Mine came in a more obscure, but more valuable, fashion--as a hand-written book.
Reflections from a Mother's Heart:Your Life Story in Your Own Words was written by my mother over the past several months. She wants to get it all in the computer so I won't have trouble deciphering the handwriting, but to me, the effort she took to put her words on paper in her own hand are part of the value. I remember how, as a child, she'd tell us how valuable anything signed by her father was. He was left-handed, but was forbidden to write with his left hand. In fact, his teachers would tie his hand behind his back to train him to write with his right. It didn't work. All it did was force him to stop writing altogether. He used the typewriter to get his sermons on paper, to write letters to his children and grandchildren. So anything signed by Grandpa Hugh was declared as rare and of great value.
Mom's handwriting is that way to me. She used to have beautiful handwriting, consistent, legible, and similar to my own. (She holds her pen in a funny way, with 2 fingers on top--a trait she passed on to me and that I passed on to my daughters.) Parkinson's disease has stolen the easy flow of her penmanship and replaced it with a somewhat jerky style that gets more and more squooshed as the day goes on. My new book contains dozens of entries, each in Mom's writing, and all of them legible.
The real treasure is the collection of stories, told in Mom's own words. It's a collection for the whole family, but she gave it to me because, of all her kids, Mom passed on her love of a good story to me. She included the funny, the difficult, the sad, the bizarre. She left some pages blank, with the promise that we will fill them in together. I plan to collect on that promise.
Today is a sad day to me. I'm overwhelmed with the realization that Mom has been holding on for Christmas. Now that Christmas is over, I'm afraid she'll loosen her grip on the fight. I feel the tremendous burden of a mantle being passed on to me that I do not deserve, do not desire, and can never live up to. Who would ever choose to be the oldest woman in her family at the age of 43? Who will teach me to be the mother of the brides, the gracious mother-in-law, a grandmother who can gracefully blend fun and discipline? Who will give me the knowing hug when I am at my wit's end? When I feel like life's a shambles, who will say, "I've always been proud of you," or "You amaze me"
or "This, too, shall pass?"
Thank you, Mom, for the lifetime of memories. And today, thank you for the book that holds them. I'll treasure it always.