Christmas music is playing non-stop, the stores are jam-packed with holiday shoppers, and kids are busy making their lists to send to Santa praying they’re on the nice list – not the naughty one.
The Princess and I have been busy attending Christmas concerts and enjoying the company of good friends and good food.
The outside lights are up, the tree decorated and my Dicken’s Christmas Village painstakingly set up with careful attention given to the placement of each piece before having snow dumped all over it for that added, cozy Christmas touch.
The holiday season is here in full force. I’m laughing, listening to Christmas carols and starting plans for my Christmas dinner party.
God has been good. We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food to eat and the love of family and friends.
So, why do I feel so empty? Why does my heart ache?
The (Dicken’s) Christmas Village that I started years ago was bought with money that my Mom sent me in my early days in CA. Bought with the thought of times past and the innocent memory of childhood trips to our downtown to see lights strung on Xmas trees and store fronts.
As a child, we didn’t have a car, and my Mom hoofed it to work every day and stood on her feet for hours-on-end at a Jewish Bakery in upstate NY; schlepping rye bread and jam-filled jelly doughnuts to an endless stream of customers who waited patiently to purchase fresh baked goods and to chat with the animated Italian who had a smile as bright as a summer day.
She could wait on 2 to 3 customers at a time, give a hug and a cookie to a munchkin and make everyone feel loved and important; all without breaking a sweat.
And home she trudged through snow and ice after a hard day of standing on her feet, only to be greeted by youngsters anxious to go downtown to look at the Christmas lights twinkling in store front windows and draped on snow covered trees.
“Please, Mom,“ I’d beg. “We’ve all eaten dinner and I’ve washed and put away the dishes. Can you please take us downtown? Please, please, please?”
“I’ll help pull the little ones on the sleigh and we won’t ask for anything, Mom.”
“Honest,” I’d plead.
“We won’t ask for anything,” I continued, looking at her with my best puppy dog eyes.
And Mom being Mom, she quickly grabbed something to eat, bundled us all up and off we’d go downtown looking at lights and talking about our school day.
Over the years, I’ve added on to my Dicken’s Village and always smiled with love and fond memories of a time when we were poor with material comforts, but rich with Mom’s love and steadfast support.
This Christmas season my heart aches for a time past when the snow filled our sidewalks and the tree lights sparkled on the snow as our sled quietly slid-on through the new blanket of white stuff.
As an adult, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, and I’ve always called my Mom to share with her the joys of the season.
I never realized until recently how my Mom mirrored that joy and how much happier I was after sharing my experiences with her.
With Mom’s passing this October, I find my mirror has a crack and my joys are not as colorful, not as merry.
She wouldn’t want me to feel sad and I’m trying hard to stay merry, but there are times a certain song, a certain smell, a certain Christmas scene takes me back to a time when my Mom was my Mom, and I was her little girl.
And my heart aches for one more moment, one more conversation, one more Christmas memory to share with my mom.
“Merry Christmas, Mom. I love you to the moon and back. Always have. Always will.”
I wish for all of you the merriest of Christmas’s and a Happy New Year, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
“Yes,” she answers. “Love you, sweetheart. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Mom.”
Her time in this life is short. She’s ready. Her body is spent. She does everything to keep her mind sharp; does everything to show her children and loved ones that’s she’s still present and still Mom.
But the cancer and leukemia are slowly robbing her of her self-hood; of her being.
And I am not ready to say good-bye; not ready to fly solo, but solo I must try.
The Princess is outside walking around with the exterminator.
Unfortunately, our local raccoons have no manners and are messy eaters with the birdseed they steal from the Princess’s bird feeder.
Did you know that rats like leftover birdseed?
And our cat, Boo, has been too occupied with the deer to mess with the baby rats, so we’ve got furry, 4-legged, low-riders scooting around the perimeter of our home and having a grand ole time.
I hate rats. The Princess, on the other hand, loves and respects all life forms, including RATS.
She spent the better part of an afternoon researching and calling various exterminator companies.
I can assure you, the pest control company that she eventually hired was thoroughly vetted to make sure the little buggers wouldn’t suffer any undue stress when they went to rat heaven. They simply eat a special food that they leave for them, and then drift off to sleep, like Snow White.
“Yeah,” he reassured her. “They may get a tad thirsty before they doze off, but that’s about it. It’s pretty painless.”
