Sunday, December 27, 2009

Something about the Season

Detail from Black and Blue Christmas Shop Window at Black Mail on South Congress.

We all have fond memories of holidays. Special times, special meals, special presents. I talked to my niece yesterday and she said her older boys were very happy because they got 'almost everything' on their (admittedly short) lists. They told her they would have to write their 'thank you' notes. She always prints pictures of them playing and they write something to us far away gift-givers.

But sometimes things happen that make the holidays a difficult time for memories. My cousin's wife lost her sister Christmas night after a car crash caused by a drunk driver earlier in the week. It will be hard not to remember that when subsequent holidays come around.

Christmas 2001 was my mother's last. In fact, she was hospitalized right before Christmas but they missed diagnosing her cancer then and it went untreated another five months. I see her in my mind looking game for celebration in her Santa wear but looking, frankly, ill. Sometimes this shoves aside memories of her, vigorous in her celebration, like the year she whipped up personalized stockings for all of us including my sister's kids and three kids of my cousin's. I had to make a trip to Sears on Christmas Eve for a sewing machine needle. Yeah, that last Christmas, fighting an unknown foe, shoves aside images of her gamely making homemade decoration, getting down on the floor to play with kids and then grand kids, cooking enormous meals for a dozen or more people in her small house.

This Christmas weighed on me, too. Dad perhaps recovering but with a pretty unknown future. We had a welcome visit from my aunt, my dad's youngest sister, and her husband. They were at loose ends because for many years they visited another sister of his in West Texas. But she died in February.

Life goes and on and around holidays things happen just the same as other days. My mother died in August. On her sister's birthday. I had to call and tell her sister that day. She had the same birthday as her brother, too. But he was already gone. I don't remember when he died. But maybe his children do and it colors a certain time of the year.

I just watched a pastische of the year's deaths on CBS Sunday Morning. Sure, Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy died and maybe you'll remember 2009 for it. Walter Chronkite, too. I was thinking about Jeanne-Claude who with her verve and business acumen created art with Christo. I enjoyed two of the works in person (Wrapped Reichstag and The Gates in Central Park) and wonder if Christo can create that magic again, without her.

The two Christmases we have spent in the condo have been made low-key and even sad by the decline of our parents. Maybe sadder for me than for them even. But at my niece's house there were four young kids and excitement and celebration. And different memories of 2009.

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