So since I am far far away on Utah's plains...
and since I didn't have the chance to spend Christmas with my dear family in Washington- because I have a 'lovely' paper route (this morning was horrible blizzard freezing- but I still managed to be festive enough to put a candy cane in each bag with the newspaper- it actually wasn't that bad- I sort of like the paper route in a twisted sort of way)-
I decided to write this little memoire tribute of Mom- so my family could read it out loud when they got together for the "gift to the Savior" this Christmas. For years as a family we have a tradition, where on Christmas Eve we decide on goals and promises to give to the Savior for that year- and we write them down and put them in a beautiful white stocking- to be read and reviewed the next year.
I feel a little dumbfounded at the moment- I don't know how to have Christmas without Mom- and the crepes were a flop by the way. And I think it is time to actually grow up and be a mom myself- Christmas with Mom was a wonderful crutch- I will admit that-
oh and this is going in Mom's book I am making:
Well it is our first Christmas without Mom.
It’s like Christmas without Santa or Christmas without Jingle Bells. Something just doesn’t feel right. For the rest of our lives now, I am sure, we will always feel like something is missing during this time of the year.
At least we don’t have to worry about everyone getting the wrong size of snow gloves from Costco- or finding gifts under the tree Mom forgot to label- or worse yet, opening a gift that belongs to someone else.
Remember Mom always saying around Thanksgiving time. “this Christmas is going to be different, we aren’t going to be spending that much money this year” only to find, come Christmas Eve, the presents stacked 4 feet high around the tree and making their way into the middle of the living room. Mom loved to give. Her heart would pass her logic during Christmas time as she made it as magical as possible for us.
And among all her gifts she gave, she made sure there were a few presents that would signify the true meaning of Christmas. Homemade pajamas, crafts made from the grandkids to give Calie, something she painted, something she had sewn- and now that she is gone, there is nothing more priceless than those few things that she has made with her heart and hands.
Mom created an atmosphere in our home during Christmas time that was full of peace and hope.
I remember her always wanting to drive around and look at Christmas lights. Once when I was very little, I remember her stopping the car in front of a small house that had a lit up manger nativity scene in the front yard. As a little family, she insisted that we all sing “Silent Night” together as we stared at the lit up figurines of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus. That night is still vivid in my memory. At that moment, I knew somehow the real meaning of Christmas.
I’m not sure how Mom did it all- but she did. Despite the complaining and unwillingness from her family at times, she always gathered us together as a family to carry on traditions, to bear testimony, to say family prayer, and to remember the Savior always. She never gave up and was always certain what was most important in life. She lived for the gospel and we all knew it.
What are your favorite memories of Mom during Christmas time?
Well of course there were the 12 days of Christmas- and we all have some fond memories of doing that year after year- it was so exciting as kids for us to serve in this way. The miracle of it all is that Mom taught us kids even when we were little brats- how to think of others- always. Together, Mom made sure we prayed for the family Heavenly Father would have us serve that Christmas. And I think the only family that ever caught us doing the 12 days of Christmas to them was The Demars Family- only because Keith lost a shoe in their field and they brought the shoe the next day to church.
And obviously there’s the crepes and more crepes…and more crepes- I can still hear Mom’s voice “who wants another one? Here’s another one! Give me your plate”
One year while snooping in Mom’s closet, I found all of the presents Mom had bought me for Christmas that year. Well that night while in bed (I was sharing a bed with Joette at the time) I told Joette that I was very smart and that I bet I could guess every single present I was going to get that year. I began to rattle off exactly what presents I had seen while snooping in Mom’s closet. Well Mom was in the other room sewing and she so happened to be listening to our conversation. So on Christmas morning what happened? Well Joette and Bryon opened up all the presents that were originally for me- she must have read the expression on my sad face- she then said, “April- you were dishonest and you found all your presents- this is what happens when you snoop” I never snooped again…even to this day I close my eyes when I even think there might be a gift unwrapped in a bag or something- Mom taught me a huge lesson that year.
