Holiday memory

"I'll be home for Christmas."

How much those words can mean. I hadn't been home for Christmas in 17 years. This was going to be a special trip as my husband (a born-in-Nevada person) would be with me, and he'd be part of a "Hoosier" Christmas.

We had a babysitter for our cats, bags were packed, the ride to airport arranged. Yes, we were ready. It was a sunny winter's morning when we left Nevada.

It was snowing in Indianapolis when the plane touched down on the runway. The pilot applied the brakes, the airliner fishtailed, and the passengers said a collective "ooooh!" The area had been visited by the blizzard of the century.

My brother was late because before the snow began it had rained then the temperatures dropped to below freezing so streets were slick and hazardous. It didn't matter; our luggage had not arrived in the pickup area. Because of the snow depth and the ice underneath it, the luggage transport carts could not be used. The luggage was being hand carried to the terminal. "Welcome to Indiana."

It snowed nearly every other day, and we were snowbound. We watched the squirrels from the nearby woods across the yard, bushy tails held high above the snow. We watched the brilliant red male cardinals in the crabapple tree eating the tiny fruit. We watched the goldfinches feed at their feeders of thistle.

We worked the crossword puzzles in the Indianapolis Star. We took walks down the back road to the stables behind Mom's house. We had snowball fights with the little girl next door. And we waved and cheered when the farmer who lived across the road came to plow the road in front of Mom's house.

Going to the grocery store was an adventure, as my husband soon learned. The west side is like a small town. Few people have left the area. Three generations have attended the same high school, and at least two have had the same teachers. Mom knew and talked to everyone. There was no such thing as just running in to grab something at the local Kroger Store.

This was the first time ever that I had noticed my mom was aging. Always spry and active, I noticed that Mom held onto the wall in the hallway as she headed for her room. Stories from long ago were repeated. But she continued to work her morning crossword puzzles in the newspaper and would challenge us to finish what she didn't. Usually there wasn't much to finish. She still rode her stationary bicycle for an hour while watching her favorite soap opera.

When it came time to go, I'll never forget getting up to board the plane. Mom told my husband, "You take care of my girl." Tears pretty much blinded my path.

We hadn't always seen eye to eye, probably because we were a lot alike in some aspects, but here I was 45 years old and my mom's girl. Mom died last year, but that last Christmas has been etched in my heart, and I'll not forget.


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