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.