Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Found Jesus

When my mother got sick, she pretty much decided right away that she was gonna check out.  Esophageal cancer is a doozy, and she just didn't have much fight left in her.  Over the years, I think her hypervigilance with regard to Dad's condition really kicked her ass, as well.  Such a shame because she'd always been a savage survivor.

If life is a highway, then timing is everything, I suppose.  When the rubber finally met the road, Big Mare's gears were completely stripped.  Her illness presented her with a dead end.  She shut the engine off and handed over the keys.

I gathered Mom up and brought her to our home.  My father transitioned into Assisted Living, and thankfully, he acclimated well.  I started cleaning out Big Mare's apartment several months before she passed away, and I was glad to have constructive things to focus on.

Every day after I dropped the kids off at school, I'd head over to their place and load up laundry baskets filled with her belongings - stuffed animals, tchotchkes and framed photographs of the boys.  Big Mare's design flourishes consisted of kitchen magnets, souvenirs from places other people had been and crap she couldn't bring herself to throw away.  I carted all of her things up to the bedroom at the top of the stairs.  And together, we revisited her worn out memories.

It wasn't a happy time by any stretch of the imagination, but it was strangely beautiful to address the end of my mother's life so systematically and with such decorum.  Her existence had been one of non-stop crazy, punctuated by episodes of mayhem and hysteria.  Although sad, things felt incredibly peaceful.  Big Mare relinquished control of her out-of-control life.  She and I discussed the future without her.  She worried about my Dad.  We took turns admiring my ability to address the issues at hand. She really could depend on me, and it was a wonderful feeling.

By the time we got to the Christmas stuff, she'd become gravely ill.  I left everything in cardboard boxes and had David put them in the attic.


Big Mare loved the holidays.  They were loud, garish and dizzying, just like us. She owned tons and tons of decorations, and she was a sucker for Nativity scenes.  No matter the circumstances, my mother couldn't refuse a pregnant knick knack. Consequently, we now have in our possession several vastly different versions of the Christ child's big debut.

I had very little trouble parting with Mom's ornaments.  Most of them were old, chipped and in varying stages of flat-out busted.  Ancient glass balls in moth-eaten packages, dusty garland and strands of giant incandescent lights - they all went in the garbage.  I guess I'm just not that sentimental.  I did, however, struggle with the disposition of the holy statues.

Of course, I realize that no household needs this many Nativity sets.  We have dedicated birthing areas established throughout our home.  Old school ceramic Blessed Mothers, the ever guileless Raggedy Ann, promiscuous Betty Boop, wide-eyed snow ladies and cautious teddy bear women - they're all expecting Saviors at this time of year.  On Christmas Eve, this place turns into a bustling maternity ward, and Rory is their midwife.  He gingerly extracts all the newborns from their bubble wrap and puts them in a pile.

Now, I have a collection of Baby Jesuses in my underwear drawer.  There's gotta be at least eight of them in there.   Every time I look for a pair of bloomers, I hear them clinking together.  Last year, we had lots of different hiding places, and Brother couldn't remember where he'd stashed all the infants on Christmas morning.  I found Teddy Bear Jesus in a box of dryer sheets in February.
When I was a little girl and first learned about the Coming of our Lord, the story blew my mind.  But the details made no sense.  The Holy Family presented an unconventional dynamic and one with which I assumed we moderns had very little in common.  The unfortunate circumstances these biblical characters faced was downright inspirational.  All they wanted was a reasonably clean place to lay down. And they kept on going until they found it.

I asked Big Mare a hundred questions, none of which she could answer with any measure of clarity.  She did her best, though.  It seems the Christ child's mother was the real star of the Nativity show.  She was a good woman who just happened to get wrapped up with the first guy who came along.  Granted, St. Joseph was a decent fella, but he was quiet and had no balls.  Their relationship was less than ideal. Such was life back then in Nazareth.  You got married, and you hung in there. They did have that precious baby, though, who ended up changing the world.  And her name was Little Mary.

Oh my God.  I can't believe I just wrote Little Mary.  I meant Jesus.

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