“Oh,” he continued. And you might have a peculiar odor coming from the house until we come and pick up their remains, but not to worry, it’s just their decaying bodies.”
I’m so glad she paid a professional to do this. I was prepared to buy some traps, bait the traps and nail the little buggers. But the Princess, being the Princess, didn’t wanna hurt the little sweethearts.
“After all,” she informed me. “You could end up with bad karma if you kill them inhumanely.”
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t looking forward to killing them myself, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And I certainly was not going to cohabitate with any 4 –legged creatures of the rat family. If you recall, the Princess and I played a version of “Pop goes the weasel” with a rat when we lived in CA. I did not and do not want to do this, again!
No siree, Bob.
I’m glad someone else’s karma is gonna be negatively tweaked, though. I can now go to sleep knowing that my “rat karma” is in tact.
And you, dear People, have a great day and I’ll catch ya next time, looking at life from my shoes.
I find myself at a loss for words these days. My heart is heavy and my thoughts are cloudy.
I have never been keen on saying “good-bye” to people, and if the truth be told, I’m the relative that always tears up at the airport and has to blow my nose a few hundred times before sending people on their way.
What can I say? Underneath my wry humor and at times quick wit, I’m an emotional lightweight; especially when it comes to my mom and people that I love.
Mom had to leave her apartment 3 weeks ago and was placed in assisted living. My siblings and I felt she needed more assistance and mom agreed to the move. She was struggling with trying to do simple, daily chores and could barely make an egg for herself to eat for breakfast. She knew that she couldn’t live independently any more and WE knew that she couldn’t, either. All the aides and help from family and friends could not maintain her and keep her safe; no matter how hard everyone tried.
My oldest brother contacted me this week. Mom is in the hospital. Didn’t really surprise me because I talk to her every day and have been keenly aware of the fact that she was not feeling well for some time now.
He called me for a second time this week. I knew when I saw his number on my cell phone that it wasn’t going to be a social call. Everyone that knows my brother knows that he’s not one for idle chatter.
So when I got the second call from him in as many days this week, I knew the call wasn’t going to be fun.
“Hey,” he started. “How ya doing this morning?”
“Swell,” I answered. “What’s up?”
“I just got off the phone with Carmie (our cousin).”
“Mom’s not doing so great. Doctor is referring her to rehab and then recommended that she go to the nursing home, after rehab,” he informed me.
“Hm,” I mumbled. “Doesn’t sound too encouraging.”
“Well,” he answered. “I called Uncle Toney. He’ll go up and see her and said he’d give me a ring later.”
“Yeah,” I responded. “That sounds like a plan. Call me, if you hear anything.”
My mom is over 3,000 miles away, struggling to survive, while at the same time praying to go home.
And I, her oldest daughter, idly sit with heavy heart and cloudy thoughts.
My mom wants us to play and to live life fully and doesn’t want us to feel sad. When she passes, she wants us to go to lunch and laugh with each other and remind each other of past fun times.
And I so want to honor my mother’s last wishes. I so want to be the dutiful daughter.
But it’s hard to laugh and go on living, when my mom is over 3,000 miles away and struggling to survive.
And at the same time praying to go home.
But I know my mom and I know how much she loves to laugh. So I need to hitch up my britches, and I need to go on, because that’s what Momma B. wants.
And what Momma wants, Momma gets.
It’s time to get up.
And it’s time to live.
Have a good day, People. And I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself to get through the emotional roller coaster of having her placed in assisted living – she’s going to an old folks camp to be with her friends.
So, why do I feel so sad?
I always thought that she’d die in her current abode with a heart attack – never imagined that she’d end up with stage 4 breast cancer and congestive heart failure – never in a million years.
She keeps going, my mom. She keeps putting on her lipstick and keeps ironing her clothes and combing her hair.
And every day she tells me, “I just don’t understand why I’m so darned lazy. I’m tired just getting out of bed in the morning. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I gotta keep eating to keep up my strength, but I’m too lazy to cook any more; just too darned lazy to cook any more,” she continues before telling me that she can’t talk any more.
My 89-year-old mom is going to an assisted living home and I feel guilty and sad and every emotion in between.
“She’ll be safe there and have activities and have friends to talk to when she’s lonely.”
Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself to ease my guilt.
“Change is good,” friends and family tell me.
“But Mom and I aren’t too keen on change,” I respond.
