I often say that I got my heart from my father and my sense of humor from my mother. That doesn’t mean at all that Mom was heartless and Dad was humorless. Those were simply personality strengths that stood out over a period of time.
One of the things that people say the most about Mom is that she is so much fun. And it’s true! She enjoys celebrating special occasions and makes the most of them. She is the ringleader for them – whether it’s a family time or a trip with our senior adults at church.
Mom looked forward to holidays and would spice them up by adding extra touches to make them memorable for us. She could take a simple budget and stretch it so that Melanie, Hoss, and I felt special.
Every February on Valentine’s Day mysteriously gifts would appear from a character she named “Valentine”. They were left on the porch and each one of us had our own stash of goods. She continued this with the grandchildren and when it got to the point where there were too many of them, Paula became “Valentine” for our kids.
I can remember when the kids were all very young and they were mesmerized that “Valentine” would come and visit them personally and leave gifts and goodies. It never was extravagant, but it was fun! Well, kids if you’re reading this, now you know the truth. Valentine was Nana and then Mom! (Hint – “King Valentine” would give Paula the money!)
On Easter she always dressed us up as nice as possible. When we came home from church before we ate lunch we had to find where our Easter baskets were hidden. She was creative at hiding them. Every year was a different place. One time I looked and looked and couldn’t find my basket. Finally, I found it in the dryer!
Again, we have followed the same tradition with our children – and our grandchildren. Mom’s simple thoughtfulness and love for celebration has made great memories for our own kids. I am grateful to her for that.
One of her favorite celebrations was on July 4, Independence Day. For many years our family went to Guntersville Lake during this time and went camping for a week with good friends. We swam, went water skiing, made huge bonfires at night, and lived in a tent. I remember sleeping outside on a cot and being amazed at the stars over my head.
We also bought our own fireworks and had a show every night, usually just basic Roman candles! After we stopped going camping, Mom always found where they were going to have the fireworks locally and we would go there and watch them.
As a child I enjoyed the fireworks, but as I got older I enjoyed watching Mom’s face as they exploded in the sky. She was smiling the whole time and pointing out the really big effects, “Look, look, look!” There was a childlike exuberance to her that made it all so much fun for everyone else with her. By the way, she is still like this!
Mom loved Christmas time. As believers, we centered the holiday around the birth of Christ and His coming to be our Savior. She made this season fun, too, by always decorating our home. This was her favorite time of the year.
It was a big event to get the tree. The whole family always went together and it was at night after supper. We went to the lot where they sold trees and it would take a good hour to find the “perfect” tree. Mom made a science of it. She would walk around the different trees and point out bare spots and why some were deficient. We always had a live tree. She didn’t like artificial trees. (Now, she likes them!)
I don’t even know if they do this anymore, but they used to “flock” the tree by spraying on a white thick substance that made it look more full and it appeared to be covered with snow. We had those trees for several years. She would put bright colored wrapping paper on the front door and the door would be trimmed with lights.
It really wasn’t a spectacular-looking home as far as the decorations were concerned, but we thought it was really special. Mom told me she got her love for Christmas decorations from her father. I remember how he would put colored lights in the big trees in his front yard and he would have a huge tree that all of us would decorate. My grandfather, my namesake, loved to celebrate festivities, too.
Mom still decorates her house and table according to the specific holiday. I’m glad she made seasons of life fun and memorable for me. And I’m glad that she still does.
I have my own children now and I understand the great joy she had in preparing these things for us. Paula and I have carried on these traditions on with our kids. Now, my youngest is twelve and and my eldest will be twenty-nine in March. Some of our traditions have changed a bit, but not much.
I hope they have as fond memories as I do of how Mom would do little things to make holidays special for Melanie, Hoss, and myself. And I hope they know how much we love them as I now know how much my Mom loved us to create a spirit of celebration and to pass on fun traditions. What joy I have had in being a parent. I learned it from my Mom.