This year, we were missing two moms: my mom, who passed away 14 years ago only a year after finding a lump in her breast and my husband's mom, who died this past fall after seven long years of struggling with Alzheimer's disease.*
With the two of them in mind, I turned to my mother's recipes and hopefully searched for my mother's gingerbread recipe. It's a dessert I hadn't had in well over 20 years, I'm sure. And despite the well-worn appearance of the recipe card and the faded writing (I retraced my mother's hurried letters to be sure I could read it), I wasn't entirely sure I had the real thing in my hands.
So I did what I always do. I called my mom's sister, Aunt Jan, and asked. Every year since my mom passed away, it's been the same thing: me calling Jan to consult on a recipe only days before Christmas. Mind you, they've been different recipes for different dishes (chowders, casseroles, cakes, cookies...), but I really don't know what I would do without her. She's my mother's memory, in so many ways.
The gingerbread cake was a success. We had it on Christmas Eve (after the traditional Maritime Christmas Eve dinner of Lobster), slathered with whipped cream. I almost cried when I tasted it. I was 7-years old again and not entirely sure I shouldn't believe in Santa.
Believe it or not, that cake brought on a resolution of sorts... Lemme explain:
When I was a kid, my mom worked full-time in the office at our family's pharmacy, yet she managed to fill our holidays with the right mix of family, friends, and food. My mom was like living with Mrs. Claus, she loved the holidays so much.
Oh, I know she was stressed out doing it and I know that having her parents visiting each Christmas was part of that stress. Somehow, though, it just seemed like part of the festivities to me - like it was a race to a finish-line and Christmas Day was the destination:
"Can we get all these presents wrapped and delivered before December 24th?"
"Will Grammy 'behave' herself this year?"
"Did we get cranberries for the cranberry sauce? No? Someone, got car keys and a license? GO! Grocery store, now!"
Unfortunately, my approach to Christmas this year (and in the past) was the same as my mother's - Rush, rush, rush, Crash! - so when it's all said and done, I haven't had those imagined idyllic evenings of making cookies, inviting friends or family over for visits, driving around to see the lights, taking advantage of the snow falling to catch flakes on my tongue...
This year, while Christmas held, for the first time, lots of magic for our little boy, it did feel like a lot of rushing about to assist that magic. And frankly, I'm disappointed in myself. So I'm here to tell you this - I'm going to fix that for Christmas 2012 specifically and for 2012 in general.
(Making Grammy's Sugar Cookies)
My plan for 2012 is to be more organized so that, frankly, I can sit down and relax.
1. Get ready for everything in advance: for Christmas, this translates into "Buy the presents early." I've already bought some presents for next year - oh yes, I did - they were on sale and very affordable. And I'm very pleased with myself. For the rest of the year, this means if we're going out, we need to start the process earlier, instead of running out the door. If we're going to the cottage, pack our clothes a couple nights before, so there's no late night panic. If we're going to an appointment, leave in lots of time to find parking. etc. etc.
2. Set a budget and shop wisely: We've got some big purchases coming up as we're doing some work on our house (more on that another time), so we're going to need to shop around, get quotes, and stay on budget.
For Christmas, this translates to "stop the madness!"With one side of my family, we all decided to give small gifts. It was a relief and frankly, I did this even with the side of the family that didn't make this decision. We're not exactly independently wealthy here, so that's that. Christmas should not be about the gifts anyway... uh, but not that I'm giving my presents back from this year. Hey, it's a process, I'm working on it!
3. Give to charity: For Christmas, this translates to financial donations. We did this for a couple of our gifts this year and frankly, I think this is a tradition we'll carry on throughout the year. None of us are really hurting in our families, so I think that a donation to a charitable organization in lieu of a birthday gift might not be a bad idea.
We have been very fortunate in our lives to always manage to scrape by - either by the skin of our own teeth or with the generous help of our families. We'll do this by giving what we can with what we have as there's always someone with less. My husband is working on some music that he hopes will benefit the Alzheimer's society and I'm hoping to start doing some charity knitting.
So, while I do want to lose weight, get fit, and all that, I'm not really one for resolutions. It's more of a "growing up" and "acknowledging my part in this" kind of year. So, I'll try to stick with these points for this year, so that next year, I can enjoy more of this:
*I haven't written about the loss of my MIL here, but perhaps someday I will. She was a beautiful and graceful woman who maintained those same qualities right up until the end, despite her daily struggle against the disease that stole her from us.