Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Christmas memory



Christmas, particularly Advent, is a season of anticipation. For many, though, Christmas is also a season of remembering. At times it can seem that we are caught up like Ebenezer in a visitation of the Spirit of Christmas Past. So it was for me last week, when I went out into my yard to clip magnolia branches for my Christmas decorations.

Suddenly I was once again a new mom, very young and struggling to make ends meet. I lived with my husband and my darling six-month-old son in Michigan, 500 miles away from our families in Tennessee. We had just bought our first house, and I wanted it to look special for Christmas, but my budget was very limited. Naturally, I looked outdoors for greenery to bring inside. And there I stopped, as I realized that there were no big magnolia trees in Michigan. No beautiful waxy leaves to arrange just so atop a mantelpiece or in a windowsill. I had spent all my life in the South, and Christmas just didn't seem like Christmas without magnolia leaves decking the halls.


My mother called, as she often did, and I lamented the lack of magnolia leaves. "Oh," she said. "I never thought about the fact that magnolias don't grow in Michigan."

"There are lots of magnolias here," I answered, "just not the evergreen kind. Not the grandiflora with the big beautiful leaves that I want."

"Too bad you can't pop down here for a few minutes," Mama mused. "Nancy (one of her best friends) has four huge trees right in her front yard."

"Wouldn't that be nice?" I answered. And the conversation drifted to other topics.

A few days later, the UPS truck stopped in front of our house. The man in brown walked to the door, bearing a huge box and wearing a puzzled expression. As I signed for the package, he shook his head and said, "I can't imagine what could be in this box. It weighs almost nothing."

Puzzled, I accepted the package from him. It was addressed to me, and it was from my mother. I eagerly tore it open to discover branch after branch of magnolia, each stem carefully wrapped in damp paper towels and encased in plastic bags. As fresh as if they'd just been cut. Mama had visited Nancy and collected magnolia cuttings, then boxed them up and sent them to me.


It's now been many years since my mother died.  I am grateful that I moved back to the South before she went to be with the Lord. I was there when she passed from this life.

I can collect my own magnolia leaves now. But every time I do, I can't help but remember the time that my mother understood that my soul needed a bit of home. And since I couldn't get it for myself, she had it delivered. Via God and UPS.

Gratefully shared with  Tuesdays Unwrapped with Emily and

61 comments:

  1. Richella. Any words I write will be entirely too small. Simply, thank you for this beautiful memory. You know that I'm crying, but I'm sure that comes as no surprise anymore.

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  2. Richella, that was just absolutely beautiful. I teared up beginning with the UPS man (you had me at the UPS man), and now I sit quietly, thinking about your memory of your precious mother. Thank you.

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  3. Oh girl...I am a big bawl baby. And this sweet story got me. What sweet memories of a loving mother! Thank you for touching my heart today.

    Love you
    ~Amanda

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  4. What a lovely memory of your mom. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. What a precious, precious story you shared.....big crocodile tears, here, too. Thanks for sharing.

    Suzanne

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  6. Oh what a special and touching memory of your Mother. She must have been such a special person, so loving and caring and understanding. I love your magnolia leaves, they are beautiful. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory. Hugs, Marty

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  7. Richella, this post is so precious and it made me cry....my mother passed away four years ago, and Christmas was always a special time for the two of us...I miss her beyond words!

    Beautiful, beautiful memories....

    Lou Cinda

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  8. That's something my Dad would have done...he's been with the Lord 5 1/2 years now. Thank you very much for sharing such sweet memories. Loving Christian parents are surely a blessing without equal.

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  9. What a wonderful memory. And what a wonderful mother.

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  10. Oh, Richella, this is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read. Thank you so much for sharing this sweet memory of your mom. I'll never look at magnolias the same again.

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  11. I'm back again. Your post prompted me to write an email to my mom telling her how much I love and appreciate her. I just sent it to her at work. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate the people I love and to let them know it.

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  12. Richella, what a wonderful story about your mom. My dad passed away on December 6th, seven years ago, and I have so many wonderful memories of him at this time of year. It's one of the things that I love about holidays--they force memories of warmth and goodness on you, even if you don't realize it. Thank you for sharing with us!

