I had been employed as a caregiver as well as being a parent. I felt up to the task of caring for my mother in her last months.
My Mother came to live with us; her health was declining, living alone was no longer possible. This was a difficult time for her as she was a fiercely independent businesswoman and athletic for most of her life. I realized this was most likely her last Christmas I decided to try to make it as enjoyable and as festive as possible for her. My whole family thought this was a great idea. We worked together to share all the joy of Christmas we could muster. We decided the day after Thanksgiving would be the start of our Holiday Season 2009! I promised that we would do something special every day. Little did I know how memorable amazing and joyful this holiday would be for us all. Christmas is the season of the gift of unconditional love.
The day after Thanksgiving we began our Christmas preparations. We took out all the decorations we had. There was a nativity set from my childhood. That was a must! My mother would come and sit at the dining room table for her meals so making the dining area as festive as possible was a priority. The Nativity was placed on the buffet well within her view. A poinsettia tablecloth! Perfect! Vintage glass multi-colored ornaments were hung from our chandelier. I bought Pumpkin spice candles and pine-scented candles. There were poinsettias on the breakfront, I bought a huge live poinsettia and placed it in her room. I found a poinsettia garland and put it around the lamps. I discovered a doll my mother had received for Christmas when she was about 7. I dressed her as best as I could and placed a little holly wreath on her head.
Tinsel garland was draped all around the house. I bought gingerbread air fresheners for her room and put Santa clause figurines on her dresser. I hung colored lights over the sliding glass doors that led to the deck. Things were really taking shape! My oldest daughter Elizabeth had recently become engaged to be married and she and her fiance Francisco flew in for the first weekend of December. What an action-packed weekend it was. We bundled my mother up and went to find our Christmas tree, We usually go to a tree farm and cut our own. We found a wonderfully fragrant balsam and called it our own. We spent that evening decorating and baking cookies. We made chocolate chip cookies, and we all got to decorate. My mother asked to lick the spoon. I said aren't you worried about salmonella? She said "I never worried about it years ago I'm not going to start worrying now!" and she enjoyed it all without any ill effects.
We were fortunate to find a wheelchair accessible van at a reasonable price. It would unfurl a ramp when the side sliding door would open. Without this piece of equipment, our holiday adventures would not have been possible. We went to the mall for some Christmas shopping. My mother had her first great granddaughter and was eager to get her presents. We went to the children's clothes department. Our son James pushed the wheelchair. My husband Paul took care of all the gifts and put them in the van. James had been a volunteer in a nursing home, so he was quite adept at driving the wheelchair.
Mom described to me the Holiday outfit she would like to get for the baby and I went and got outfits till she decided on one that was "perfect". Then we went and looked at sweaters for everyone else. Christmas music played through the stores and the entire mall adding to the festive atmosphere. Santa was in the center of the mall, and we stopped and watched the children go up and ask their Christmas wishes. Santa waved to her and wished her a Merry Christmas. We continued to stroll the mall and take in the sights.
The college our daughter Rose attended had an open house.. A family night out awaited us. It was a new experience for my mother as she had never been inside a dorm before. (My brother and I both lived at home when we were in college) The whole campus was handicap accessible, and we were able to see Roses art classrooms as well as her dorm room. Then, we had dinner at the student cafeteria. They had an extra special holiday buffet. My mother was delighted to be able to peruse all that was prepared by the culinary students. We topped off the evening by getting coffee at Dunkin Donuts for the ride home and enjoyed the neighborhood Christmas lights and displays.
The local HighSchool was hosting a Christmas Eve Service early in the evening on Christmas Eve. We decided that would be the best as a midnight service would have been too much for Mom. There were all the favorite Christmas Carols, Silent Night, Away in the Manger, Good King Wenceslas, and we finished up with a rousing and joyous Joy to the World. What made this even more special was that there was also a live Nativity.
When we got home, we had dinner. Fortunately, we had prepared it earlier. Our menu was Italian wedding soup, Some stuffed clams, and some baked cod. For dessert, we had Struffoli and Panetone. I read the "Night Before Christmas" during dessert.
Christmas Day was low key. There were many phone calls from dear relatives wishing my mother, Merry Christmas. She enjoyed her gifts especially the chocolate truffles and the lovely flower arrangement that was sent by my brother from NYC. The next day was Boxing Day. We have friends from Great Britain, and we invited them over for this day. Boxing Day is a secular holiday in Great Britain. It is a day to give presents. So we invited our friends, both British and American to a Boxing day meal. My mother wore her favorite red dress and wore her holly earrings and necklace. She felt regal and enjoyed the company and conversation!
As December continued, we would sing "the 12 days of Christmas" as Ephiphany was approaching. It was a fun time as we would have to remember which day it was and what was in that Pear Tree! Each evening after dinner we would sing that song until Epiphany arrived. We still kept the tree up as my mothers birthday was January 12 and she had told me that her Mother would keep the tree up for her birthday when she was a child. That is when Christmas would end. My Mothers birthday arrived, and we celebrated the Christmas tree was still fragrant, and Mother looked at me and said. "This felt like the Christmas that would never end. We had a lot of fun didn't we?" and she smiled. It was the best Christmas ever. Saint Francis of Assisi said: "For it is in giving that we receive."
© 2019 Edna Straney
Robert Sacchi on January 30, 2019:
This is a heartwarming story about the special Christmas you made for your mother. It's wonderful how you were able to pull off "a fun old fashion family Christmas."