The holidays were magical in the presence of my mother and her grand Christmas tree, her abundant decorations and collection of hand painted Santas from around the world. The past five Christmases, since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December of 2010, have never been the same. Every ornament hung, every Christmas card addressed, every cookie baked – it no longer carries that magic. These festivities are conducted within a great void that is heavier than any Nor’easter snowfall and as certain as the Earth is round.
Her favorite holiday was Christmas and that was evident upon entering her home mid-December. Jimmy Steward in It’s A Wonderful Life could be heard harping in the background while the scent of baked goods wafted from the kitchen. Christmas tree shopping at Vitali’s Christmas tree lot was a tradition followed by the decision of which excess of ornaments weren’t making the cut this year. My mama had so many ornaments even the fattest noble fir couldn’t yield the space for them all.
Every year, I could expect to unwrap an ornament from underneath the tree as my mother insisted her children begin their own large collection of non-traditional, bohemian or oversized ornaments. Most of these unique gifts hang in memory on my trees today amongst my own traditions of twinkling red, green and white lights – how intentionally Italian of me! And what’s a tree without my favorite hanging from one of its sturdy needled branches?
As a child, I could hardly understand why the tree had to come down so soon after Christmas day. As an adult, I get it and I wish I could let her know that. My mama passed so many traditions, morals and values on to me, and how to celebrate this time of year was definitely handed from mother to daughter.
I have adopted many of my own traditions over the years, many of which I’m sure she’d approve of, but the heart and soul of this particular holiday is rooted in my mother. She was my Santa Claus, my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, my Frosty the Snowman, my George Bailey – she was the magic that ignited the 25th of December, my birthday, with magic. She was what and whom I believed in.
Merry Christmas to you, mama. I miss you with an unruly fierceness and a primal longing and I love you with all my heart and soul.