Yeah, still thinking about the death of my parents. This game changing event has really been an eye opener.
The other day my sister and I, who are finally communicating without the censor of parents, started comparing notes. I would tell her a story that I had held onto and was either angry, hurt, or some other useless emotioned about, and she would tell me her side of the same story. Trixie, those parents of ours. I would say.”Well you never”, and she would say, “Well Mom said”…. Lots of insights.
We are working through the holidays together now. Lots of old family traditions, which having moved away years ago mean very little to me now, are suddenly very important. The day we put up the Christmas tree was on Mom’s birthday, December 5th. Mom was a total egoist about this. She owned Christmas and would let us borrow it. We would assemble the artificial tree, then my sister and I would fight as we put on the lights. Dad avoided it all by being out on the ladder putting up the outdoor lights. Then Mom would make a big deal and we all had to come in and calm down and focus on her. She would take out her bell. The first Christmas ornament she and dad had gotten. (Back story: he was campus security at University of Wyoming, Laramie, and we was making rounds and saw this on a tree that some science department had thrown out after their Christmas party, so he brought it home to Mom.)
This ornament is a bell with an angel inside it. It is blueish grey. It was so beautiful as a child, that I never noticed until recently that it was plastic. Mom would wait until we were all quiet, she would place the bell on the tree and announce Christmas can happen now! I was sure for years if anything happened to that bell Christmas would never happen.
My sister and I compare stories. She tells me she hates putting up trees, she hates the lights, she hates the bell. She hated it all because we would always take the tree down on her birthday, Jan 2nd. She also puts up artificial trees, she is allergic, so now I get why we never had real trees. And she never puts lights on them. The year after Dad died, mom and my sister came up to visit me on Christmas. I thought it would be a nice change and we could all be together. I had a really hard time mustering up the energy to put up my Christmas tree, so a friend and his boyfriend came up and opened all the Christmas boxes I had and put up a tree. It looked exactly like a tree from my childhood. It was frightening. I was shocked. My mom was pleased. My sister was shocked.
That Christmas was lovely, and then afterward I threw away almost all the ornaments from the tree. And the tree itself.
I use the excuse that I work retail to explain the lack of tree. And it is true, all I do is work, sleep, work, drag myself to parties, repeat.
This year with Mom gone, I am trying to get my sister to come for Christmas. Out of the house she shared with my parents for 18 years, to my new condo where I have room for a little mantle christmas tree. As we talk about this she says, “you know, we are orphans now.”
It hits me.
And traditions are the ones we remember. Mom standing over a sink with a hot pot of fudge, beating it to make it just right, but only after she poured me off a little of the caramelized candy, before she made it fudge, for me because I liked that. Divinity like angles wings that would amp you up so you were talking like a squirrel on speed. Mom burning the rolls in the oven. Ho ho bags (gifts to big to wrap were either put in pillow cases or covered in sheets; bikes, stereos, giant down coats.) Stockings with an orange in the toe. Being told we had to sleep in ’til at least 4:30am because Santa would not be finished before then. The year we bought my sister a leather fringe purse, and I told her it was a bag of worms, she reached in touched it and threw it across the room (her excuse is it was early and she was not awake.) The Purple, long handle barred, banana seated, white flowered basket bike (Dad took my old police auctioned Schwinn and transformed it in the garage out back in the freezing Colorado winter after he got off his 4 to midnight shift.)
Lots of these things are the memories that make up my sister and me. 50 year old orphans. And I am happy with most of this. Bitter sweet with some. Darn right sad about others. I never learned how to make fudge. Mom learned from Dad’s Mom, who learned from hers…
So I think about the fudge and how it is gone forever, but the memories are still intact.
P.S. A Piece of Fudge dropped into Mom’s Jet Fuel coffee, and a dollop of whipped cream from the pies. Nothing better.