The Christmas Ornament

I found it at the local Hallmark card store, just in time for Christmas.

1981: First Christmas Together

The package included stickers so you could customize your ornament with names. I added them before I wrapped it, and couldn’t wait for him to open it when we exchanged gifts.

Sherri & Scott

In hindsight, it’s an ugly ornament. Made of thin glass with a plastic coating, the Christmas scene on the front — a Victorian couple ice skating — looks cheap and cliché. But to a 16-year-old girl, it felt like something real. Like a way to say I’m crazy about you without really saying it.

So I wrapped it up and presented him the ornament, along with a few other gifts he probably preferred but have been long forgotten. What 17-year-old boy wants a Christmas ornament, anyway? The years I have spent as a mother since then have given me insights into the mind of a teenage boy I didn’t yet have back then.

Pretty sure I should have just kept the ornament for my own tree.

But somehow I was claiming my territory, trying to anchor our relationship within the envelope of his family. To have our ornament displayed on his family’s Christmas tree gave me a tiny shred of confidence that they could see me. See that I was important to him, too.

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time to work a new relationship into the mix. Moms usually have expectations and routines and traditions, certain events and family gatherings that are a “must-do” each December. Some of these begin to fall off the list as the children grow older and Christmas loses a bit of that magic it held when they were small. No more family visits to see Santa, no more driving around the neighborhood in jammies to check out all of the Christmas lights. But family bonds are tight around the holidays, and it’s tough to break in.

I think buying the ornament was a pretty bold gesture, especially from a girl who had only been dating their son for 9 months. But somehow, it passed inspection and his mother agreed (maybe reluctantly) to display our First Christmas Together ornament on the family Christmas tree.

At least when I was expected to visit.

I wouldn’t have blamed her at all for discretely moving it to the back of the tree once I was gone.

You see, there is a special dance between the mother of a son and the girl who steals his heart.  A give-and-take that many young girls take as a sign they aren’t welcome or liked or even tolerated. But it isn’t always about the girl, and that part I didn’t understand until I had a son of my own. Until our first Christmas together in 1981 unfolded into a lifetime of them spent as a couple, then a family.

And while the girl or young woman sees a potential future in the handsome young man, the mother still has her heart wrapped around the little boy who used to sit on Santa’s lap and leave crumbly cookies on a plate each Christmas Eve. The boy who willingly wore a red sweater vest for the Christmas Eve church service and belted out carols like nobody was listening. The boy who untied the bows on the advent calendar with excitement and the anticipation of ringing the bell at the bottom on Christmas Eve. The boy who played with silvery strands of tinsel and stole candy canes from low-lying branches.

The boy whose eyes brightened when the lights were first lit on the Christmas tree each year.

Now his eyes brighten at the sight of her.

And maybe she is very special to him, and the mother understands that to hold her son in her heart she needs to make room for one more.

One more person, one more ornament.

This year, I am that mom.

Our First Christmas Together ornament hangs front and center on our own family Christmas tree, 33 years later.

And I have room for one more.

Denial: A Page in my Christmas Book

The boxes are down from the attic, stacked in haphazard fashion in the garage and waiting to be refilled.

I am not ready.

For seven weeks and three days, Christmas has filled this house. Santa, baby Jesus and all of their various snowmen and reindeer friends have been happily perched on shelves, hanging from the tree or just chilling out on top of the piano.

Last night we finally took the tree down, only because the garbage man will pick it up today.

Everything else remains.

I am not ready.

Not ready for these holidays when the kids are so old that Santa’s magic no longer has any power…when nobody believes they heard reindeer on the rooftop as they snuggled in their beds.

I love our Christmas traditions — cutting down our tree at the same farm each year, decorating it together. The unwrapping of each ornament and my incessant need to tell the story of each and every one. Again.

Homemade cinnamon rolls Christmas morning…gingerbread houses carefully decorated with all-things-sugary, only to be eaten later in chunks.

I love how my teens still expect certain things to remain the same about Christmas, even without the magic of Santa.

But there was a shift this season — ever so slight — and I felt it in my heart. My family is growing and changing, and while it’s amazing and awesome and wonderful?

There are days when I would gladly take a page from my Christmas Memories Book and have a do-over.

Like the year I found out I was pregnant on Christmas morning, but kept the secret all day long as we watched our 3-year-old son open presents and laugh.

