My most vivid childhood memories are set in December. I can smell, hear, taste and see the memories… Real evergreen pine, so strong it’ll make you sneeze. My dad’s brown leather member’s only jacket with the firewood and soot smell baked in. The Temptations Christmas Card on vinyl—our soundtrack for the season. Red and green peanut m and m’s in glass candy dishes, compliments of my mother who mourned the death of her father every year around Christmas. It would hit her sporadically and I’d often catch her weeping on Christmas morning… I couldn’t really tell if it was my grandfather she was missing, or if something else was off. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood how and why people become depressed during the holidays. There are so many grand expectations orbiting around Christmas. It is the time of year when we wish and compare the most. It can be overwhelming for many.
As I reflect on it more, I realize that Christmas, when I was a kid, was a very overwhelming occasion for my mother. I can imagine the stress she must’ve felt trying to make her children and family happy. I’m sure this was all at the expense of her own happiness— until she began cultivating a heart of thanks!
Last year, December 2020, was my mother’s last time decorating the Christmas tree. I remember entering my childhood home and seeing her standing on a ladder! She adjusted the tree’s crown as if she were operating on instinct to “get her house in order”. She was at peace. I saw a woman who knew she was blessed to be in the land of the living. I saw a most complete woman, who understood that her joy was internal— a state of mind. It was as if she were on a stairway to heaven.
This year, my children, nieces and nephews had the assignment of decorating our family’s “angel tree” on Mama’s behalf.
Lord, help us to carry on traditions and cultivate a heart of thanks in this season in spite of our broken hearts…
Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community. She is currently promoting her book of personal narratives, Serenity Everyday, a passion project adapted from this blog.