“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
Seven years ago I spent my last Christmas with my elderly mother in Tucson. While I cooked brunch my mother sat at the table and stayed out of the way. Usually she was underfoot controlling my every move. “This food is delicious,” my mother said as she ate. “Thank you for making it.”
My husband Cradoc and I exchanged glances. My mother was thanking me?
After we ate I suggested we go to Saguaro National Park for the eight mile loop drive around the desert. For the last few years my mother refused to go. “That’d be great,” she said. “I haven’t been there in a long time.”
On the scenic drive my mother made comments like, “Oh, look at that beautiful tree trunk. Do you know it takes over a hundred years for the saguaro to get this big? Slow down, look how pretty the sky is.”
When we got back to her apartment Cradoc pulled me aside. “I’m worried about your mother. Maybe someone sprinkled prozac in the homemade Christmas cookies. This is the happiest I’ve ever seen her.”
I was wary of my mother’s good moods because a period of depression often followed. But this felt different.
I went into the kitchen to do the dishes. My mother leaned on her walker in the kitchen doorway. “Thank you for that outing. I never thought I’d see the desert again.” She pointed to the plastic water bottles on the counter. “Would you open these for me?”
“I opened a bunch earlier.” I opened the refrigerator door. “You have enough, see.”
“But that’s only enough for a few days, and you’re leaving today.”
“No, I’ll be in Tucson for two more months.” My mother lifted both her hands from her walker, like she was praising god, then reached them towards me. “Come here. I need a hug.” I fell into her arms. “I love you, hon.” My mother patted my back. “You’re so good to me.”
“I love you too, Mom.” I went back to washing the dishes, my salty tears mixed with the soap suds. That was the first time in my life my mother ever reached out, hugged me and said she loved me – the greatest gifts we can give anyone on Christmas.
Hugs. Love. Gratitude.