My son gave me a cold for Christmas. It's been well over a year since I suffered the indignity of this much snot. Right when he was born, come to think of it. My already easy going holiday became much more low key because of it. I also got very reflective. Very, very reflective.
Not to throw him under the bus, but my husband wasn't much help. Super stressed at work and fighting a nagging injury that won't heal rendered him tired and grumpy and only up for a few things. So, despite my cold, it fell mostly to me to do the things like find the decorations, bake the bread for breakfast, buy all the groceries, and cook a turkey dinner. And change the diapers and make sure there was real food consumed among the sugar. I am as tired as the up-early and burnt out by noon child in all of our homes right now.
So, back to being reflective. This holiday, seven years into motherhood (eight if you could being pregnant), I've realized that if it wasn't for Mamas Christmas would really, really suck.
Yes, the fathers do a good job with what they do, and there are a few who adore Christmas and go all out with their ugly sweaters, hot wheels tracks, and light shows. There are also fathers who are alone and do it all themselves and turn out some very magical affairs. But it is the Mamas who make it special for the vast majority of us.
Mama is the only who buys or loads the advent calendar despite the fact that it drives us insane both that they beg for candy every day this way and that it forces an impatient countdown we have to live with for twenty five days. Mama is the one who bakes - with or without the kids along side - for countless teacher gifts, neighbours, Santa's plate, and all the leftovers we likely eat ourselves. Mama is also the one who usually remembers the teacher's gifts. Mama is the one that remembers the random statement about yet another useless toy and gives up her precious babysitter time to drive across town for it.
Mama is also the one that gets the stockings out and makes sure there are oranges in the house to stuff in their toes. Mama buys the candles to line the table so the meal feels extra fancy to a five year old. Mama makes sure the party dresses are clean just in case someone wants to dress up for dinner.
And then Mama is the one who has to say no to TV for the few days of holidays. And Mama makes sure everyone gets outside for sledding even though the new toys, and their wrappers, beckon. Or Mama is the one who gets up early when even though the kids stayed up late they awake wired and ready to go.
The traditions are the family's, but it is Mama who makes sure they happen each year. It is Mama who sacrifices her time on the beach to make pyrohy in a vacation beach rental because we always have pyrohy on Christmas Eve. It is Mama who makes a second batch of Christmas Tree Bun because your family devoured it before Hubby got any and it is his family's deal anyway. It is Mama who makes collects toilet paper rolls to make personal Christmas Crackers.
Making the holiday special is far from a thankless task for a Mama. It may the one time - whether it is Christmas or Yom Kippur or Eid or Festivus - where our work to do things for our family is truly noticed and appreciated. So much work, but worth every late night, every elbows up shopping trip, every flour covered nose, every sticky floor to see the light on their faces at something truly special, the giggles of a family treasure, the insistence on the tradition. I don't care that I didn't get a single thank you - other than the quiet one when she got to play without an audience. Actions speak louder than words and I know they had their moments of glee and I had something to do with them.
It was only this year, perhaps clouded by the whiskey I was using to kill the cold virus, that I realized just how much my Mom did to make our holidays special. And just why it hurts when that day comes when your kids don't show up and let the Mama do her job. When we grow up and move away we change the traditions, we take away the opportunity for Mama to make us feel special. We think we're doing her a favour, easing her burden. We don't understand her lamentations about how things just aren't the same anymore. We don't realize that we've taken away a chance for her to deliver without thanks, to make us feel special by doing the Mommiest of Mommy things.
So, to my Mom, thank you. Thank you for your endless baking of rogalki and whipped shortbread and Christmas Jewels, for spending a week in the kitchen to cook two meals that we practically inhaled, for doing the dishes while we played an old version of Trivial Pursuit or Life while Dad shouted out the answers, for making spinach dip every New Year's Eve, and for snuggling us when the party after midnight mass got to be too much. Thank you for letting me steal some of those traditions for my family. Thank you for letting me come to this realization myself. Thank you for bringing special to me.