My siblings and I had a wonderful mother. Like so many, she always labored with cooking grand Christmas dinners, spent many nights wrapping presents, being pleasant for all those who gathered, and, of course, the clean-up of dishes and wrappings and all those little details that put things back in order.
It was 1976. We were all raised and gone our ways. She was now single and the gatherings at her home seemed to disappear for Christmas. Meanwhile, my wife and I had settled into a small acreage in the Ozarks, built a small log cottage in the forest. We called it our ‘homestead’. On that particular Christmas, my wife and son went east to her family and I (for some reason) had to remain at home.
The ‘homestead’ was a bit crowded with underbrush and it was one of my tasks to selectively clear the briars and saplings. A few large brush-piles had accumulated and I set out to burn them. On this day, my mother came by. It was just the two of us.
It is important to describe the day. It was a very calm day, quiet, windless, and covered with a solid shade of grey clouds. The temperature was just above freezing, which made the brushfire even more pleasant. My mother loved to work. She was about as ‘country’ as one could get and helping groom the forest floor around our home was a joy for her.
It began to snow. In the complete stillness of the grey afternoon, the snowflakes were huge and floated like feathers and one could almost hear them land gently on the leaf-covered forest floor. We ‘perked’ a pot of coffee on the fire and made a few peanut butter sandwiches, sat on a log near the fire, and had our Christmas dinner.
We didn’t want to talk much because the serene silence of the forest, the dense falling of snowflakes, the crisp crackles from the fire, and the perking of fresh coffee were saying enough. I watched her as she nibbled on her sandwich and looked around at the snow-covered hills and tall oaks and varieties of trees that seemed to add symmetry to the white landscape.
My mother was a very sentimental person who pretended to be tough (which she was). After a long silence, she said, in a choked and hushed voice, “this is the best Christmas I’ve ever had”.
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