Mom’s last Christmas was in 2003. She was dying from cancer and we all knew the end of her life would be coming soon. But she still did Christmas — with some help — because it was her favorite holiday. My mother always had been the mastermind behind our family Christmas. She sought out the perfect gifts for all seven of us kids, and later for our spouses and children. Then she bought the gifts and wrapped the gifts and labeled all the packages.
It wasn’t until my siblings and I were all adults that she finally quit letting Santa Claus take all the credit. That’s when she started labeling our Christmas gifts as coming from Mom and Dad. But sometimes, if we were lucky, the gifts came from Sweet Mama.
My siblings and I had been calling her Sweet Mama since sometime in the 1970s. I’m not sure how she acquired that nickname, but it sure was fitting. She was sweet and kind and loving. So when a gift came from Sweet Mama, it was extra special. That’s why I’m surprised that I don’t remember what she gave me for Christmas 2003.
But I saved the labels from the packages. I carefully removed them from the wrapping paper, preserving some perfectly penned “Mom and Dads” and one “Sweet Mama!” (Yes, she used an exclamation point.) Those pieces of penmanship were greater reminders of her, evidently, than the final gifts to which they were attached. I’ve kept them in my jewelry box for the past 12 years. Though I don’t look at them as much as I used to, I still take them out from time to time — to reminisce about Christmas past and remember my Sweet Mama.