Today, up went the Christmas tree. It took me an hour to arrange the branches which had been squashed into their storage box. It took me half an hour to untangle a string of Christmas lights. By then, I was irritable. It took Bing Crosby crooning Silent Night in the background to restore a pinch of my Christmas spirit. With that, I started to add decorations, keeping it as simple as I could; just some gold and silver baubles, and strings of opaque pearls. As I added each piece I started to think about past Christmases in my life, especially my childhood ones.
My mother was our home’s Christmas engine. She started preparing for Christmas early. We didn't have a lot of money so we were unable to buy ready-made what was needed for Christmas celebrations. Mum made everything herself. It was a month of cooking; curing meats and making sure that as many eggs as possible were collected from the chickens in preparation for the baking that needed to be done. One of my main memories is of home-made pasta that would be strung to dry over dowel rods which were balanced on the backs of our dining room chairs. This tradition continued into my adulthood.
The first Christmas without my mother nearly 10 years ago was hard. I thought my heart could not break any more than it had. A few days before that first motherless Christmas, I woke up to find pasta drying throughout the kitchen. My son, a chef, had worked through the night to prepare it for me. I have never forgotten that demonstration of his understanding. It started to put my heart that together and has become one of my enduring Christmas memories. It taught me a great lesson about small acts of kindness that belong, not just in the Christmas season, but throughout the year.
As I watch the lights twinkling on the tree, the initial vexation decorating it caused me has dissipated. I'm warm with memories of past Christmases and Mum’s pasta. If I had some now, I hang it to dry on the tree.