Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Part Two

I've often been told that whatever shred of creativity I have came from my mother. Mine just took a different form than hers. Mom took colorful, creative handiwork to a level beyond my capabilities. Holidays shined because of her imagination, especially Christmas.

Mom wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth and neither were her children, but she didn't let that lack dampen her enthusiasm. Every Christmas package she wrapped became a work of art so beautiful that even children hated to destroy her creations. No matter how mundane the content might be -- socks, overboots, even the dreaded underwear -- came packaged like the rarest treasure. She labored hours over each package. Using glue and glitter she created snow scenes with reindeer, laughing Santas, angels on heavenly clouds, baby Jesus surrounded by Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and lowing cattle. I've often wished that even one of those packages had survived intact so I could brag about her talent today. Mom's inspired art deserved to be framed and hung on my walls because I understand now that such handiwork was an extension of her love.

No Christmas season was complete without trays loaded with Mom's decorated cookies. Like her wrapped packages, cookies were transformed to high art with Mom's special touches. Flat cookies formed by cookie cutters became a three dimensional finished product. Even her four little cookie monsters hated to bite into them, at least until they'd been properly admired from every angle. Santas and reindeer, snowmen and angels took on a vibrant life of their own. Mom spent hours coloring bowls of frosting to just the right hues. My personal favorite was Frosty the Snowman, complete with gaily colored stocking hat, scarf, happy smile and carrot nose all carefully formed from frosting to accent his white roundness. My second favorite was Santa. Shredded coconut atop white frosting transformed his beard to a believable reality. Our classes at Lincoln Grade School eagerly anticipated a tray of Mom's decorated cookies each Christmas. Each cookie sat on its own paper lace doily and seemed too wonderful to eat.

One year in particular stayed firmly in my memory. Our house was heated by a warm morning stove with isinglass doors. A howling blizzard knocked out the electricity but our house stayed warm and cozy, thanks to our gas stove. Bitter winds drove temperatures down below zero. Mom bundled me up in a snow suit and sent me across the street to our neighbors, who heated with electricity, and said to tell them our house was warm if they wanted to come over. Before long our living room was packed with people, laughing and talking while their kids ran and played and jostled each other. That day had started out as cookie baking day. One tray had been completed with individual rows of Santas, angels, snowmen, and reindeer. When that tray of treasures was knocked to the floor by careless children, the entire house went silent. Then Mom cried while the neighbor ladies tried to rescue a few unbroken cookies from the fractured mess. Mom said, "No, I'll just start all over in the morning." And she did. I don't remember how long our neighbors stayed with us that day, but Mom's broken cookies were a loss that silenced all the jabber and play.

1 comment:

Mitts said...

If only those days would return... at this time of year especially.It seems it has never been recaptured.Thanks for the memories... that once upon a time the joys of Christmas were real.

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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