I am a sentimental sap; I admit it, especially this time of the year. I find it amazing the things that trigger those sentimental moments, and the trip down memory lane that follows. Such was the case last week when my friend Mary posted a picture of a nativity set that my mother had made for her.
My mother was an artist, and a really good one (proving that artistic ability is not genetic). She made clay sculptures, often people would send her pictures of special memories, pets and people and she would custom make a sculpture based off of the picture. I have heard from many people over the years about how they cherish those sculptures, but what Mom was most known for was her nativity sets.
She gave nativity sets out for graduation and wedding presents and often I enter the home of friends and those very sets greet me. Mom gave Jennifer and me one when we got married. It is a white glazed set just like the original set that goes up in Dad’s living room each year. Mom even included Jennifer’s dog Cisco in our set, because who better to guard Baby Jesus than the best dog ever. My nativity set is one of my most cherished possessions.
Mary posted the picture of her set on Facebook and that picture and the comments by others sent me down memory lane. Mom has been gone for over ten years now so any excuse to pause for a moment and remember her is very much welcome and is a great blessing. I miss Mom everyday but Christmas is one of those times I realize just how much.
Mom made Christmas special. She didn’t make it special by lavishing us with lots of presents or rushing from this event to the next. No, she made Christmas special by reminding us of what was important and making sure we kept our priorities in the right place. Sure there were special things about the season but they never overshadowed the reason for Christmas.
Mom lived a simple, orderly life and she celebrated Christmas the same way. Our tree was a simple cedar tree that we, as a family, would go out and cut down from the pasture. Mom and Dad would have a couple of trees picked out from frequent trips to check cows. The decorations were simple and few in number, most were handmade by my sister and I. Most importantly, I got to put the elf on the tree each year, no exceptions.
Christmas cookies were another one of Mom’s traditions. To this day I can still smell the sugar cookies, date rolls, chocolate peanut butter chip and jello cookies baking. A few presents would be under the tree but Andrea and I knew the big present was hidden in the house somewhere and we dared not go look for it. We also knew that we would get one big (in a relative sense) present and some years, based on the farm, would be bigger than others. We learned the importance of being thankful for what we received.
The biggest moment of the Christmas Season was Christmas Eve. The day would be spent preparing to spend Christmas Day with family. Chores had to be done and extra needed to be done in anticipation. We also knew that sometime before noon, Dad would leave for town for his annual Christmas shopping for Mom. We would eat supper before Christmas Eve service and it would usually be oyster casserole (it would have been fried oysters like my great-grandparents but frying oysters was a mystery Mom would never unlock) and then we would go to Christmas Eve service. We always had to wait on Mom in the car when we left. Why she took so much time that one night of the year was a mystery.
To this day Christmas Eve service is the highpoint and the most important part of Christmas to me. I am pretty sure that was what Mom would have said too and that is why I feel that way. No Christmas is complete without singing “Silent Night” in candlelight. We would return from Christmas Eve service to find Santa had come while we were gone. Mom always explained that Santa always came to the dairy farms on Christmas Eve.
Often during Christmas Season I will spend a few moments looking at my nativity set and reflecting on my memories of Mom and Christmas. I worry that as time goes on my memories of my mother will dim, and I work to keep her in the forefront of my thoughts. I cannot thank friends like Mary enough for jogging my reflections and sending me down memory lane. I hope each of you will take a moment to remember cherished memories and celebrate the important things this Christmas Season.