Or the year Santa brought the huge dollhouse bookcase for my daughter that was taller than she was.

Maybe the year when we sat on the couch with grandparents — all showered, ready for presents and drinking our coffee — while little ones somehow slept way past their usual wakeup time.

This book — my Christmas Memories Book — has one page left.

One page.

Nineteen years of these memories fill this book and flood my heart when I open it.

And now? I need to fill in that one last page.

I am not ready.

I will buy another book — maybe even another with 20 years to fill. And I will cherish each page as they are filled with the new memories of our growing family…a family that will still hold dear to old traditions while the kids bring in something new each year. A friend, someone special, a spouse one day, maybe a grandchild or two.

I think I will be ready by then.

All I want for Christmas is at Neiman Marcus

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about me. Starting each November, I would carefully turn down page corners in the huge Sears catalogue and circle my must-haves with a marker. Then I would carefully craft my annual letter to the portly man in the red suit, reminding him of all the good deeds I had accomplished that year. There may have been embellishing or a few little white lies, but he always came through.

I miss those days. Sure, running the whole Santa gig is awesome when your kids are young, but I’ve been Santa’s Helper for 19 years now.

It’s my turn. The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book has arrived.

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I last wrote to you, but I’m sure you will remember me. I was the one who was always kind and caring to her little brother, even though he was always getting into my stuff. I always did what I was told, made my bed, said my prayers and did my homework. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Except that one time when I cut my own hair.

I’ve been a mom for more years than I can count now, Santa. I don’t like to brag, but I’m an amazing mom. Except for those times I had to call 911, locked a newborn baby in the car, burned a few dinners, ran out of diapers, said things my mother would never have said, fed small children Doritos and rice for dinner, cried over Algebra homework and lost my cool at Target I really rock this job. So I am sure you can see why I deserve some swag under the tree that’s just for me.

Jimmy Choo Biker Fox Fur and Floral Suede Shoulder Bag ($5,595)

A dramatic play of texture and color, this Jimmy Choo Biker fur bag is for far more than holding your things—it will finish any ensemble with extravagance.

If I had this bag, my status would instantly be raised from simply Soccer Mom to Uber-Chic and Trendy Mom. My yoga pants and ratty Old Navy sweatshirt would suddenly be extravagant. With all that thick fox fur I might even be able to trick my daughter into thinking this is an actual puppy, which is a win-win for me. Lined in leather, so those random pieces of chewed gum and sticky used tissues will be a breeze to remove.

Sofia Cashmere Diamond Cable Knit Cashmere Throw ($1,150)

These posh throws are one warming trend that will never go out of season.

I really need one of these, Santa. I need time on the couch with my remote control, a strong cup of coffee, a pound or so of peanut brittle and a cashmere throw. Maybe even two of them, so I can cover those stains where I spilled my wine and the dog threw up. As an extra bonus, this throw could double for an outfit when the UPS man comes to the door and I need to cover my yoga pants. See how beautiful and relaxed the woman in the picture looks? Totally me.

Michael Kors Leather-Bodice dress ($3,995)

Michael Kors applies true Yankee sensibility to his tweeds, plaids, lace, and leather. All-American sportswear with an English accent!

Well, there you go — I want to be all English-y and have people think I am sophisticated when I pop into Target for laundry soap or drag
the dog to the vet to have her anal glands expressed. And leather? So sexy, especially on someone my age because it wrinkles in a pattern just like my skin. The skirt is made from angora, wool and cashgora which I am pretty sure is some endangered species of mouse found only on mountain tops in Tibet. The model looks like she just stepped on a Lego, so she obviously knows my life. I would totally rock this dress.

Jean Paul Gaultier Lace-Mesh Long-Sleeve Dress ($395)

The only thing better than a fitted dress is our exclusive lace-embellished Jean Paul Gaultier sheath in a bright, sprightly emerald hue.

I want to be bright and sprightly too — like I feel when the holiday break ends and I drop the kids off at school. What this dress lacks in coverage, it makes up for in versatility. The meshy fabric would be great for attracting dust and dog hair. Why buy just a dress when I can have a shirt,
nightgown and dust rag all in one?

Heritage Hen Farm Beau coop ($100,000)

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined.

