Tag Archives: Christmas

I can’t make you love me…

I will lay down my heart and I’LL feel the power
But you won’t, no, you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me
When you don’t – Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin

I realized today another way in which I am like my mother. We both have struggled to get the people we love to love us, mostly without success. I remember how my mother so wanted the woman she thought of as her best friend to attend my wedding. I didn’t actually know the woman but it was mostly a celebration for my mother anyway and so when the woman said she would not attend, I wrote her a special note to beg her to change her plans and be there, telling her how much it would mean to my mother. Still didn’t come. I know my mother was very disappointed but what can you do when you don’t mean as much to someone as they mean to you?

My mother loved some of our relatives, always inviting them for the big holidays, wanting to spend time with them, trying to get them to travel with her when she was widowed. There were visits from them, accepted invitations but I always felt like they came out of some sense of duty and not because they enjoyed her company. She loved her grandchildren and knitted or embroidered or sewed gifts for them. And she gave them money as gifts and to get an education, a start in life. In the end of her life, that relationship became the 10 minute visit to pick up the check for the birthday or holiday.

I guess the thing is that my mother was like me: opinionated, sharped tongued, quick to anger. Loyal to a fault maybe but that doesn’t really matter when people don’t feel like they can easily spend time with you. I have spent my life chasing relationships with people, calling, writing, making the effort to visit while most people never return the favor. I told myself that they really did like me but I was the one who had to keep it going. In the last few years, I have stopped, stopped chasing, stopped calling and mostly stopped writing and the silence is deafening. I have my husband for company and so it isn’t as important as it was for my mother who was a widow for nearly 30 years. But today, with the realization that there is another point where I am so like my mother, at the time of year that she loved so much, I wish so much that she were here so I could tell he: I know. I understand. I have been there, too. I love you.

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Our Wedding Picture

Fourth Wedding Anniversary

Drum prüfe, wer sich ewig bindet, Ob sich das Herz zum Herzen findet! Der Wahn ist kurz, die Reu ist lang / Therefore consider, those who would marry, whether a heart finds a heart. Illusion is short, remorse is long – Schiller

On December 27, 2009, Wolfgang Michel and I got married in a small ceremony in the my mother’s church in Austin, Minnesota. We had actually been living together for 13 years at that point but like the quote says…
I had always dreamed what my wedding would be like and had very specific ideas what I would like to have but I didn’t get what I wanted. Trying to make the arrangements from 4500 miles away and the fact that my mother was already sick didn’t help matters. And I seem generally to have a problem communicating what I want to people. My husband complains about it all the time. But somehow the series of minor disasters makes it a story worth telling.

We planned the wedding at Christmas time to combine the visit with my mother’s favorite time of year, so I imagined lots of velvet and green and red. My sister-in-law – now ex – who was going to be my bridesmaid went out and bought a dress and planned what my brother should wear as the best man without asking me anything about what I wanted. It was announced to me by my mother. I didn’t feel like I could ask her to buy something else because of the cost and so I caved and we all wore black because that is what she had planned. Even though I wear a lot of black, it seemed to me to be more like a funeral than a wedding.

I found a picture of exactly the bouquet I wanted in the internet and sent it to my mother to give to the florist. When the flowers were delivered to the church, it was nothing like what I had asked for. The florist had apparently insisted on making it with full stems so that it could be used as an arrangement in a vase after the wedding. That I could hardly hold this log of flower stems and that I was getting on a plane the next day and couldn’t possibly take the “bouquet” that way on the plane was something nobody seemed to think about.

The man my mother chose to conduct the ceremony she chose because she had a crush on him. He was a nice man, a “free” minister not associated with any church but he also seemed to have problems understanding me. He kept saying, “It’s your wedding, you can have things how you want” and then refused to listen to either me or Wolfgang about how we envisioned the ceremony. It went so far that in the courthouse getting the license, we were so involved in trying to convince him not to do some silly things that I didn’t notice that my name was spelled incorrectly on the license – one “n” instead of two. When I tried later to change it back, they said it was now official and to change it I would have to pay $600 for an official name change.

At the rehearsal, even though my mother was ill, the minister kept insisting that she walk down the 50 foot aisle alone. Against my protests she also insisted on doing it in the rehearsal. At the wedding itself, she admitted it was too much for her and did as I had suggested, standing at the last pew and joining me when I got there. A lot of aggravation for nothing.

A good friend was supposed to sing at the wedding and several people, friends of mine, had talked about coming. Unfortunately, that was a Minnesota Christmas with a terrible snow storm. Planes were delayed, driving was terrible, nearly everybody had to cancelled. One of my mother’s best friends had already said she wouldn’t come which made my mother very upset and then the next door neighbor, who was very close to my mother, announced casually to Wolfgang while they were both shoveling snow that he wasn’t going to come either. I called him and begged and cried till he gave in and agreed to come. I knew it would mean a lot to her that he was there and the way things were going, we weren’t sure if maybe he would be the only guest.

In the end, it was a small ceremony, just my mother, my younger brother and his family, a couple relatives and a few of my mother’s friends. The organist played the songs that were supposed to have been sung on an out-of-tune piano, my sister-in-law strode down the aisle so fast I could hardly keep up. The minister jumbled the vows – cracking us up when Wolfgang repeated him saying, “in sickness and in hell.” He also almost forgot to let us read the vows we had written and pretty much made a mess of the thing. In the end, we survived and it was legal.

