The Longest Day

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I start dreading this weekend as soon as the Mother’s Day cards appear in store aisles. It’s the Great Wall of Grief for me and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

And every year since 2003, my first Mother’s Day without my mother, I’ve tried to come up with a strategy for the day. Every year I seem to have a different plan but they ultimately have one thing in common – they fail miserably in helping me through the day. mother's day

I want to be alone. I don’t want to be alone. I want to say home. I want to go out. And so it goes.

Most every Mother’s Day begins the same way for me now. I wake up, open my eyes and remember the day and then I feel this sudden churning deep in my gut– sort of like that feeling when you’re in an elevator and it descends really quickly and you try and catch yourself.

And then I cry. Sometimes softly, but sometimes I sob. I think about going to Harrisonburg, VA and taking my mother out to brunch at the Country Club. I think about what she would wear. My mother never really owned any casual wear and she always looked so stylish and elegant when we went out.

I think about drinking champagne with her. My mother loved champagne. Years ago at an outdoor wedding, we both were in our cups – or flutes as the case may have been – and giggled together all the way home in the back seat while my father and my partner at the time shook their heads.

Mostly I think about what we would talk about over brunch. We never ran out of things to talk about.

We just ran out of time.

They say that the longest day of the year is the Summer Solstice in June. I would argue that it’s the second Sunday in May.

Afterword: Through the magic of Facebook, I was given a gift this Mother’s Day weekend in the form of a blog post from Kate Spencer, entitled How I’m Making Mother’s Day My Bitch. It is, in a word, brilliant. Brilliant.

May it be a gift to all of you missing your mothers this weekend.

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It’s coming on Christmas

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I love this time of year.

In my house, everything seems to slow down in December, creating a calm, a stillness, less urgency. There is more lounging on the couch, snug under chenille blankets that feel like rabbit fur. There are holiday movie marathons, while wearing polka dot flannel pajama bottoms and fuzzy slippers. There is sea salt caramel hot cocoa and glasses of heavy red wine. And there are meals that take longer to cook, warm our insides and bring us comfort. Tarragon tomato soup, stuffed cabbage rolls, crusty garlic bread.

IMG_3123December is like a long pause. A deep breath before another year begins and we start all over again. So I try to savor this month as much as I can and take advantage of this “pause.” I will read more, write more, reflect more. I will listen to Joni Mitchell’s “River” about 100 times – and cry 100 times – because it’s the saddest, most heartbreaking Christmas song on this planet, but also the most beautiful. I will not make many commitments or attend too many social engagements. This pause is sacred to me. For now, I just want quiet.

And I want Christmas decorations. Lots of them. Christmas in our new home feels warm and cozy – more so than other places we’ve lived. I wonder why that is? Our new home has inspired me to buy some holiday decor, which is not something I usually do. I’m all about buying ornaments and strands of twinkle lights, but I never was one for buying holiday decor outside of tree trimming. But this year, Christmas feels different. I’m happy and I want the space that I live in to reflect that, so I bought some mini Christmas trees and these adorable little birdies, in other words, simple things that make me happy. Every night, when I turn on all of our Christmas lights and light the candles on our mantle, our house feels . . . magical.

See what I mean? Magical, isn't it?

See what I mean? Magical, isn’t it?

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These two birdies were longing for a third little tree. So I gave in.

These two birdies were longing for a third little tree. So I gave in.

Growing up, I loved when my mother would bring up from our basement giant cardboard boxes filled with Christmas decor. In one day, our entire house would be transformed into a winter wonderland. My mother had red and pine green candles that she only displayed at Christmas and a beautiful white and gold painted ceramic Santa. She put candles in every window and hung on the side of the house a gigantic wreath with white lights, gold ornaments and fake white snow that clung to the branches. And on one Saturday, she’d bake all of her Christmas cookies, filling the house with the scent of buttery cookie dough, toasted walnuts and cloves. Between cartoon breaks, I’d walk into the kitchen to sample her latest batch of cookies, and she’d load them on a paper plate for me to take back to the living room. My mom did Christmas right. I guess that’s where I get it from.

When I became an adult, the holidays brought up mixed feelings for me. I have a tendency to get a little melancholy, especially when I see others spending the holidays with their families. It’s the worst feeling in the world when your family texts you a group photo on Christmas Eve and you’re the only one not there or when your heart aches from just seeing your little nephews in their striped footie pajamas, opening their presents on Christmas day.

087Since I moved to North Carolina nine years ago, going “home” hasn’t been an easy option. It’s too far to drive, too expensive to fly and getting enough time off from work has always been a headache. The last time I flew home for Christmas was four years ago during the middle of my divorce. My luggage was lost (and later recovered), my flights were delayed, and, oh yeah, there was that blizzard that cancelled my return flight and left me stranded in New Hampshire for five days. The upside? I got to spend my sister’s birthday with her and bake her a chocolate cake. The downside? The morning after I finally arrived home, I was shivering in bed with a 102 fever. After that trip, I instituted a five-year rotation plan.

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My sister, nephew, and chocolate cake.

This year, however, the five-year plan has been trumped by a longing to be with family. I just can’t spend another Christmas on FaceTime. It will be the first time in four years that our whole family will be together. I cannot wait. No more FaceTime, no more photos texted across the miles, no more lost luggage and flight delays (we’re driving!). Just family – and my sister’s famous chocolate molten lava cakes. What more could I ask for?

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Christmas-Eve Eve shenanigans, 2010. My brother-in-law loves this photo, even though a quarter of his face is cut off.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.