Depending on your background or experience this time of year can bring about a potluck of memories and emotions.  Some cherish reuniting with relatives and sharing stories.  Others, find their long, lost sense of wonder when they espy a child sitting on Santa’s lap.  But, if you’ve been around the block a few dozen times like I have, there’s a treasure trove of recollections to choose from—some good—some not so good.  Today, I’m going to share a couple Christmas memories with mom.

The first thing that you have to know about my mom is that her family was her heart and soul.  The level of commitment that she had for us was pretty amazing.  For example, despite having a significant hearing loss in both ears, she still managed to teach her three kids how to read using phonics.  She knew when it was time to advocate for us or when to tell us we were wrong.  She could’ve penned a bestseller on how to raise a well-balanced child.

The first Christmas memory that I wish to share was the first tradition between mom and me.  I guess starting when I turned five years old.  We would team up to make Christmas cookies for the family’s holiday dinner.  She would sit me at the kitchen table and put down a cutting board with wax paper on top.  Then, she’d knead some dough and use a rolling pin to flatten it out.   

Then, mom would place cookie cutters—with Christmas shapes—near my right hand.  There was a: reindeer, Santa Clause, tree, and elf.  I’d select a shape and she guided my unsteady little hand with her hand.  After the first round of cutting our first shape, she rolled the next batch of dough, and I chose a new shape.  We repeated this process until all of the shapes had been used.  At each stage, mom made me feel like I was a critical part of making our family’s Christmas a happy one. 

The second memory occurred in my twenties.  Mom loved to make multiple course Christmas dinners.  If I didn’t see her prepare and cook every dish with my own two eyes, I would’ve sworn that it had been professionally catered.  Before the rest of the family came, two tables were set up: the dinner table and one for appetizers.  Then, she utilized her kitchen appliances to their maximum potential.  On this particular year she: cooked ham, baked lasagna, made yams, garlic rolls, two kinds of salad, pumpkin spice cake, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a couple other things. 

Anyway, that year, I just got a new computer with a printer that could actually print in color!  Until that year, color printers were pretty rare.  So, mom had an idea to make a menu to hand each guest.  Then, I offered to do the menu on my PC and print it out.  She fell in love with the twist on her take.  And, before I knew it, I was typing up a dinner menu on my then state-of the art Intel 486 PC.  However, I didn’t tell her that I planned on color-coding the menu. 

When organizing the menu, I first divided food into their proper categories.  We had: snacks, appetizers, entrées, desserts, and drinks.  After formatting the design, I then highlighted each section and gave it a unique font color.  For example, snacks were in green, appetizers in blue and so on…  However, just as I finished, and started printing, our doorbell rang.  My brother and his girlfriend arrived early! 

Since mom had her hands full in the kitchen, dad and I had to let them in.  Upon reaching the front door, I heard my dot-matrix printer still chugging away in the background.  When my brother and his girlfriend entered, I tried to keep them occupied with idle chit-chat as long as possible.  Finally, when I couldn’t think of another word to say, there was a sudden silence in the other room!  The printing was finished!

Then, about fifteen minutes later, my sister arrived with two of her long-time friends—who were married.  Soon, everybody was mulling around the kitchen trying to steal a glance inside the simmering pots.  When mom playfully shooed them away, she directed them to form a line and go over to me.  There were quizzical looks at first, but they eventually formed a queue and I had crowd.  Then, one at a time, I handed out menus.  Their reactions caught me by surprise. 

I heard laughter but I also heard a couple of “WOWS!”  Mom turned her head and asked, “What’s going on?”  Then, my brother showed her his menu and her eyes got big.  She looked at me and smiled at me from her eyes and heart.  That special smile was one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received! 

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