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  13. what a delightful story that also had me teared up...but then I tear up at a lot of stories during the holidays. What a wonderful memory, and one that will always be easy to recall...happy decorating

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  14. Beautiful story! How wonderful that you have this special memory of your Mother!

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  15. What a beautiful story! I love it!

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  16. Very touching!
    What a great mom to do that for you so you will have memories to cherish for a lifetime!

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  17. Tears. Stunned, silenced , changed heart , tears.
    I'm going to hold this with me forever.

    I love you for sharing.
    May I remember to be that kind of mother .
    I lament so much about my not having it, and yet am I truly getting it right. This was the most beautiful and convicting thing I've read this season.

    And I buy imported magnolia leaves, there certainly is just something about them. More than poinsettias and other things.

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  18. Now that I can see again, (wiping another tear from my eye) I just wanted to say thank you. That was a beautiful story. I think I will go call my mommy now... Thanks Karyn

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  19. Thank you. Aren't mothers sweet like that? I'm sorry yours is only a memory, but glad you have it.

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  20. What a beautiful memory...thank you for sharing it with us!

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  21. Richella,
    I am amazed once again at how much we have in common! My mother decorated with magnolia leaves every year at Christmas too. Every year she would say, "Traci, you need to plant a magnolia tree in your yard so you can have it for Christmas decorating." I can't remember a Christmas growing up without magnolias in our house. When mom passed away, I got some money from the people I work with, and I am saving it to buy a magnolia tree in the spring, and will plant it in mom's honor. Some people at my sister's church gave her a gift certificate to a nursery so she could get one too. I cried when I read that your mom sent those magnolia leaves to you. That is EXACTLY, and I mean EXACTLY, what my mom would do. I think that my mom and your mom have certainly met up in heaven because they are such kindred spirits. How precious for her to send those to you! There is nothing like a mother's love, is there? I hope to be that kind of mom. Thank you for sharing such a precious memory with us.
    God bless you, friend!
    Traci

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  22. My grandma MADE the holidays. I mean, she absolutely MADE them. And she made them all year round. But every Christmas, even though she's been gone for nearly years, we cherish our memories of her and all that she did. It sounds like your mom was incredibly loving woman and wonderful mother. I only hope I can leave a legacy as lasting.

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  23. I too am a southern girl and collect magnolia leaves in a sweet older lady's yard every year. They are a wonderful way to decorate for Christmas.

    What a special memory of your mom sending you those leaves so many years ago. You will always remember that whenever you look at a magnolia tree.

    Blessings
    Judy

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  24. That is the most beautiful story, Richella! I too grew up in the South with magnolias and I even used them in my wedding. (And I spent 2 years as a newlywed In Michigan, far away from family. It was a barren and lonely time for me.) What an amazing gift and a perfect "Tuesday story." In my opinion, you must be a lot like your mom. Thank you for sharing such a precious memory.

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  25. How beautiful Richella!
    Moms are sacred in my book!
    God Bless you and your family!
    Merry Christmas

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  26. Hi Richella,

    You stopped by my blog and commented and I couldn't email you back for some reason. Thanks for stopping by. I can't wait to read your blog. Looks like you love to decorate like me and we both love the same blogs. I put you on my RSS feed and will be doing some reading tonight:)

    Melanie

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  27. What a beautiful sentiment and made my day. Being from the south and having moved across the Miss. I can appreciate missing magnolias, but the story of what your mom gave to you is priceless.

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  28. What a sweet Mom--I'm sure you miss her dearly.

    I always enjoy your blog so much. I could just get lost in it all.

    Read all the way down to your son cooking Thanksgiving this year-wow.
    how wonderful that he is doing so well.
    Cheri

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  29. Living down south we have many of those beautiful green trees. I love your Christmas story...thanks for sharing!

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  30. Wow. This is such a beautiful, touching story and you've told it so eloquently. Thank you.

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  31. Such a beautiful memory. I didn't plan to cry this early in the morning.

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  32. Oy. I don't even know what to say. I'm all teared up. What a sweet, sweet memory.

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  33. Richella-so glad that emily pointed us to your post, as I am not at all caught up on reading the unwrapped posts...

    This was so beautiful. You must miss your dear mom more at the holidays..how wonderful that those branches are a way to remember and honor her sweet spirit.

