As a child, I never stopped and thought about how Christmas, and all its perfection, came together. In my head, the gifts, the magic — they just happened. As selfish or naive that this sounds, it didn’t dawn on me then that someone was giving their all to make sure that I felt this way.
Now I see every memory of Christmas when I was a kid was carefully molded by my mother. Whether it was the learning about the birth of Jesus, frosting homemade cookies or decorating the house to a North Pole equivalent, she poured her heart into making our season impeccable.
While every decoration that painted the house had its place, when handcrafted ornaments and crafts came home from school — as well as the very first Santa we as kids were able to get her — she always found more special places to put them. And regardless of task at hand with icing cookies with three little ones, the mess was never even mentioned.
From frilly dresses to curly hair, she made sure us girls were properly dressed for church and still managed to get herself done up as well. And every family gathering was complete with her signature broccoli cheese casserole and calico beans — the taste of Christmas.
Somehow, this full-time working wife and Mama made time to buy the best gifts that she could afford for us — often running out for last-minute items three or four times. And, finding the only time to wrap was after everyone was in bed, she made running on empty not even noticeable.
On Christmas Eve, every item wrapped so beautifully was placed carefully in its spot. She made our living room transform into a world of wonder.
Year after year, she exceeded my expectations of Christmas — typically outdoing the previous year. Into my teens and well into my 20s, she still did it all — busting her tail to get us the best gifts and make sure that the season was special.
Somewhere along the line, though, the impact of what was unwrapped on Christmas Day started to dwindle.
You see, no longer is she making the long shopping trips alone but instead, we join her. Between early Black Friday shopping with almost suffocating full backseats to all-day girls’ outlet trips where we laugh until someone pees, our shopping adventures never disappoint.
Even if it is a bit overwhelming with little ones running around, we help carry up decorations and help her set them out. As each one is unboxed and put in its designated place, a memory is recalled. And no matter how many times we may have heard where a piece came from, it never gets old.
With “All I Want For Christmas Is You” still blaring in the background like when we were kids, we bring our herd of babies over to “help” her make everyone’s favorite type of cookies. Between flour-smeared kids and a speechless look from PawPaw, smiles and laughter fill the air as cut-outs come to life, imperfect icings draw out compliments and way too many sprinkles hit the floor. But she doesn’t mind the mess, she just jumps right into the fun with us all.
Even if we insist on not needing anything for Christmas, this woman still makes sure to get the best gifts. At least now, we get to rally together and take the burden of wrapping off her hands. From us girls’ hilarious name-tag creations (that were quickly halted by learning-to-read grandbabies), to my mother’s fierce inability to lie, “do you like this? Good, it’s for ‘Dad,’” we make the absolute best of sharing tape dispensers and paper-cutting-thing-a-ma-bobs.
And on Christmas Eve, we get to help carry out every wrapped box, toy and stocking stuffer to be placed in the most perfect spot to turn her living room into — just like our childhood days — a world of wonder.
Yet, many times throughout this process, she still questions if she got so-and-so enough. Will he like this? Will she be mad that she didn’t get that?
Oh, but Mama. Don’t you see? Each year is better than the last but it is not because of the presents you purchased. It’s the time we shared together leading up to the day — the memories forever captured, the laughter, the love.
There’s nothing that you could ever buy that would be worth more than just being with you during the holiday season. From an incomparable impression on my childhood Christmases to the present-day intangible time spent together, you are what makes Christmas special.
And every year, I am so thankful for your presence, Mom. For that, truly is the greatest present I have ever received.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.