Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Gifts

Last evening at Christmas Eve dinner my two brothers and I tried to get our ninety-one-year old mother to reminisce about our childhood Christmases. She has a sound memory but she did not have much to say largely, I think, because she spent that time trying to make sure that her three boys had wonderful Christmases. My father had a modest salary but when we came down the stairs Santa Claus had always left an overwhelming array of gifts under the tree.

Later in the dinner, Ed and I started talking about the emotional side of our family. We were brought up rarely showing feelings. We are a classic WASP family and I've struggled all my life to overcome the emotional distance that is part of that heritage. It troubles me still and I asked Mother why she never hugged us or told us she loved us. She said she didn’t think that’s what being a good mother was about. It was showing your children you loved them by the way she brought us up. It was giving your children good values and staking them to whatever education they could attain.

Today we just got through opening our gifts and from her three sons, Mother received three gifts. I gave my mother one of the first copies of my new book, Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Beneath the Gates of Palm Beach. When my parents visited the island, I could tell my mother couldn’t stand it. She found it false and glittery, obsessed with money and status, and she was always glad to leave.

My brother Bob placed a big box in front of my mother containing the 2009 edition of Who’s Who in America. For the first time, it contains the names of all three of her sons, none of whom are there because they inherited position or wealth, and have achieved success in three different fields. I don’t know how unusual this is, but I suspect it is quite unusual.

Then my brother Ed gave my mother the best gift of all, a HP Digital Picture Frame which he had loaded with hundreds of carefully selected images of our family life. The technology has advanced amazingly and these are brilliant images flashing on the eight-inch screen one after another. Here were photos of our little white house in Vestal, New York, one of our bedrooms, my daughter’s wedding in Marin County, family reunions, outings, Ed’s daughters getting married, image after image, memory after memory.

When we were looking through our gifts, I noticed my mother had moved to the end of the sofa and was staring at the picture frame not a foot from the screen. Picture after picture went by, much of her life passing before her.

As I watched her, I thought, “Mother never has to tell me she loves me.”

1 comment:

Ben Dronsick said...

Laurence, I am not a "lifer" yet I am faithfully reading your fab blog.