    Thanks for the post--I called my mom. :0)

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  34. As someone who lost her mom as well - I so exactly know what you mean about how those memories are like treasure, discovered unexpected. Just like leaves in a UPS box. What a beautiful one. Thanks for sharing it.

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  35. What a precious memory. I can imagine, being a Southern girl myself, how much that meant to you, and still means to you, all these years later.

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  36. packing up a box of leaves... for someone i love... that is something i would do. but it is something i would never expect to be done for me... not sure why that is! but i can imagine your mom... getting off the phone with you... and i can imagine you opening that box and falling into a heap of tears. love is so big... reaching in and bringing you back to a moment in time. bringing you back to a sweet memroy of your mom... i love these bits and pieces of your heart, my friend...

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  37. Beautiful! You are very blessed to have had such an incredible mother.

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  38. It's been 11 years this past Oct since my dad died, and memories are the best thing at this time of year. I never want to feel sad but want to cherish every memory of him. He loved Christmas time with his family. Loved reading your post.

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  39. What a beautiful story. I can't seem to keep my eyes dry!
    Grace and Peace and a very Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  40. What a beautiful and touching story. Tears in my eyes! How SWEET of your mom! What a wonderful wonderful memory. And a tradition to pass along to your children.

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  41. Absolutely beautiful. Popped in from reading Chatting at the Sky and saw this was her favorite. Now I see why. I will be bookmarking your blog. Thank you.

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  42. Oh, Richella, this brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful story! And what a lovely way to remember your mother.

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  43. What a sweet and memorable gift! Thanks for this reminder to look for interesting ways to make a difference in others' lives...

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  44. Thanks so much for sharing that sweet story! Such a precious memory!

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  45. Beautiful post, Richella. I can relate to wanting some of those sweet, seemingly simple reminders of home. I live in Hawaii, and while I absolutely love Christmas here as much as anywhere, I miss having some of the Christmas "familiarities" of the mainland. For me, Christmas lights on palm trees take some getting used to! :)

    What a blessing your mother was to you, and you must have been to her. This story prompts me to call my mom and tell her I love her. Thanks for the sweet reminder.

    Merry Christmas!

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  46. Goodness, I just read another story that makes you cry on another blog...simple things of a mother's love - Wow !
    Thanks for sharing !
    Kammy

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  47. That's a really lovely memory. Thank you for sharing.

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  48. What a precious memory. Thanks for sharing!

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  49. Strange how memories can rush into your heart and bring sweet tears. Before I got to the UPS guy part I just "knew" you were gonna get some branches with those lush green leaves! I still miss her and southern Christmas's but always try to bring that wonderful homey hospitality with a touch of elegance everywhere we have lived. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  50. What a beautiful story. Thanks so much for sharing. Enjoy the holidays.

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  51. What a wonderful, touching memory! You brought me to tears! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  52. So, so precious. I am just recovering from the tears that flowed as I read this. (I think you have book in you, begging to come out.)

    I, not being from the south, had never thought of decorating with magnolia leaves. We have magnolia trees lining the 1-block entrance to our subdivision.... I wonder if anyone would miss any leaves if I "borrowed" them? Blessings!!

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  53. I'm the hundredth person in tears at this post. Bless you, because I needed this today!

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  54. I love your blog. I found you through the blog party house tour and felt a connection to you as soon as I opened your blog. I love this post, it took me back to favorite memories of my Mom and what a blessing it was to have the best Mom in the whole world.

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  55. What a truly wonderful Christmas story! Thank you for sharing a little piece of your heart with the rest of us here in cyberland.

    I lost my grandmother several years ago on December 23rd, and since then, Christmas holds special memories for me. I think about those moments we shared during the years and I'm grateful for the time we had and the laughter we shared.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

    Prayers and blessings,
    Rebecca

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  56. Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

    Such a beautiful story. There's nothing quite like knowing our moms are thinking of us!

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  57. I know this is my second comment, and I remember reading this post back in December...precious memories indeed!

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  58. I recently just found your blog and I have so much enjoyed reading it. I have just read, "Unwrapping a memory". Just wanted you to know how much this touch my heart. I lost my mom ten years ago. This morning as I was standing in line at Walmart I was thinking how much I missed her.
    Blessings from NC.
    Joanie

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