It seems unfathomable that ten years have passed without telling about the gift that made such a difference in the year I lost my mother. I must have made mention of it in some piece, but I cannot place it, and certainly it deserves its own work of attention, especially at the tenth anniversary.
That December I lived in a big drafty house atop a hill with a view of distant mountains, open to winds and the long dark nights of a New England winter. It was the following year that I would have pneumonia; but it was this year that I clearly recall the chill–inside.
Of my seven siblings, only one lived nearby, while the others were strewn across the country from California to Florida to New Jersey. In the vacuum of loss, the separation was excruciating. Despite the presence of my newborn son, the anguish of missing my mother overtook me as I approached her Christmas birthday.
Michelle sent us each a glass globes with painted angels, nestled in felt boxes; and I mailed out collections of music to soothe our souls; but it was the gift that came from Josie that made all the difference.
Josie didn’t know my mother, and she hardly knew me. In fact, she was the bosom buddy of my stepmother who now had little to do with the 6 difficult daughters she inherited from my parents divorce–let alone the extraneous brother and sister who sprung from my mother’s “affair” and her second marriage.
There was hardly a time when we were all under one roof–it wasn’t tolerated–until the morning of my mother’s funeral. Then all allegiances were set aside and the 8 of us became one. To hell with step-parents and divorce and half-status siblings, we were all Bonnie’s children.
That Christmas, Josie sent gifts to each of our children, especially the new baby. I received a clothes line fashioned out of garland, lit up by lights, and adorned with outfits, and onesies, and blankets, and socks, and tiny bears of different colors.
But it was the set of candles and the brass candle snuffer, adorned with dangling glass beads, tucked into a crimson bag of satin that deeply touched my soul. For I discovered that Josie had sent these to each of Bonnie’s children… like my mother would have done.
I watch the smoke spiral out of the brass cap in the hand of my baby who is now ten, begging for the pleasure of extinguishing each candle–in an act that rekindles the exquisite blessing of Josie’s Gift.
Kelly Salasin, December 2010