She passed away in 2007, but there hasn't been a day since when I haven't tucked something away in the place I store things I want to tell her. Her birthday is one of the days when I feel super-connected, and this year it corresponded to the day we were sorting out the Christmas things in preparation for decorating the apartment. Our Christmasses are very centred on the family, and quite traditional, and while we have downsized and rescaled for an apartment, I can still see my mother's influence in the things we've held on to year to year.
There's a lot of sparkle, and not very much red; if an ornament is pretty, I have no qualms about having another just like it (just for balance, not for acquisition) and although my church and I are estranged, there are crèches and wise men as well as Santas and angels and stars.
And unlike me, my mother would have worked harder to get these photos lined up and well-proportioned.
We would have had coffee and raisin toast instead of lunch, we'd have told each other the darling things our grandchildren were doing this week, and we would have tried to convince each other that we had enough surprises for the stockings and that the same cookies as last year would be great.
It's almost like she was here. And my dad would be out with Dave and a huge list of groceries which would include a useless admonition not to get that Tiger, Tiger ice cream we always seemed to have left over, and not to forget the ingredients for the never-fail, incredibly rich dark chocolate cake we make for birthdays.