Weekly Writing Challenge: Ghosts of December 23rds Past
by michelle w. on December 23, 2013
It’s time for a year-end retrospective — but bigger. This week, weave a story about yourself told through the lens of your past December 23rds (or 24ths, depending on which side of the International Date Line you’re on as you read this).
So many memories… where to begin? I think the best place to begin is the beginning… I’ll go back to my earliest memories, and go forth from there…
December 23, 1964… I was 3½ years old, and she was only 9 days old… “Isn’t she cute?” Mommy asked me as she held the sweet little cherub in her arms, and to my eyes, she was the most beautiful baby ever, with her little dark curly tufts, and the most adorable turned up nose, God ever designed. “She’s our little Christmas present,” Mommy continued seriously, as she leaned forth to kiss her sweet little face, before giving me a kiss too. “Do you love your little sister, Cheryl? You’re her big sister, and she’s going to need you to take care of her as she grows up. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes, Mommy,” I nodded solemnly, looking at my little baby sister with absolute adoration. I would always love and protect this helpless little one, because she was mine.
So many new and exciting things had happened this year, and even though everybody talked about Santa Clause, I didn’t really have any concept about him. That night, I was much too excited to sleep. There was a baby crying in the room next door, and the sound of Mommy and Daddy laughing in there too, and like any curious child, I wanted to know what was going on in the next room. Therefore, I did what I knew I wasn’t supposed to do, but all of the giggling and lights and noise in the next room was beckoning me, and the bed was not at all inviting.
So, quietly, I slipped out of my bed and creeped over to my bedroom door, which was wooden on the bottom half, and glass on the top half, and standing on my tippy toes, I peeked through the window into a beautiful wonderland filled with colorful paper and delightful bows and toys and, oh my! I really didn’t get a chance to take it all in, and I couldn’t even tell you what I got for Christmas that year, because as fate would have it, my beloved Mommy looked up and saw me peeking in, and as she and Daddy turned toward me, there was no longer any joy on their faces — only fury, because I had spoiled their fun.
Like a flash, they were in my room yelling and screaming, and beating me for being so nosy and ruining everyone’s Christmas. Lesson learned… Never ever again did I “snoop” or look to see what I was getting for Christmas. Of course, the funny thing was that I just wanted to see why they were so happy and why they were laughing and giggling. I didn’t yet associate Christmas with presents…
December 23, 1972… I was 11½ years old. Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” was number 4 on the charts, and I loved that song. It reminded me of my mom. A lot had changed in 8 years. At 11½ years old, I was much too old now to call my parents “Mommy” and “Daddy,” so their names had been shortened to “Mom and Dad,” in honor of my coolness. Anyway, Helen Reddy’s song definitely brought strong images of my mother to my mind, for she was the strongest, bravest, most beautiful woman and mother that I knew.
And now, on this day before her annual Christmas Eve dinner, she was barking orders like a drill Sargeant, ordering my sister and me to dust the furniture, fold the laundry and clean our rooms! I hated cleaning and doing laundry, but I didn’t dare tell Mom, especially not now… After all, Santa Clause coming tomorrow night, and I knew I had to be good at least for the next two days, until Santa had made his run.
I wish you could have seen my mother, with her dark brown hair teased high, and stylish glasses, as she whipped around the kitchen prepping for the big Christmas Eve meal. The night before, she baked homemade pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, seafood salad, scalloped oysters, macaroni and cheese and sweet potato biscuits… Everyone in the family talked about Mom’s Christmas Eve dinner and looked forward to it, and this year, Mom was especially excited, because this was the year that she had her mantle decorated for the first time, so not only would everyone be treated to an exceptional dinner, but they would also be privileged to share in the joy of seeing her beloved Christmas decorations…
December 23, 1981… I was 20 years old, married for just 8 months, and baking sweet potato biscuits to carry to my mother’s house for Christmas Eve dinner. My husband and I were so excited. This would be our first Christmas together as man and wife, and we were in our tiny little 12×60 mobile home that was decorated to the hilt. There were Christmas lights strung on all three trees outside our mobile home, and Christmas lights and garland lined the entire living room as well. And we had a real tree that we had picked together… I was so excited, and you should have seen that tree. I think Christmas trees must grow from the lot to your home. My husband had to cut almost 2 feet from that humongous tree, and it took up more than half of our living room, but that was okay. We loved it, and I couldn’t wait to go see my mother the next day, and for her to come and see us and our tree on Christmas day.
Her Christmas Eve dinners seemed to get more and more elaborate with each passing year, and it was an exciting opportunity to spend time with family that we didn’t see the rest of the year. I could hardly wait for Christmas Eve to get here, but meanwhile, there were these yummy sweet potato biscuits to bake, and a great husband and cute little puppy named Poco to spend the evening with…
December 23, 2012… My husband and I were preparing for our Christmas celebration. Our youngest daughter had just returned home from Arkansas with her husband, and children, after discovering that she was expecting child number 3, and they were staying with my husband and me, which made us ecstatic. We had missed them while they were gone, and we were looking forward to spending more time with them and our grandchildren. We also planned to go to my son’s house for Christmas to visit my other grandchildren, and of course, we planned to go and visit my mother, who suffered from mild dementia, and was no longer able to stand or walk on her own. The Christmas Eve dinners with Mom had long since ceased due to many different issues, not the least of which was her poor health. Little did I know as I made my plans that day, that this would be my final Christmas with my mother…
December 23, 2013… Here I sit tonight, alone with my memories, while my husband sleeps… We’ve been married for more than 32 years, our children are grown and we now have 9 grandchildren, and while my husband is still blessed to have both of his parents, mine are gone now. This is my first Christmas without my mother, and I miss her. Throughout the years, we had many good times and many bad times. There were many joyful times, and there were many painful times, but one thing always remained… I loved my mother with all my heart, and I miss her more than words can say… So, tonight, as I sit here writing, the only ghost I’m haunted by is the memory of my mother, a woman who loved and celebrated Christmas… She loved the decorations, and the presents, and the fun, but mostly, she loved her family, and we loved her.
Cheryl A. Showers