So, I’m a self-professed math moron, procrastinator, and Christmas music junkie. I can’t wait to start playing Christmas carols and it’s hard to wait until Thanksgiving comes and goes. I’ve been known to sneak a few in earlier.
Most years I listen to a variety of artists’ Christmas albums, but my favorite by far is the Carpenters Christmas album. I play the others, but always end up listening to Karen. She died way too young, but I’m always grateful they took the time to immortalize her through Christmas music.
My mom passed away on November 26, 1999. For those of you that read “Stuck in the Onesies,” Mom is Barb in the book. She had already been on my mind on November 26, 2023 as I pulled out of the driveway and guess what song came on the radio? “Silver Bells” (Mom’s all-time favorite carol) by Karen Carpenter. Seems Mom is always doing that, tapping me on the shoulder reminding about something. It’s hard to believe she and my dad have been gone 24 years ago (passing away within six months of each other).
A few weeks went by and I decided it was time to diversify my Christmas music experience and played something not-so-new. One of Mom’s favorite Christmas albums was by Andy Williams (thanks to the Columbia Record Club, remember that?). I asked Alexa to play his album and guess what song played first…that’s right, “Silver Bells.” You can call it a coincidence, but Mom would set you straight. Are you up for that?
Mom loved everything Christmas. Shopping, wrapping, Christmas sweaters (I’m the guilty party having made the one she’s wearing in the picture with my grandmother on her lap), baking (well, kind of…), and gathering with her family. She worked hard to make Christmas a memorable event for her kids. As a housewife in the 60s, she was always trying to make extra money to fund Santa Claus. From babysitting to candle and wreath making (both cost more than she ever made), and shopping the Red Dot sales at Hecht’s.
One weekend when I was a teenager, my dad was out of town on business and we sat up all night making Christmas wreaths with the old IBM computer cards. We stapled the cards, glued on plastic poinsettias and then spray painted them gold and silver.
The next morning, Mom woke me up. “You gotta get up and cut the grass before your father gets home!”
I rubbed my eyes, looked at her and said, “But it’s November!”
She pulled the covers off me and let me know it was time to rise and shine. “Come with me!” she said.
I followed and she opened the door to the backyard. There were silver and gold rings all over the grass. We’d neglected to lay down newspaper before spray painting the wreaths. Wearing a coat, I mowed the yard before Dad got home.
Later that day, Mom sent my brother and me out to go door-to-door selling the wreaths. Mother Nature had other ideas as the wind blew so hard, they fell apart before we could knock on too many doors. Santa didn’t get much Christmas cash to work with that year, but we kids never noticed. She made sure of that.
One year, I think I was twelve years old, I ruined my Christmas. I found her stash of Christmas presents in a big box in the hall closet. I snooped and saw every present I received that year. I didn’t have one surprise on Christmas morning. Boy, did that teach me a lesson. Since then, I get really upset if I accidentally discover a present. I’m still a kid at heart and always treasure the surprise element of Santa showing up while I’ve been sleeping. Since our chimney is always full of glowing embers, I make sure he has easy access to our Christmas tree. I don’t usually subject him to my cookies, mostly because I’ve already eaten them.
I remember one of Mom’s last Christmas seasons. She and Dad pulled up in front of my house on Christmas Eve to see the three life-sized lit up reindeer in the front yard. She elbowed my dad and said, “That’s what I want!” pointing to the deer. She was delighted when she discovered the deer were a present to her from my sister and me.
When Mom passed away a month before Christmas in 1999, she had already bought many Christmas gifts and one was a gold bracelet for me from QVC. If she had lived long enough for internet shopping, she would have led the charge.
A few months after Mom died, my sister and I were at her house cleaning, getting it ready to be sold. The land line telephone rang and I answered. A man asked for Mrs. Rodgers saying he was with QVC and they’d noticed she hadn’t made a purchase in a while. He wanted to make sure everything was okay. I let him know she passed away. When I hung up the phone, I looked at my sister and said, “Well, you’d better dump any QVC stock you have ‘cause it’s about to take a nose dive!”
There’s no doubt if she’d lived long enough for internet shopping, Amazon would have been checking in on her too.
When Mom became a grandmother, she was a second Santa to all her grands. My son remembers a growing stack of wrapped presents in her dining room around Thanksgiving that would always reappear at our house when my parents arrived for Christmas.
My daughter, Mandee, remembers her brother, Adam, asking why her pile of presents was so much bigger than his. Mom explained it was because girl presents didn’t cost as much as boy presents. I know this memory is true because my grandmother had the same excuse when my boy cousins asked about my stack of gifts (I was her only girl grand for years). Both Granny and Mom were partial to little girls and Mandee and I were okay with that.
Mom also loved all things red, but I must say, I skipped this genetic trait. When she asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said a wool cape. Guess what color she bought? When I asked her why red, she replied, “Why not?”
As Christmas approaches, I find myself surfing the internet to find the perfect baby doll for Frank’s two-year-old granddaughter. I remember Mom doing the same thing and I thought it was strange, but now, not so much.
The spirit of Christmas lives in all of us in one way or another. Mom was not a churchgoer, but there never lived anyone that loved Christmas and its true meaning more. She also lived a life of example, honoring her family and never saying a bad thing about anyone (unless a Redskin dropped a ball). She was always one that believed “less is more” when it came to life. Until it was Christmastime.