“She’ll be fine,” they insist. “She needs the extra help and she’s ready to go.”
And they’re right: she does need the help and she is ready to go.
So, I’ll put on my big girl pants and be grateful that she has loving, caring family members and friends to look after her and let her go off to the old folks camp and pray that God and the angels continue to watch over her.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for the continued thoughts and prayers as we stumble along living life in our shoes.
In October of last year, my mom’s 101-year-old aunt passed away.
I was saddened when I first heard the news because dear old Aunt Molly was very loved and quite the character to all who knew her. But she lived a good life – a full life – blessed with a loving daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren; and a handful of nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews, who just adored her.
Aunt Molly wasn’t a rich woman, financially speaking, but she had a heart of gold and would give you the shirt off her back, if you needed it.
As a child, I keenly remembered wanting a new outfit for my Ken doll and never had any money to buy it. We didn’t have allowances in those days. Mom barely had enough money to feed us, let alone buy a silly suit for my Ken doll. So Aunt Molly, discovering my little wish one day, decided to play a female version of Robin Hood and came over the house with a jar full of change that she had collected from the under sides of her couch cushions.
“Lucie,” she said, while I was sprawled out on the living room carpet playing with my Barbie and Ken.
“Do me a favor, honey, and count the money in my change jar. Let’s see if there’s enough money for this new suit for Ken,” she smiled while winking at my mother.
I knew the exact cost and counted each coin with anticipated excitement.
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed to my aunt as I finished the tally. “There’s enough money for my Ken outfit and money to spare!”
“Are you giving all this money to ME, Aunt Molly? Or do you want some of it back?” I selfishly continued, all the while praying that she didn’t want the inconvenience of lugging any of the left over change back to her house.
“No, Lucie,” she responded. “It’s all yours, Honey.”
That was my Aunt Molly.
And when it came to eating, she was always on some special “See food diet”; whatever food she SAW, she inevitably ate. But according to her doctors, she wasn’t supposed to be eating it.
You could never set out a plate for her to join you in your meal because “the doctor said” she could never eat whatever it was you were making.
So, you’d reluctantly set the table (minus a dish for Aunt Molly) and start serving the food.
“Ya know, “ she began. “The doctor said that I shouldn’t be eating too much pasta any more, but what do they know? Cazzo! A little pasta ain’t gonna kill me, for God’s sake. Gimme a little taste of that, ok?”
“OK,” one of us would respond. “But Aunt Molly why don’t you let me get you a plate and some silver ware and I’ll make you a small plate of food?” the individual would kindly suggest.
“No, no, sweetheart. I can’t have this any more. Just get me a spoon and I’ll just take a little taste, OK?” she responded.
So, a spoon would be gotten and Aunt Molly would commence to tasting.
A few tastes and an empty plate later, Aunt Molly would be gently poking me in my ribs and asking, “Lucie, maybe you want some meatballs with your pasta? The meatballs look kinda good. The doctor says I shouldn’t be eating any meatballs, but what do doctors know? Cazzo! A taste of meatballs ain’t gonna kill you, for God’s sakes! Maybe get us some meatballs, honey, ok?” she implored, all the while continuing her part of the dinner conversation.
“Ok, Aunt Molly,” I responded. “But seriously, why don’t you let me get you your own plate and I’ll give you a smidgen of pasta and half a meatball?”
“Cazzo!” she answered, “Didn’t your mother tell you? I can’t eat this stuff.”
“Yeah, we know, Aunt Molly,” I started to say, and then everyone at the table chimed in, “’Cuz the doctor said you shouldn’t be eating it. Right, Aunt Molly?” we teasingly asked her.
“Cazzo!” she again responded, using her favorite Italian swear word.
“Darn doctors don’t know anything these days,” she continued while scooping up another spoonful of pasta.
“What ‘cha gonna do?” she lovingly added while nodding her head and smiling.
“What ‘cha gonna do?”
My mom’s aunt was a kind, loving, beautiful little character, who I’ll always remember chatting and nibbling at our kitchen table. She had a memory that never failed to amaze me and a heart made outta gold. She was one of my first advocates and heroines and had a story and a smile to share with anyone and everyone that’d give her just a “taste of time”.
R.I.P., Aunt Molly. You’ll forever be 50 to me, dear heart.
You’ll forever be 50 to me…
Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.