The only thing that was even remotely like what I had in mind was the dinner after the ceremony at a nice place in town. That had also been a big discussion. My mother had originally wanted fried chicken from the local supermarket served on paper plates in her living room. With the help of my sister-in-law, I got her to make a reservation at a nice place. Unfortunately the caterers had no clue really of what I had in mind and had certainly never heard of green beans almondine and so they served canned green beans with whole almonds with the skins still on. It all looked kind of like a church supper from my youth without the jello salad. The cake was good though. I had insisted on real butter frosting and this time I got what I asked for.

The few people that were there made the thing worthwhile, allowing my mother – who had pretty much given up hope that I would ever marry – to celebrate the day and be the “mother of the bride”. A year later when they found the tumors in her brain she said, “Maybe it would have been better if I had died with the heart attack in July (2009).” And I reminded her that then she wouldn’t have been at my wedding, which was already in the planning when she got sick. She kind of silently agreed that in that case it was ok.

Six months later we had a big party in our yard in Germany, nearly 100 guest, a small orchestra that my husband conducted including a piece he composed, I sang, we danced, an entertainer gave a show, and there were 6 grills cooking not to mention all the potato salad and drinks. In a way that was really my “wedding”. But I still feel like something is missing because there is a bad feeling about that first experience that I will never be able to change. I even argued with my mother about my disappointment just months before she died. Something I am not proud of and very sorry about but I just couldn’t let it go. Lesson to be learned – don’t compromise, go for what you want. Although I really believe in the power of second chances or third or even fourth chances with some things, even if you get a second chance, it isn’t quite the same.

For our anniversary, here are our vows:

The possibility I create for me and my life
is to be an opening for a fulfilled relationship
in which I create a space for
love, inspiration, personal power and freedom.
I am a stand for loving you how you are
and for being there so you can live your life in full self expression.
It is my commitment to inspire you
to bring every possibility you want to create into existence,
and to inspire you that you can have and be everything
you want to have and want to be.
This is our love.

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Christmas Elf

Christmas rituals

A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.
– Joseph Campbell

Christmas has always been an important holiday in my family. My mother loved Christmas, loved the decorating, loved the cookie baking (although generally she didn’t like cooking) loved the Tom & Gerry parties (we were not an eggnog family), going to church on Christmas Eve. I still remember going to church on the Christmas Eve after my dad died. Perfect Minnesota weather – snow storm and 95 degrees below with the wind chill. Matched our feelings that night.
When we were kids, the Christmas tree was a big pine with long needles that stood near the front picture window. Some of the decorations my dad brought from Germany when he was stationed there, some were new. Every year something was added. After my dad died, my mother decided she didn’t want the trouble of a live tree and bought a fake one but it was still large with all of the trimmings. But as she got older, the fake trees got smaller and smaller till in the end the tree was small enough to sit on the ledge of the window.
My mother was always doing some kind of handwork, knitting, cross stitch, sewing, and Christmas was a great inspiration for her. When we kids were young, she made her own ornaments for the tree, for the walls and to set around the room. The stuffed elves with bells in their hats sat on a lamp table. There was still one left over in the cedar chest when we emptied her house and he is now sitting in my living room. The huge three part Santa Claus counted cross stitch that she made and was so proud of that she framed it went to my older brother. When we emptied her house, there were 6 giant boxes of Christmas decorations. Each one of us got something of her wonderful work to remember her by.
My mother’s Christmas cookies were really something special. She made super thin rolled sugar cookies, covered completely in powdered sugar frosting and candied sugar. They were so thin they seemed to melt in your mouth. There were always Santa Clauses with red sprinkles and Christmas trees with colored candy balls and green sprinkles. Even though they were both mostly all sugar, somehow the Santa Clauses tasted better. She also made fancy cookies shaped like acorns with caramel and crushed pecans on top. And the orange cookies with thick orange flavored powdered sugar frosting. She made Rosettes and her friends made Krumkake and they split them up. There was also a Party Mix, a peanut brittle and almond bark that were standards. She usually started baking before Thanksgiving and stored the cookies in the freezer. I used to snitch cookies out of the freezer and sneak them into my room. That is so much a part of my memory of how they taste, I freeze the Christmas cookies I bake now, too. They somehow don’t taste right otherwise.
In our house, we have developed our own Christmas. In Germany, the tradition is to bring the tree in the house on Christmas Eve and decorate it with real candles. They usually prefer fir trees with short needles and lots of space between the branches so that the candles have a lot of room. Those trees look funny to me, I am so used to the thick trees of my youth. We don’t actually get a tree any more. Like my mother, as I have gotten older I don’t feel like dealing with the mess and honestly I don’t see the sense in cutting down a tree so that I can have it in my living room. We tried a tree in a bucket but they never survived the winter or the replanting. Now I have a small one made of metal. Still makes me happy to see the decorations I have accumulated over the years hanging on it.
My husband is in charge of putting up the lights outside and putting together the swag that always goes on the door. It always looks beautiful how he does it. Usually I bake my mother’s cookies and we pig for weeks on them. This year somehow I don’t have the energy and we could both stand to lose a few pounds. Maybe I’ll make a few batches on the weekend just for old time sake.
On Christmas Eve we usually watch movies and I drink Tom & Jerrys – my husband has never gotten used to the super sweet taste so he stays with beer and whisky. The German tradition on Christmas Eve is to eat wieners and potato salad. Go figure. Our tradition is to have baked breaded camembert and Pillsbury rolls. Very low cal. Germans celebrate Christmas over two days so we divide them up and each of us is responsible for the cooking for the entire day. We each try to do something special and exotic. Haven’t decided on the menus for this year yet but I am sure they will be delicious. We are both looking forward to the down time, making a special Christmas time and bringing the year to a close.

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