ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS

After shopping for hours and days and weeks, I finally decided to give my mother what she asked for each year for Christmas: nothing. That had always ticked me off.

“Mom, what would bless you this year?”

“You, dear.”

Gag. “No, really, Mom. What is something you would really like for Christmas? Something you wouldn’t get for yourself.”

“I have all I need, dear.”

Double gag.

It’s like that every year. So she’s gotten foot soakers, pretty sweaters, more jewelry than she can wear in a lifetime, books that I see on her shelf, the spines pristine. I’ve given her trips to salons and spas and have no idea if she ever went. I have filled basket after basket with themed gifts – baking, pampering, snacking. The baskets sit awhile, then I don’t see them anymore. I strongly suspect they were expertly regifted.

She seems to appreciate them when she gets them. Lots of oohing and aahing and hugs. Then she sets them down, says, “Let’s have cocoa!” and off to the kitchen she goes.

She makes me crazy. So after spending forever searching on-line catalogs and dismissing monogrammed everything and dishes of every size and color and Christmas ornaments and mani/pedi packages, I finally gave up in disgust and walked into her house on Christmas morning with only the designated rolls and salad for the meal. If she won’t tell me, then she’ll get what she asked for. Nothing. We’ll see how she really feels about that.

She greeted me as she always does – with a look of surprise when the door opens like she didn’t think I was really coming. Hug around the salad bowl, then whisked into the kitchen, warm from baking and with a blanket of familiar aromas that forces my eyes closed for a brief moment. My salad ensconced in the fridge, the rolls in a basket, she hands me a mug, picks up one of her own, and leads me by the elbow back to the livingroom.

It’s hot, spiced cider. Heaven help me, that stuff is good. Even though it’s early in the day, she has the blinds almost closed so the room is dim, the fireplace going, soft music caroling the season. In spite of myself, I feel my body relax as I settle into the overstuffed wingback chair, my feet automatically going up on the large ottoman. Mom sits across from me on the couch, pulling her feet up beside her. She smiles at me. And I, darn it, smile back.

Then we talk. Normally, now is when I would be forcing her to open the gift I brought, watching her pleasant response, drill her with all the reasons I thought it was the perfect choice for her. But right now, I am focused on our conversation and trying not to be. She starts pulling a Dickens and talking about Christmases past, present, and future. I attempt to fight interest, but she tells a story about my grandfather staying up all night assembling toys. They found him Christmas morning, asleep on the floor by the tree, one of Santa’s cookies in his hand. I don’t remember hearing that story before and I sputter a little as I nearly choke on my cider, the picture making me laugh.

The rest of the day went like that and I felt the rusty edges of my grown-up child angst chip off bit by bit as I found myself sucked into the adult-relationship-with-your-parent vortex.

I never saw it coming.

As I left, embraced warmly at the door, the intent of my giftless Christmas came back in a pang of guilt.

“Mom,” I said. “I didn’t bring you a gift. I’m truly sorry.”

She smiled, of course. Said, “Oh but you did,” of course. I teared up a bit, of course.

I mean really. How much more annoying can a person be?

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