Let me tell you something about my momma. She’s a woman of many talents: she can make a mean appetizer with ten minutes and any kind of cheese, has great taste in shoes, picks out the best wine, can teach a monkey how to dance, is fully capable of saving the world given the time and the proper outfit….
….and she’s really good at Christmas.
Like really good.
And by good I don’t mean that she creates a Martha Stewart type of holiday where her days are spent weaving her own wreathes out of baby junipers adorned with hand-cut glitter. No, my mom has never been caught crafting. And she is not the kind of person to plan her entire day around cracking eggs to make pie crust and pealing and cutting apples that she grew out back in her very own orchard to make a pie filling…in fact mom owes most of her baking success to the step by step on the backs of boxes.
So you see, I come by it naturally…
Flashback to my childhood when my momma attempted a carrot cake and pulled it out of the oven only to find that it was literally shrinking before our eyes. Yeah. It went from a normal sized cake to one that Barbie could serve to Ken on a cute little dollhouse plate in about an even three minutes. This phenomenon was so miraculous and disturbing that my mother, laughing hysterically could do nothing but open up the door and throw the cake, pan and all, out into the wilderness while her girls pressed their noses to the glass to see how small it could actually get.
I guess she wanted it out of the house in case it was possessed or something.
Either that or the sight of it just pissed her off.
But not enough to stop laughing.
No, mom’s not a real Betty Crocker, or Paula Deen of some sort of clone of Martha herself (although she may have dressed as her for Halloween one year).
My mom is much better than all those women.
And she has Christmas down pat.
See, Thanksgiving comes and goes and it’s like my mom sprinkles something in the air and poof, there are poinsettias exactly where poinsettias look best, boughs of greenery adorned with twinkling lights placed carefully around door frames and on window sills, pinecones in all of the right places and everything magically smells like cinnamon.
She transforms her house in the sticks into something you see in magazines. So I come over to visit so I can feel like I am one of those fancy “people-props” you see in scenes in Better Homes and Gardens. I wear my khakis and wool Christmas sweater with the deer on the chest for effect.
And we sip cider, or Tom and Jerry’s or wine and talk about how nice it looks., how wonderful it smells…how khaki is most certainly my color.
See my momma is one of the most unlikely characters you would find out here in the middle of all of this wild stuff. And when she fell in love with a cowboy from Western North Dakota who was in love with a landscape and lifestyle that didn’t quite match the lawn mowing, polo shirt wearing, dog walking man she may have been expecting, my momma wasn’t phased in the least. Nope, she just packed up her ballet slippers, knee high boots and her greatest jackets and marched her butt out to the ranch to make a life for her and her children.
Oh, I may have heard a few stories through the years of some growing pains my mother experienced when she first made her home out where the nearest mall is a good two hours away. Like the one where she was greeted by a rattlesnake when she brought me home from the hospital. And I might have heard one about a woman who didn’t notice as her husband’s pickup slowly rolled backwards into the nearest coulee while she grabbed her purse and walked blissfully unaware into the house and shut the door. Then maybe I overheard at a few gatherings something about someone’s mom who drove the entire thirty mile trek from town on gravel roads dressed as a witch on Halloween, with the hatchback of her car open, groceries flying…and then complained to her husband about the damned heater when she got home.
Yup. I may have heard a story or two.
Because my momma tells them. And laughs knowing full well who she is and what she does and does not have time for—like learning to drive a stick shift, shoot a gun, make pie crust and figure out why the heater doesn’t work on her hatchback
And that’s ok. Because this woman who may have found herself a little misplaced at first, sure knows where she stands now. And she tackled her life out here on the ranch the same way she tackles the holidays: fully prepared, with grace and patience, a touch of class and great taste (now that I think of it, she handles accessories this way as well).
So here she is, in her home under the big winter sky, having raised three daughters and dressed them well (despite the late 80s and early 90s), created a successful career, over-fed her housecats and her family and is preparing to give us the best Christmas ever, just like she has done year after year.
Because my mother’s zest for this festive holiday only begins with the decorations and immaculate Christmas tree and ends up in a great big hearty, hug-worthy pile of love induced giving when it’s all said and done.
Oh, my momma lllloooooovvvveeessss to give presents.
She lights up at the thought of it. She makes lists throughout the year like Santa’s own personal assistant, collecting all of the hints her friends and family may have dropped on their way out the door, or while making dinner, or when getting dressed for a party. She gathers her ideas and waits for December so she can finally wrap them up tight in neat little shiny packages with ribbons and bows that coordinate perfectly with each other and the bulbs on her sparkling, immaculate Christmas tree.
She stays up late filling stockings with her family’s favorite candy and soap and socks and trinkets we most definitely don’t need. And she always gives Santa credit on Christmas morning as she pours champaign in our orange juice while she waits for us to come mingling in to discover our gifts displayed in a picture perfect pile next to our respective seats.
This is how Christmas has been (minus the champaign) since I was old enough to create a memory. And this is how I want Christmas to be until I am old and gray and can no longer bite into a candy cane because I must respect the dentures.
Isn’t that how we all are? If we were blessed to get a really wonderful mother who created her own rendition of the greatest Christmas ever, baked the best gingerbread cookies in the entire world, played a mean “Joy to the World” on the piano, conducted the church Christmas pageant every year, donned the most obnoxious sweaters and woke you up at 6 am on Christmas morning because she couldn’t wait any longer, no matter how irritating or embarrassing, isn’t it your momma who makes the holiday special?
And even now, as adults, when our belief in Santa Clause has long faded and we are left to do our own shopping and deck our own halls in our own obnoxious sweaters, don’t we all just want to be in our footy pajamas, sitting under our mother’s tree adorned with the ornaments that remind us of our youth in our parent’s house eating those gingerbread cookies (or that really great appetizer) on Christmas day?
And if we can’t be with our mother’s don’t we all try to recreate the Christmas she made for us in our own homes?
So I am feeling lucky tonight as I pull out all of my decorations and think about where I can perfectly place the pine cones and how I can get my home to look just right, just like mom’s, this Christmas. I am feeling fortunate for a mother who taught me how to evenly distribute the lights and color coordinate the table setting and miraculously make the entire place smell like cinnamon and feel a little magical.
But most of all I am feeling so blessed that I never really was disappointed in the idea that Santa doesn’t exist, because I have a mother.
And I’m pretty sure she is Santa Clause.
P.S. All photos were taken at my momma’s house. What’d I tell ya? Beautiful.