Poshest hen house? This place rocks! Forget the hens — this is going to be my own little mommy hideaway. It has a living room, library, an elegant chandelier and a broody room — I have no idea what that is, but I think I need one at least once a month. Fold your own laundry people — mommy’s tending her flock of magazines and martinis.

Teardrop Tailgate trailer ($150,000)

A chorus of cheers rings out the minute you pull up. Tailgating will never be the same now that your Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer is on the scene. You park, open the hatch, and slide out the bar—cocktails anyone?

I have to admit it — I am not the best school volunteer/homeroom lice checker/team mom/PTA coordinator. At best I can volunteer to bring juice boxes or send a check for the field trip. With this awesome trailer, I could erase years of bad karma with the uber-reliable room moms! Hook it up to the trailer hitch on my gas-guzzling SUV and haul it to the PTA meeting. Instantly I become the bestest, funnest and most in-demand mommy
on the playground. Extra bonus points if I can play old episodes of Parenthood on the flat screen TV.

Tom Ford Beauty Exclusive 16 Color Nail Set ($480)

Tom Ford Beauty debuts a wardrobe of high-performance polishes, offering mega-watt shine, while staying true to color. The extra-amplified gloss and shine nail lacquer — in a wardrobe of shades, from alluring brights to chic neutrals — lets you express your mood and complete your look.

Who knew that all I really needed was a coat of expensive nail polish? I thought my Old Navy jeans were a “look” but hey, why not take things to the next level? With so many interesting colors I might have to have the kids walk home from school because I am busy doing my nails — in my hen house. I am especially enamored of the colors all moms should recognize: Naked, Fever Pink, Coral Blame, Bordeaux Lust and Bitter Bitch. Seriously, I am not making these up.

Tweezerman Crystal Tweezer and Stand ($200)

Add some glamour to your bathroom and a little dazzle to your brow beauty routine with this Luxe Edition of Tweezerman’s award-winning Slant.

I need these tweezers, and not just because they are beautiful and sparkly. My rusty old tweezers have seen one too many gray eyebrow hair or splinter-in-the-foot and I am only slightly exaggerating when I say the whole family may need updated tetanus shots. Plus, these are classy
enough that I can tweeze my eyebrows (or nose hair) anywhere I need to – even in the nicest restaurants.

all photos courtesy of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book
 

And, Santa? If you are having a tough year – with the price of gas and bacon being so sky high — I would also be just as happy with a new
umbrella, some socks without holes in them and a popover pan.

Love,

Sherri

A Pinch of Love

I can still remember watching her in the kitchen. Counter-tops overflowing with ingredients, a light dusting of flour as an added touch on sleeves and hands.

My grandmother’s kitchen on the day before Thanksgiving turned into a pie factory of sorts. Thanksgiving meals spent at her home always involved days of cooking, way too many side dishes, and incredible food saved for this one special day each year. A true Southern lady, she was never without extra food to offer you, just in case you were hungry.

I’ll just make something simple.

And oh, the pies.

As a child, I remember there seemed to be at least five different kinds of pie. She baked her pies not from a recipe, but from memory and feel. A handful of that, a pinch of this, she just had that feeling for when a recipe was just right. A gift that I did not inherit.

Her pecan pies were especially sinful, and I saved room for a slice every time we visited for the holidays.

She was in her element on Thanksgiving; putting everything she had and an added pinch of love into the entire meal.

When she passed away eighteen years ago, I was just starting to grow my own family. So exhausted on the plane trip back from her funeral, I didn’t even realize yet that I was pregnant.

My grandmother’s pie recipes were gone. Gone because they were never really written down, but conjured with a pinch of love and a handful of hope.

When my mom brought some of my grandmother’s things back home, I was hesitant to take anything at first. I had my memories of her, and certainly having some of her things wouldn’t make those memories any stronger.

Then I saw the stack of glass pie pans.

Deep dish, fluted, eight-inch, nine-inch, every variation you could imagine.

Eighteen years later, I am still baking pies in those pans. My grandmother’s instincts for just another pinch or just a bit more flour have slowly started to kick in to my too-logical brain.

My daughter by my side this year; rolling crusts and mixing ingredients, filling the house with the smells I remember.

My grandmother right there with us.

And her recipes aren’t gone after all.

****************************************************************

Wondering what brings my son home from college for Thanksgiving? To find out go read my post over at Moonfrye today, where I spill the beans on traditions and what really seems to matter to those kids we’re raising.