The kitchen was always a mess during the month of December. Mom was always baking something- like her sinful cinnamon rolls- Every year she had a huge list of friends who were lucky enough to get her cinnamon rolls- I attempt to make them every year but they never turn out the same- and then there’s the cheese ball- holy cheese ball. What is Christmas without the cheese ball?
Mom always made a huge dinner for Christmas- even the last years of her life she slaved away over delicious meals for her family. Oh what I would do for a meal made by Mom right now. The kitchen was always a happy place. Mom was always giggling about something. We all liked to crowd in the kitchen and just be near her as she cooked and baked her magic. Half the time we just watched her- she was such a comfort. -Although she would hit your hand with a spoon if she caught you picking at the food early. “Quit it!” or “get out of that!” she would snap- But Mom was guilty herself for sneaking a bite or two- especially uncooked pie crust-which I never understood- but she loved to eat that stuff-
Mom loved to decorate for Christmas. We have fond memories of sticking in John Denver’s Christmas album and decorating the house together. We would always be goofy and make fun of ancient old decorations. We always tried to get Mom to laugh. Mom treasured old dinky ornaments on the tree- and she loved her village she set up every year. She was also so thrilled about those heavy music pipe chimes- remember those? We barely could make it through a song but she just smiled the entire time- she loved having us be together.
A couple weeks ago, Joette dropped off all of Mom’s sewing stuff at my house here in Utah. As I rummaged through all the material and patterns, I found 5 sets of pajamas bottoms that were in the works of being made. Some were cut out, some were half sewn, - each set had a name written on them- Taylor, Alyssa, Ashlee, Isaac, and A.J. If I was a master seamstress I would have finished them for this Christmas- but I am still learning- but Mom had started these in the summertime…she was already preparing for Christmas time when it was still hot and warm outside. She loves her grandchildren so much.
We all know our goal every year was to have the gift for Mom that would make her cry…whoever got the tears running was the winner that year- Calie’s scrapbooks win by far. Mom was always so sensitive and emotional about the small and powerful things of life. It was easy to be grateful and spiritual when you were around her. She made things come to life- and everything seemed to make sense. Her testimony crowded out all fear and we knew God’s love would take care of us through any trial. Mom taught us about God.
Ever since I can remember, Mom had us place our stockings somewhere in the living room on Christmas Eve. We would wake up to stockings chuck full of surprises and some years there were even huge surprises next to our stockings like bikes and unicycles.
I don’t think we have ever own a store bought stocking. Mom’s homemade stockings mean so much to me now. I remember her always being so proud and excited to make another stocking to hang on her fireplace mantle as more grandchildren came into her life. Even when she was sick and exhausted, she still cut out and sewed Julia’s. I know she didn’t get around to making Ian’s this year- and we all know she would have if she had more time. So since I inherited Mom’s sewing stuff and found a stocking pattern designed by Mom herself, I decided to carry on the stocking legacy and make Ian’s for him this year.
And then there is the small soft white stocking that hangs in the middle of all the family’ stockings (symbolic in itself), which belongs to the Savior. Mom knew that our family needed the Savior to be the one true meaning of our Christmas…and she knew the Savior’s atonement is the only one thing that can make us truly happy. Mom started the tradition “gift to the Savior” some years ago and as the years have passed we have seen miracles and mercy come into our lives through the goals and promises we have made to the Savior at Christmas time.
I don’t think I could make it through these hard times with Mom being gone- without the Savior Jesus Christ. I miss Mom so much. So much it hurts and I am left with a big empty feeling most of the time- but I know that Mom’s greatest wish was that her children learn to lean on the Savior’s healing powers and mercy in their lives. When I am terribly sad, I think of Mom’s endurance and hope in Christ and I know – I know that through the Holy Ghost, Christ is the great comforter and peace awaits for me in this life as I continue to trust in Him. I wish I could see Mom. I wish I could talk to her and be with her- but I know we are an eternal family. I replay often in my mind that special moment when we were all kneeling together around the alter in the temple August 11, 2000- and I know we will all be together again someday.
Merry Christmas- love April
Ian- you can open your gift now!