Thursday, January 7, 2010

Putting away the ornaments

As we approach the end of the first week of January I've been thinking about how often the last week of January has, for me, brought with it some life-changing, life-enhancing or life-summarising event, for better or worse, and have been bracing myself for what, if anything, this January might bring.

By far the most traumatic of these was the sudden collapse of my mother in 1999 from the brain haemorrhage of whose effects she was to die a few days later. Every year, Christmas is bracketed by two little bittersweet moments, mother-wise: once when I unpack the decorations to put on the Christmas tree and again when I pack them up to put them away. A number of them are decorations I originally brought from interstate and overseas when I came home for Christmas and gave to her to put on the family tree, as one by one the old ornaments were broken or got too old and shabby to use.

If you are lucky enough still to have a mother, try to appreciate her as much as you can, even if she is not ideal as mothers go, because you just don't know. Mine proved to be more fragile than her own handwriting on the tissue paper that has now outlived her by eleven years and counting.


Stephanie Trigg said...

Oh, a difficult time indeed. Interesting your ma recorded the date and donor of the pearl/tinsel ornament. I'm foolishly relying on oral memory in our box of decos: I rehearse their histories when I do the tree with J. This year the box was supplemented by three quite large camels P brought home, pillow-gifts from three different hotel rooms in a luxury hotel in Amman, Jordan.

We have just dragged our tree in its heavy pot outside, too, and given it a big soaking — the first time we have ever kept one alive in a pot.

But my son remarked on how quickly Christmas seemed to come and go this year. Perhaps because we were so late putting up the ornaments this year.

Which is to say that yes, it's all about savouring the season when it comes.

Hope the sadness of the moment is the worst that happens to you this season, my friend.

WV: morschac. Sounds rather biblical, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

But you know that, sometimes, their time has come, and to prolong it further would be a cruelty. I thought to myself 'enjoy it while you can' sixth months before mine died, and did just that. Lucy

Deborah said...

This is the third Christmas or New Year that I have waved goodbye to my mother and father, to come back across the Tasman. It's not getting any easier. But at least I can pick up the phone and call them, just for a chat. I'm thinking that I ought to do that more. And e-mail and txt. And now that my girls are a little over, get on planes more frequently' 'Though really, I prefer to take them with me.

Thinking of you, and your mum, whom you loved, and still love.

curious said...

Oh, I know just what you mean - I have the knitted father christmas that my mother gave me 20 years ago that I still put on top of my tree. This is my tenth christmas without her and it is always a poignant moment when I decorate the tree.

elsewhere said...

Yes, that ominous feeling of what does this year hold, after the total wind-down at the end of the previous year.

Tatyana Larina said...

I noticed this mention in one of the pre-Christmas posts regarding cakes and icings and those impressive mother qualities, and nearly choked. This is difficult. I also lost my mother prematurely (to cancer eight years ago), and I agree that those who are lucky to have a mother should make the most of what they have. I have my mother's emails, recipe books, letters, and other things, and I haven't yet been able to properly look at them, or handle them. That's just me. I admire you for going through this ritual every year, and can see how it would be reassuring. The archivist in me would be inclined to store the paper in archive boxes. That note is just so beautiful.

Wishing you a very good new year.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Thanks all for these nice comments. Some of you, perhaps most of you, are mothers yourselves so these matters would complicate themselves further.

Stephanie, camels? Proper Middle Eastern camels? Fantastic. My tree-ornament collection includes several cats, an Austrian teddy and a Scottish rabbit, but nothing as exotic as a bona fide camel.

Lucy and Tatyana -- my mum was 71 when she died and her body had worn itself out, or rather her stubborn character had worn her body out. But given that my dad, who was born in the same year as she, is still in excellent shape eleven years later, 71 does seem a bit premature. It was the relative suddenness that threw everyone, I think.

Deborah, I did the going away and coming back thing between Adders and Melbourne for 18 years -- nowhere near the distance you travel, but still always difficult.

To say these moments make me sad would be putting it too strongly. It's mostly a positive thing, to do with keeping her alive in my mind. Curious, I'm sure you feel the same way about the knitted Santa.

Elisabeth said...

Seventy one years old seems too young to die to me, especially given my mother is now ninety and going strong. The longer my mother lives the more I prepare myself for her death, assuming it comes before mine.

I think the business of the suddeness must fuel some of the grief you describe, the feeling of being cheated unexpectedly and prematurely.

There is so much more I could write in response to your evocative post here but I won't start, save to say thank you for it. It's the sort of thing I'd rather say in a face to face conversation. Sometimes the written word is inadequate.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Xmas does make the family more vivid.

I've now been an orphan for many years and have lived a fair few years longer than my mother did.

I still miss both parents. Don't forget about Fathers. They feel and care too.

Kim (frogpondsrock) said...

I will be 44 years old next week and my Mother has been died 7 months ago. Grieving my mum makes me feel like a little girl bereft.

David Irving (no relation) said...

I miss my mother a great deal, especially at Christmas and Easter time.

Christmas was always important, and she died just before Easter 2006.