There’s a wild crabapple tree down by the barn that has never borne fruit, but through the years, it’s become one of our favorite trees. Jilda has kept her eye on it since early November. The small tree held onto its green leaves long after its neighbors.
But that changed this past Sunday. Jilda and I were walking when I heard her gasp. I knew what caused her surprise. The leaves of a wild crabapple had turned from green to gold, crimson, and orange. It changed overnight.
The older I get, the more evident it becomes that the only constant is change. Our circle of friends has changed, and so has our families. Our friend Lewis, who’s celebrated Thanksgiving with us the three previous years, was not with us this year. It broke our hearts when we got the call. I dedicated my last book to Lewis. Thanksgiving this year was a gift, but it had changed.
December has changed too. It’s a month filled with emotional milestones. This month has more family birthdays than any other month of the year. My mother’s birthday was Dec. 1. And on Dec. 6 Jilda’s mother would have been 100 years old. I can’t think of Christmas without thinking of them both. And that always brings a sad smile to my face.
The first few years after they died, we considered taking a vacation during Christmas. Maybe putting some distance between us and the tender memories would make things easier. But we got a call from one of our great nieces who asked, “When are we going to make Christmas cookies this year?” And just like that, we knew we’d stay home.
Our routines changed. When my mom was alive, we went to her house after Thanksgiving and began the long process of putting up her Christmas decorations. After finishing phase one, we all went inside. Her oven kept the house as warm as a fireplace. She cooked cakes, pies and candy. Divinity was one of my favorites. As the confection melted in my mouth, it tasted like a sweet piece of a cloud. The name says it all, and her divinity was divine.
When Jilda’s mom Ruby was alive, they spent weeks Christmas shopping. The lights dimmed in the Visa Card processing center trying to process all the transactions from some of their shopping binges. And then came the wrapping. Jilda must have used acres of colorful paper and ribbons to wrap all those gifts. A lot of trees gave their lives for that cause.
These days I go with Jilda to do Christmas shopping. Well, I tag along and sit on a nearby bench while she shops. When she finds a suitable gift, she’ll hold it up and nod. I smile and give her the thumbs up. I know I can’t be as much fun to shop with as her mom was.
In the last several years, we’ve found our way through the Christmas holidays. We made new traditions, and we’re finding joy in them, too. But I do miss my mom’s divinity candy.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, “Life Goes On,” is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.