Christmas 1966 was a Christmas that will never be forgotten. I was 11. My life had forever changed three months before. My family’s life had been forever altered three months before. September 27th, 1966 my Mother died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was in her early 40’s.
Christmas came with the same gusto as it always does. I don’t remember much about decorating or putting up our tree, it just seemed like normal.
When we awoke on Christmas morning, my younger sister and I went downstairs. In the previous three months, my older sister had taken on adult responsibilities and somehow was no longer a little girl, but almost the matriarch of our family. She was so young to assume such duties and responsibilities, but I know our Father leaned on her so much during those first years without Mom.
Christmas morning that year was incredible. We had never had a Christmas with so much. We never did after that. This year the tree was overflowing with presents. As an adult, I now realize my Dad was trying somehow to make things better for us, and buying lots of gifts was his way of trying to fix a grieving family.
There were 14 board games under the tree. We got new coats, many sets of clothes, and I got my first pair of ice skates. They were beautiful! It was an overwhelming bounty to receive.
What is seared into my memory did not happen right on Christmas. That day was void of my Mom’s presence, but, it was hidden with the excitement of the gifts we were given.
The real impact did not hit our family until New Year’s Eve a week later. We always stayed up to see the New Year in. We would have snacks, chips and dip, and a tradition of having kielbasa (which I still have). We went through the motions of celebrating the New Year. When midnight struck we went out on the front porch to watch the fireworks being set off from the south side of town. It was cold and snowy, but the four of us, my Dad, my sisters and myself did not notice the cold. When the new year came in, we grieved as a family. The passing into a new year was a last good-bye to my Mom. We knew there would never be another year with a current memory of her. When 1967 arrived it meant any time we had with our Mother was gone. The reality that she would never touch or see another year overcame us. We stood on the porch huddled together and crying as a family.
The memory of that night haunts me. It was a loving moment, but one that forever etched into my heart the harsh reality of death. I know that experience has colored how I look at my family. Family is a precious commodity. They are frustrating and weird, but, they are the closest people you will ever have. No one shares the same experiences or memories in the same way.
I hope this holiday season will have special bonding times for you. Family times that are either with blood family or those families we have forged in friendship. Thanks for stopping by today. DAF