This year will be the first year I am "doing Christmas" without my mother. Last year, we went away and skipped all of the traditional holiday festivities. It was a nice change of pace and exactly what I needed in the wake of her death. But this year I'm back in the swing of things.
For as long as I can remember, we have hosted Christmas dinner at our house for anywhere from a dozen to 25 or so guests - family and friends without a family to spend the holiday with. The event has always featured festive tables set days before the actual dinner, an abundance of food and lots of laughs. This year, I am managing it on my own, albeit with help from my husband and guests who have all agreed to bring something. But I keep hearing my mother in my head ...
"Make sure your napkins are ironed or dry cleaned, make sure you have flowers for the tables, make sure you have enough silverware, always use your nicest plates."
Truth be told, some of the admonitions I will follow, others I will temper with the notion that it is time to develop my own traditions, traditions my kids can then alternately follow and then eschew.
One thing she was always worried about was my lack of silverware. I had gotten a few odd pieces when I got married, but not being much of a traditionalist, I had failed to fill in the set by purchasing the rest. When am I ever going to need this? I thought. Until I did...
Each Christmas morning immediately after opening gifts, my mother and I would have to run the dishwasher multiple times and literally use every fork and knife I owned in order to set the tables. My kids would come into the kitchen looking for something to eat their breakfast or lunch with.
"Put the fork down, young lady, use a spoon, it works just as well," I would say, diving for the clean fork before sticky little hands grabbed it.
So, as I was "gathering" my items for Christmas dinner this year, I recalled a box I had never unpacked in the basement that came from my mother's house.
Eagerly, I ran downstairs and located the box beneath a stack of Christmas presents in a closet. Gingerly, I pulled the packing tape off the seam and opened it up. Inside, there were several cloth pouches that were rolled up and tied securely.
I untied one and rolled it out flat on the floor in front of me. And there they were, seven silver forks, not eight or six, but seven. In another pouch, I found seven knives, and then seven spoons. Each one was engraved on the handle with an "L" standing for her married last name.
I realized it wouldn't complete the cutlery I needed for Christmas dinner for 20 or more this year, but it would sure help. I also realized something else, surely my mom had asked for eight place settings on her wedding registry because no one asks for seven. So, like me, she had failed to buy the final set. When will I need more than seven? She thought. Who knew the answer was: December 2013.
So, this year, my mother will not be at my Christmas table, but her wedding silver will be. I'd like to think in some small way I will be honoring her by carrying on old traditions, and starting some new ones. And I'm pretty sure she would approve, unless I decide to use paper plates, that's a deal breaker ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.