December 22, 1995
Ever since Mom died in 1984, Dad and I have hated Christmas. For us, Mom WAS Christmas and, without her, the magic is gone.
This is the twelfth Christmas without Mom, more than enough to compare to the three dozen with her. And this year, it suddenly came to me that it's not just Mom's death that made us lose our Christmas spirit; the bowl of fruit has a whole lot to do with it, too.
It's not like we look back at our past Christmases and remember them as being better than they really were. They WERE wonderful and exciting, and we knew it at the time. And now I know WHY.
The bowl of fruit we had every Christmas tells the story more completely than anything else. It was very much a symbol of the times of struggle for countless families following World War II, a time when luxuries were few, and home and family love were what mattered most.
So it's about the way our values have changed. Or about how prosperity has taken away the appreciation for a bowl of fruit.
Mom and Dad worked hard all year long to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But at Christmas we celebrated. It was the ONLY time of year we had such a celebration, and that's what made it so important. It was a time for extras, a time for anticipation and surprises..
Mom loved Christmas and she loved creating the mystery that didn't unfold until Christmas morning. She gave the house the best cleaning of the year, and she worked until the early hours of Christmas morning preparing for the "events" of Christmas that she loved so much.
One of those events was the Christmas tree. Sam and I never saw it until Christmas morning, after Dad got up and went to the cellar and fired up the coal furnace. Then we would go to the living room and Dad would plug in the lights ....
It was thrilling.... It was an event!!
Then we would look at our presents under the tree. There weren't many, but there was always the extra-special something that we had wished for all year. And our Christmas stockings, hung on the arm of a chair, had more little surprises, like candy canes or bubble gum.
And we had a five pound box of Brach's chocolates .... What luxury!
But it was our awe and our appreciation of having a whole bowl of fruit on the kitchen table that strikes me now as the best example of what we've lost in our lives and, sadly, what we can never recapture.
For Mom, putting that fruit in the fruit bowl, virtually empty the rest of the year, was an event. And when we saw it on Christmas morning, it was as wondrous as anything could be. We had fruit at other times of the year, maybe bananas or apples, but we never had a whole bowl of fruit. Only on Christmas, Mom filled the bowl with oranges, tangerines, grapes, apples and bananas. With the focus of an artist, she arranged and rearranged the fruit until it was the magnificent centerpiece for our Christmas table that she wanted it to be. Maybe she'd separate the bananas and hang them over the sides of the bowl, or she'd put the tangerines in a circle on the plate under the bowl.
But, even as a child, I appreciated having that whole bowl of fruit. I'm not saying that I would have chosen fruit over the gifts under the tree in those days, but it's just the fact that I once valued a bowl of fruit that is the point.
When that FRUIT BOWL was transformed into a BOWL OF FRUIT at the end of each year, it made a statement. It said that life was good, our family was doing OK, and we were truly blessed. How much better could life get?
So, it is the fact that we have so much that has ruined Christmas. When we can have what we want all year long, Christmas isn't special anymore. It's hard to get excited about much of anything, let alone about a bowl of fruit.
Mom was the creator of our wonderful Christmases, but I think that if she was with us now, she would feel the loss of the magic, too. But, then, maybe if she was here, it wouldn't hurt as bad.