The first holidays without my mom

In case you were wondering,

Yes, that was me.

The lady pushing her buggy down the aisle of the grocery store right before Thanksgiving.

Tears streaming down her face.

That was me.

Tears were not the plan.

Yukon Golds for mashed potatoes,

Elbow macaroni for mac n’cheese.

A few other things I had forgotten.

That was the plan.

I should remember my tears always have their own plan.

Make no allowances for public appearances.

And so, they picked the day before Thanksgiving.

The day before my mom’s favorite holiday.

The day before the first one without her.

And in that, I know I’m not alone.

Is this your first?

Your first holiday season with your new normal?

Not the kind celebrated on a fancy ornament right after you married.

“Our First Christmas!”

Not the kind printed on a precious baby’s onesie.

“Best Present Ever!” read one of the cuter tees I saw online.

Everyone talks about those kind of firsts.

Few talk about this kind.

The first without mom.

The first after your divorce.

The first since all the kids moved away.

Perhaps, you, too, are improvising.

My sister and I spent days emailing recipes back and forth.

“Here’s Mom’s sweet potatoes,” I offered. “Good luck making sense of her handwriting on this index card.”

“There are ingredients, but no measurements,” she pointed out with concern.

“Exactly,” I commiserated. “Mom always said she could just eyeball it.”

“Do you have her recipe for carrot ring?” my sister texted the next day.

“I don’t,” I started to panic. “Do you?”

“Me, neither,” my sister replied. “How could we let her leave without getting the recipe for her carrot ring?”

“Somehow, when the hospice nurse asked does she have any final words, asking for the carrot ring recipe didn’t come to mind,” I replied, welcoming the laugh.

So, maybe that’s what the tears in the grocery store were about.

For carrot ring that will never taste the same.

For everyone who is not here.

For everyone who is.

Loss works like a steroid injection for appreciation.

It’s why I never want to forget this first Thanksgiving without my mom.

I suspect it’s the special ingredient that will make memories all the sweeter.

And keep me from taking future, easier holidays for granted.

Please know that whether this is a first for you or not, I’m thankful for you Dear Reader.

For your generosity,

In the way you make time for my column each week.

The way you share your own stories with me.

Your own pain.

Your challenges.

Your triumphs.

I swear I have the most interesting, heartfelt email inbox in the world.

You are my year-round gift.

You, who I might be thinking about the next time I’m caught walking down the aisle of the grocery store with a tear or six streaming down my cheek.

Because there will be a next time.

You can count on that as sure as the lumps in my mashed potatoes.

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