For the seventeenth Christmas in a row, we took the family to Crown of Life Lutheran Church for the Christmas Eve service. I ironed clothes for every member of my family with an element of red, and I spent an hour applying Christmas Party make-up. I wore my favorite outfit--tight black sweater, a-line grey skirt and nylons that look like tattoo's of coy fish.
I cried off the first layer of sparkles during the opening song. My daughter was sitting next to me, and at first she was amazed and perhaps compassionate, but as the songs wore on and snot started dribbling out of my nose she lost her compassion and began to started to mock me. She made her dad trade her seats after I used her hood to clean the snot/tears off my cheeks (she spent years using me as a napkin, she owes me.)
I was completely fine during the sermon and the speaking parts, but as soon as the music team started singing, my eyes started weeping.
For many years, my family was the music team--my mother, my aunts, my uncles--beloved friends I have known my whole life. When I was a kid, we sang Christmas Carols and I was overjoyed, when I reached my teens I was so cool that I was bored with the sounds of my family. And now I am an adult and the people singing the Christmas Carol's have been replaced.
The primary crying problem is that Dave and Rudy and Ken playing together harmonize so well that it sounds like my Uncle Roy is in there singing. Which of course he isn't. And recognizing the abscences of his voice, I begin to recognize the absence of all of the voices that sang to me when I was a little girl who still believed in Santa Claus.
The voice that I miss the most is the voice of my mother.
My mother is very much alive and kicking, but she gave up the singing when Roy died. She doesn't sing with the church choir anymore, and she doesn't sing at home and she didn't set down to the organ to play demanding that my sisters and I sing along with her.
My eye's weep during Christmas carol's because they have been very much absent this year--I didn't even fill my cd player with the collection of cd's that my mother made for me back in the days when she was still making music. I have a collection with over 50 Christmas cd's--music of every genre and all of the classic's sang with every composer that you might suspect had a Christmas album.
The music was absent this Christmas, and I am not the only person who has noticed it.
There are a whole lot of new things present:
Jacob has been making paper cranes for the last two Christmas' and the tree is covered with them. They are made out of envelopes, and newspaper and Kid's homework papers and colored paper.
It is the sixth year that we have had Christmas dinner in this house, and the Christmas table is decorated exactly as my mother would have it be made. I know this is true because the Christmas china, sivlerware and candleabra's are all from the gifts that she has given me. The tablecloth is the linen one that she purchased, and the silk damask napkins go into the silver napkin rings that she picked out.
I can't make the music come back, because I can't sing the music without crying--but what I can do is create the picture of the Christmas meal cooked to perfection and placed about a table set for twelve.
The gift my mother gave me when I was a child was the music and the imagery of a beautifully made Christmas table.
The gift that I give my mother is that imagery set up exactly as she had imagined it might be.