Last week we had Sarah’s guest post about her thoughtful and sweet memories of her mother this time of year and baking cookies. This post especially hit close to home for me with my recent lost and I felt like Sarah’s article could not have been more timely. And then Julie’s guest post came along and it seems many of us moms have similar things on our mind this time of year of the loved ones we have lost.
When I met Julie in a fellow writing group, I was always interested to see what new essay she had written. She has a great ability to write as if you are flowing through her daily life with her. In my mind, I see Julie as she is experiencing life and then things to herself, “This is something other moms would want to know to. Let me share my experience with them.”
Whether she actually thinks about her writing process like that or not, I definitely love the genuine, simple and real appeal Julie offers through her writing tips to other moms. And since we’re all about mom tips around here, I was excited to have Julie guest post. I was even more excited to see that she also decided to write about her mother and provide endearing, honest encouragement for many of this time of year.
Meet Julie! She is a freelance writer and blogger, wife, and mom to three busy boys, & fur mama to two rescue dogs and two guinea pigs. She writes on her blog about motherhood, kids, family, recipes, DIY, travel, and faith. She is a vegetarian who loves to cook and create recipes when she’s not driving her three boys all over town to sports practices in her crumb-filled minivan.
In her past life she has worked as a Scientist and Medical Data Manager, a Pediatric Nurse, and a SAHM. She loves to volunteer in her kids’ schools and help fundraise money for their schools. She is a Christian who loves nature, animals, traveling, gardening, swimming in her pool, and simply spending time with her family. Her favorites are dark chocolate, red wine, and cheese with yummy bread. Catch more of her writing at www.juliehoagwriter.com. Better yet, check her out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or my favorite!! her Pinterest.
Memories are like tissues. Sometimes they are out in my hand and present with me. Sometimes they are all crumpled up and thin, or balled up and tucked away with tear etched and hand wrung crevices. Yet others are shoved down in the deepest pockets of my heart. Memories like tissues are cried on, nose wiped, smudged with food. They are loved or used to help me feel better and soak up my sadness. Or some memories thicken my sadness. Whatever their role my memories have built me into who I am.
My motherhood memories from my own childhood are real. They are mine alone. Those memories built me into the mother I am today. Having lost my mother days before Christmas as a teen taught me many things about being a mother. I learned the lesson the hard way that my own motherhood will end someday when I’m not ready for it to end. I will be ripped from my children’s lives and I won’t be ready for it. They won’t be ready for it. It will leave my children scarred, scared, terrified, angry, and feeling cheated. And I will feel the same as I take my last breath when I die. No matter what age I will be when that happens, I know I won’t be ready to leave them behind. I will want to stay. I will want to be with them and imagining that moment scares me to my core.
I shove those feelings down deep in the pockets of my heart most days but they resurface from time to time to teach me.
Having lived the loss of my mother has brought me to a place in my motherhood where I know I can’t waste this motherhood of mine.
As I near the age my mother was when she died, I feel this realization the strongest I’ve ever felt it. I can’t waste my motherhood no matter how busy I am or how many tasks I get behind on; I am a mother first before laundry, before homemade lasagna, before writing my next post, and before my messy kitchen.
All I have to do is fall back into my sixteen-year-old heart (and this isn’t hard to do because it’s always at the surface) to realize how special those mother and child memories are for a child. I instantly put down my vacuum and stop folding clothes when I realize this. Sometimes I’m dense and my mountains of work cloud my vision and I keep working like a mad woman to get it all done. Sometimes this realization to live in the moment comes at me like a concrete fist to wake me up. This realization helps me stop working when my child asks me to snuggle with him on the couch while watching a Christmas movie. I remind myself the Christmas season is short and he won’t want to watch these movies with me in a few short weeks.
I’m a hard core type A personality and I often forget to savor moments because I get wrapped up in my to-do list. I remind myself I need to slow down. I recall that piercing memory of how I felt at Christmas when my mother had passed away, and all I had left was memories. This stops my racing type A mind cold and I sit down and be present with my child while I can because I don’t know when I will lose the ability to do so.
This thought composes my prayers each night as I ask God to allow me to be with my children into my old age because I so desperately want to do just that. Loss of a mother at any age is extraordinarily difficult but when a parent is lost to a child that loss is devastating. The child doesn’t understand and they struggle to go on. Their world is forever altered and slanted yet they must struggle to walk straight. I know because I lived that loss and it devastated me even as a teen.
My memories of my mother are present all around my house today at Christmas time. My children place memories of her on the tree as they fit the little strings of her initialed ceramic ornaments on the branches. My memories are in the lit up ceramic Christmas tree she made as my kids put the little plastic bulbs on it. We listen to the faltering music box inside as they work with busy little hands. My memories of her are intertwined with their fighting chatter about who gets to put what bulb where. Their fighting annoys me, but still I smile because I know decorating this tree will be a memory for them.
Memories of her are intertwined in my time making cookies with my own kids. We make many of the same cookie recipes I made with my own mom as a child. As I make these cookies with my kids the images of my mother drift into my brain. I can see her standing in the kitchen with a spatula raised like a magic wand, or setting the caramels pan on the snowy deck in the cold winter air to harden.
As my kids shake sprinkles heavily onto white frosted cookies, I recall the time as a child when I shook the sprinkles too much. I had loved to shake the sprinkles container, the cylindrical kind with the little colored ball sprinkles, and I thought it made a glorious sound when I shook it. I loved to see the tiny colored balls burst out the holes in top. After I sprinkled my cookie one cookie making day, I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking that container. I shook it until there were little balls rolling all over the kitchen floor. My mother had looked at me and asked me to stop. She had the you-need-to-stop-now look I know so well now as a mother myself. She didn’t get too mad at me because we were making cookies, it was a joyous day, but I knew she didn’t like my thoughtless mess. The beauty of that priceless memory is I hold it cherished deep in my heart pockets where it lives soaked into my tissues, and it comes out to dance and make me smile at Christmas time when I make cookies with my kids.
I want to create special mother and child memories for my own kids so they can hold them in their own hearts. Hold them deep down in their heart pockets where their tissues will live all soaked in Christmas memories, tears, but with tons of joy too.
I try to relish the moments of each day so I don’t waste this motherhood of mine. I pray each night that God will permit me more time with my kids so I can keep watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with them on the couch each Christmas. I pray for the foresight to sometimes ignore my to-do list. I pray I will get to nurture my kids’ Christmas memories by making cut-out cookies as they grow each year to add new talents like rolling out their own ball of dough.
I lost my mother just days before Christmas on a fluffy giant snowflake falling day. That is the day I learned how to be a mother even though I didn’t realize this until just now as I hug and kiss my each of my children goodnight.
The secret of how to be a mother is to truly be present with your kids.
I know this as my kids and I talk about how Christmas is only a lovely few days away. It’s clear to me as we talk about how we will make more cookies this weekend, the ones they love made of peanut butter and a chocolate kiss. It’s reinforced as we talk about how they need to write their letters to Santa quick before we run out of time.
I tuck them in at bedtime and say their prayers, and add my own that I will get yet another day tomorrow, another year, another Christmas, another fifty years with them. And I know in my heart it still won’t be enough and I will still want more.
Fellow moms, may God grant you more time with your babies and may God help us remember we need to love our kids and live in the now of this Christmas.