I have been a woman on a mission, trying to find a new cardinal ornament for my tree this year. It started last year with a Precious Moment cardinal ornament that I bought for each of my daughters, and one for myself. I couldn’t find one before putting their packages in the mail, so I had to craft one together from a few Pier 1 ornaments and a glued on cardinal from the craft store.
But yesterday afternoon when I went to see ICE! at the Gaylord Texan; I finally found what I was looking for.
Growing up, I can remember my mom feeding the birds in the winter time. Even if it was just tossing out some bread when there was snow on the ground. It was always a treat to see a bluebird or a cardinal in the middle of all of the sparrows and black birds. Maybe because they were different, maybe because their vivid color stood out so clearly in the snow.
If you would ask my kids about their memories of their grandma, feeding the birds would probably be pretty high up on the list. It seemed like a standard Christmas gift request, some type of new bird feeder she had seen in a magazine. The bird feeders were always full, and hanging close to a window so she could watch the birds enjoying the assorted seeds she would use to fill the feeders.
Many of you were around, and were my support system when my mom died. I knew toward the end of her life, those final days that she would either die on Christmas or Christmas Eve. I knew in my heart she was waiting for my daughter to arrive from Hawaii, and for her family to be around her. Her life ended on Christmas Eve 2007. On that day her kids were there, her grand kids opening gifts, playing games and celebrating the day. The sounds of Christmas, the house filled with her family were the last things that she wanted to surround her that day. It was exactly as she would have wished it.
At one point, the nurse came to get my sister and I. We stood on either side of her bed and talked to her those last few minutes of her life. Outside at the bird feeder was a giant red cardinal, stuffing himself. I’m not even sure why with all that was going on someone thought to fill that bird feeder, but it’s a treasured memory. So the cardinal to me is symbolic of Christmas and of love.
I think about my mom a lot. I know that she would be very proud of the life that I am living. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when my mom wasn’t proud of me. That first Christmas on my own when I moved out pre-divorce, the WORST Christmas of my entire life—I can remember calling her and falling apart. She didn’t judge, she was my mom, she thought I was perfect. 🙂
On Wednesday night I went to dance lessons with my unofficial dance partner. He has a girlfriend in Arizona, we dance together–mostly we laugh together. He had a terrible week, and was mad at all branches of his family. I listened, let him carry on, asked questions and just let him vent. I could understand his frustration, and some of the things that he told me would have set me off too.
At the end of the night he walked me to my car–southern gentleman style. He knew that I would not be spending Christmas with my family. I could tell that it bothered him. I also could see a shift in his thinking. He’s very much a traditional type person. He has both of his parents, his kids, his brothers and sisters all around, and he knows my family will not be there with me. Maybe on his drive home it helped to soften his frustration, I hope so.
None of us know what the future holds. Five years ago, I would never have predicted the end to my marriage, the death of my mom, the move to a new location, a new job, and spending Christmas away from my daughters. But, shit happens, life changes.
We can’t control the future, the reactions of other people, the ripples and the impact of our life choices. We can control how we deal with them, how we choose to live our lives. It’s been challenging for me this year as friends have lost parents, friends have become divorced, those things take me back to those really difficult challenging times in my life.
I realize just how strong I am. That I have shaped a new life, with new traditions, yet still the old memories and events shaped the person that I have become.
This holiday season…live in the moment. Focus on what really matters, and enjoy the day. Don’t focus on the *stuff*, in the end, it really will not matter all that much. Focus on the love, and all that surrounds you.
That is my Christmas wish for you.
P.S. I still believe…