When my son sent out a family APB asking for Christmas-gift ideas recently, I did the usual Mom thing and nagged everybody to respond.
It wasn’t until Chris asked several days later, "What about your list, Mom?" that I realized I’d left myself last on the list-making list.
Reminds me of the Santa-emblazoned pillows I hand-stitched for the family one December 25 years ago, each embroidered with each person’s name, each perfectly plump with just the right amount of stuffing.
Except by the time I got around to mine, which I’d saved for last, I was almost out of fluff, and instead of going to the sewing store to get more, I stitched up the pillow with the few little balls I had remaining, rendering my creation forever limp and crumpled, glaringly lesser-than next to the other well-tended pillows adorning the bench in the kitchen every Christmas.
"Ever think your Christmas pillow is a metaphor, Mom?" my daughter, 26 now, recently asked.
Time was, when the children were young and oblivious, that I went about my role as Christmas Queen invisibly, unseen behind the scenes, where I ran a workshop Santa would love, with cookie-making parties, homemade everything, ornaments and candies and cards and wrapping paper, a Christmas so perfect that a local radio journalist once came to interview me about how women overdo at Christmas. Every year I got a cold and lay on the couch writing about how next year’s Christmas would be different.
Still, queens reign for lifetimes. And now, my adult children are discerning millennials, poised to take on their own Christmas families, and watching closely. Besides which, it is the year 2018, and feminine self-expression is catching.
Which is why one afternoon last week, when the house was especially quiet as a mouse and the Christmas tree peaceful as a manger in Bethlehem, I sat on the couch with my eyes closed and mindfully considered what I really want for Christmas, which is for my children to sing the Hallelujah Chorus with me sometime during the season.
I want my daughter to help me figure out the used sewing machine I recently bought,I later texted them. I want her woodworking-savvy boyfriend to fix the shelves in my spice cabinet. I want my eldest child, who asked for watercolors for Christmas, to do art with me. I want the child who still lives at home to commit to taking a walk with me in the woods one day a week. I want us all to help at the local women’s shelter during the season.
I am not Mother Teresa. Once I finished with ideas for time, my mind easily moved to things: "I like spoons and bowls and tiny retro Christmas figurines," I texted. "I’ve always wanted a loom to make potholders," I texted the next later. And one night at midnight (once I got going, I was hard to stop): "Size M floor-length, 100-percent organic cotton nightgown. Shimmery pink organic eyeshadow for my stocking. And some of those 9-inch bamboo spoons for stirring soup."
Turns out when Mama turns Christmas Queen on herself, there’s a lot to say.
Not because they owe me or because I need to make up for lost time. But because I’ve been in training for decades. Our children teach us lessons of loving simply by their being. And then one day, we get to make Christmas cookies for ourselves. If it is so that that truth shall set you free, if the truth of the Christmas story is that mothers deserve to partake in a beautiful Christmas even as they are bestowing it, then everybody wins. Children want to give, too. They want Mom to sit at the table instead of always hovering over it.
Which makes me think when my daughter and I set out to sew, that our first project will not be a tablecloth for her new kitchen in Montana.
That can be second, if she"d like.
Nay, the first order of Christmas sewing will be ripping open that pillow.
And stitching in a bounty of fluffy, new stuffing.
Journalist Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988 when she was pregnant with the first of her three children. E-mails are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.