A Meaningful Way to Spend Twenty-Five Minutes During the Holidays
Countless studies and extensive clinical research have found there are links between our parents’ behavior during our childhood and how we act as adults. So, in understanding our parents, we better understand ourselves.
No that’s not quite what I want to say. Let’s try again.
In early November, I was in New Mexico where I watched as the people of Taos celebrated the Day of the Dead. If you saw the movie, Coco, you understand this holiday and the belief that for dead people to live on in the afterlife, it is mandatory for people in the living world to remember them.
That’s not quite right either. Let’s try again.
I recently read some autobiography where the person’s childhood was barely mentioned. As a parent who sweat bullets over raising my kids, this omission felt egregious. When I mentioned this to my daughter, she asked me how often I bother to write about my parents?
Rolling those three thoughts together, I am going to model an exercise for you. It is a walk down memory lane. I am hoping your will indeed try it at home. Whether for the purpose of better understanding yourself, or having your loved one live on in your memory, or to give credit where credit is due to those who impacted your life, this is a meaningful way to spend twenty-five minutes at the holiday season.
Here are your instructions:
Relax for ten minutes with a cup of your favorite brew. Then get a few sheets of paper, a pencil, and a stop watch or other timer. Giving yourself fifteen minutes for this writing project, and making a commitment to keep your pencil moving on the page during that time, start writing about your mom or dad – or other loved one – who influenced your life. Make a bullet-point list of things you remember. Don’t overthink it. Don’t try to organize it. Just write.
That said, here is a boatload of things I remember about my mom, Rose Kleiner, who died in 2002, just shy of her 82nd birthday.
- She was a stay-at-home mom.
- She was dedicated to her mother, my Bubbie, and helped her all the time.
- She was close to her extended and extensive family, possibly closer to her sisters-in-law than to her own siblings.
- She kept a kosher home so her mother and mother-in-law could eat over.
- Saying, “How hard is it to mix up a little tuna salad or a few hamburger patties, she cooked dinner every single night.
- When Dad worked late, she reheated a portion of the full dinner she had made for us kids and fed him at 9 PM (allowing me to get out of bed to help him eat).
- When a bill rolled in the door, she paid it immediately. (Same routine for buttons that fell off shirts.)
- She had two classic laments, “Never a dull moment” and/or “It’s always something.”
- “Do your best” was her advice to my brother and me.
- Having fallen out of a moving vehicle as a child, she was always nervous in a car.
- She played mahj weekly. Took Bubbie shopping weekly. In later years, had her hair done weekly.
- Volunteered at the Temple. All. The. Time. It was a standing-room-only crowd at the Temple for her funeral.
- Gave me black olives in my lunch bag – rolled in wax paper – as a special treat.
- Always had Kobey’s Shoe String Potato Sticks in the house in a covered glass container in the pantry.
- When I told her my 150–month-birthday was coming up, she bought me a gift – a pink hairnet from the dime store.
- She could write rhyming poetry whenever a teacher of mine expected that of ME.
- She was always there.
- In the early years, before she learned to drive, she and another neighborhood mom took turns walking us little kids to school.
- Mom, my brother, and I often walked to the local bakery to buy two loaves of butter-crust bread, one for dinner and one to eat on the way home.
- When the A&P opened a block away, she’d send me there to get milk, or bread, or whatever and give me the exact change for what I was buying. I was always nervous I would not have enough money – but she was never wrong. (Woulda been a big winner on The Price is Right.)
- I never saw her cry.
- Her most chilling line: “You wake up one day and your wrist hurts, the next day you die.” (Lung cancer had metathesized to her wrist and she died within five weeks of her diagnosis.)
- She was always on a diet. And always loved ice cream.
- She knit a purple skirt and jacket for my Barbie Doll. How on earth did she do that?
- When she and Dad lived in small-town Bastrop, Louisiana, she said she read every book in the library.
- She was often stretched out on the sofa reading a book.
- When I was on the sofa with her, head in her lap, she twizzled my hair.
- She called me Dolly and her Shana-Zisa-la (sweet and pretty one).
- When I was sick and had the chills, she put every blanket on top of me and then threw herself on top of the stack when my teeth were still chattering.
- She was always there. (It bears repeating.)
Gosh, that was an easy list to create. Quite frankly, I’m surprised. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t always get along with my mom. But, I’ve been carrying her in my heart for all twenty-one years since she died, and I’m happy to realize how much love is in bloom there.
I hope the list you make is equally surprising and delightful. Please feel free to tell me two or twenty things about your loved one as you accept this challenge and reflect upon someone meaningful this holiday season. 💚
If you like my writing, did you know I have four books in print? They are all available on my Etsy shop. My newest book, Love, Loss, and Moving On, is also available on Amazon. Please have a look and tell a friend!