell asleep fast and soundly.

During the twilight before dawn, I awoke. I looked over to see my mother sleeping beside me, but she wasn’t there. Suddenly, I was panicked, wide awake, and wondering if Mom was sick or if she possibly and finally had had enough and left.

I lay in the icy stillness, afraid to get up and confirm my fears, but totally incapable of going back to sleep. Then, I heard a grinding, twisting sound coming from the kitchen. It was as constant as a machine; it would stop for a few seconds, continue, then pause again.

As best I could tell time at that age, I figured it was about 5:00 a.m. With the darkness of winter there was no assurance of what time it really was, other than it was long past time Mom should have been to bed.

As much as I feared the truth, I knew I had to find it. I rolled under the covers to the edge of the bed and dropped my stocking-covered feet to the cold, bare wood floor. Once in the darkness of the front room, I was guided to the kitchen by a light glowing under the door which was ajar. The grinding and twisting sound became louder as I approached. The stove had been out for hours and I could see Mom’s breath as well as my own. Her back was toward me. She had wrapped a blanket over her head and back for some small insulation against the cold.

On the floor to the right was her favorite broom, but the handle had been whittled off just above the sweeping portion. She was working at the old wood table; I had never seen such total concentration and dedication in my life. In front of her was what appeared to be some sort of a disfigured Christmas tree. As I stared in awe, her effort became apparent to me. She was using her broken kitchen knife to drill holes in her broom handle into which she had inserted the branches from Nick’s empty tree lot. Suddenly, it became the most beautiful Christmas tree I had ever seen in my life. Many of the irregular holes had not been effective in supporting the branches, so they were held in place with butcher’s string.

As she continued to twist and dig another slot for the remaining branches, my eyes dropped to her feet, where a small can of red paint was still open. A wet brush lay next to it. On the other side of her chair there were two towels on the floor that were almost covered with red toys: a fire engine with two wheels missing off the back; an old steel train with a number of wheels missing and the caboose’s roof bent in half; a jack, out-of-the-box, with no head; and a doll’s head with no body.

I felt no cold, no fears, no pain, but rather the greatest flow of love I have ever felt in my life. I stood motionless and silent as tears poured from my eyes.

Mom never stopped for a second as I silently turned and walked slowly back to my bedroom. I have had love in my life and received some elaborate gifts through the years, but how can I ever hope to receive more costly gifts or more sacrificial love. I shall never forget my mother or the Christmas of 1925.

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