Happy Holidays…?…!

December 20th, 2012 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

My Mother’s Christmas

Christmas Tree Soft, Rough Rock, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 David Leland Hyde.

First A Preview And Review

Been a challenging year. Lost two out of three uncles. Relationship ups and down. Business reinvention. Stalled remodeling. Derailed writing projects. Trying to do too much with too little resources. My own photography is saving me, helping to keep me fit, serving as an outlet. Made some breakthroughs in other areas too. Retreading, retreating, retrofitting, reorganizing, organizing, and self-re-recognizing.

Wears me out just to think about this year. A year dominated by Pluto, the god of death and transformation. God of power struggles, the underworld, the subconscious, money, power, sex, transcendence, inner demons, destruction, devastation, hope, oil, gasoline, water, floods, hurricanes, nuclear accidents, secrets, lies, deception, corruption, realization, inspiration.

All that is now in the past. Coming into this moment: the smell of Douglas fir needles and the fresh cut trunk of the new Christmas tree. Colored points of light reflecting off the black windows at night. Smelling black oak and ponderosa pine smoke from the fire blazing in the woodstove. Walking carefully outside, everything sparkles, covered with tiny crystals of ice.

I am teetering on the razor edge of the present and then slipping back into the past, a farther past. Christmas has not been the same since 2002 when my mother passed on. Gazing into the Christmas tree, I am transported back to memories of turkey, dressing, pies, big salads, presents all around the room. Christmas carols and bells jingling. A poem I wrote in 2005 can best bridge the gap from here to there. It was a poem about how my mother used to make Christmas…

My Mother’s Christmas

By David Leland Hyde
Written March 12, 2005

On the ground in East Quincy I found a palm-sized Christmas stocking labeled Mom.
I picked it up and began to spin back through my days.
I fell like piles of sand through an hourglass.
I heard the music of “Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city,”
My mother sang and played piano.
It was Christmas time in the country.
Her voice a melody of tinkling glass.
The turkey in the oven,
Pumpkin pie spice floated from the kitchen.
Sparkling eyes,
Eyes so wise, knowing why.

Her mother, my grandma, grew up on a ranch,
One of four sisters with all that work.
The stuffing, a recipe handed down.
My mother never slowed down,
“Work, we must work, work, work.”
Only on Christmas breaking the spell with Carols.
Always with me through the night:
Her singing, “It’s Christmas time in the city.”
At midnight, I sneak out to see if Santa has come yet.
In the morning I play with a stuffed tiger around the tree.
My dad sets up for a picture of the three of us.

The stocking has a snowflake on the toe that looks like a star.
It brings me my mother, guiding me.
When she was alive I took her for granted.
She smoothed my way and held life together.
Now she is a benevolent force floating in the stars.
Holding a larger home.
“Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Christmas time in the city.”

Do you have any special childhood memories of Christmas or another holiday you celebrate?

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23 comments

  1. pj says:

    Ahhh… those Christmas memories from childhood. Luckily I can still remember back that far…

    Very nice post. Things do change over the years, don’t they? I’ve gone from being the youngster who is beside himself from excitement to being the elder of my tribe, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Very rewarding. Have a great Christmas David.

  2. PJ, you are the elder mainly because of your wisdom. I can’t tell how old you are online, so you might not want to give it away, unless you’re OK with aging gracefully. I’m not necessarily. I will not go easily into that good night. I hope it’s a long time before people start referring to me as the elder of my tribe, though I certainly am the last of this branch of the Hydes so far.

  3. pj says:

    Thanks David. I’m fine with aging, gracefully or not. It’s not like I really have a choice in the matter… except in my own mind of course. There’s a difference between aging and getting old.

  4. That’s a good way to look at it, PJ. There are many practices and methods for extending life too.

  5. Oh yes! This is really a good story and love the poem. I too have been reflecting back on the past Christmas seasons. I relate to this sentence, “My own photography is saving me, helping to keep me fit, serving as an outlet.” May you have a Merry Christmas!

  6. Merry Christmas, Monte. I’ve enjoyed the thoughtful interaction with you this year and others. I look forward to more in 2013. The Mayan Calendar is really starting over, as you may know. It is not ending.

  7. Jim says:

    Hello David,

    A very poignant post. This is definitely the time of year, with major holidays and the year’s end so close, that people tend to become retrospective. I will concur with you that 2012 was a rough year, and to be frank, the last few years have been pretty brutal for a variety of reasons. I can definitely relate with your statement, “Trying to do too much with too little resources.” You, as the idiom states, have hit the nail on the head.

    The new year is nearly upon us and, as with every new year, I feel some (possibly misplaced) sense of optimism. But even if we continue to struggle, the only real defeat is quitting, right? Although, in reference to your comment above about the Mayan calendar, there have been days this past year where, if the 21st was actually going to be the “last” day, I think I’d be okay with it. :P

    Thanks for all your posts over the past year. I find them inspiring and they always give me something to think about. Speaking of inspiration, I came across one of your father’s books at a used book sale at our local library. “Drylands” is the title, and I’ve been absorbing that book for the past few days. It makes me want to take up my camera and get out on the road again, and to me, that is the mark of a categorically successful book of photography.

    I hope you have a pleasant holiday season, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts throughout the new year.

  8. Hi Jim, Thank you for reading. I am grateful for your intriguing comments this year. Interesting what you say about it also being a difficult year for you. Many have echoed your sentiments. I certainly have had my moments when I would echo what you say about the Solstice being the last day of the world. However, the R.E.M. song may be more accurate, though I’m not sure I feel exactly “fine,” just still here and still on a mission, which helps me get beyond my own comfort and happiness or lack thereof. Glad you found a good copy of Drylands. It is a soulful and inspiring book to many. Too bad the library was getting rid of it. I look forward to more discussions with you. Maybe I’ll get going on Google+ this year and see you more there. Best of the season to you. I hope it is a satisfying respite to the rest of the madness and does not add to the madness. Don’t let the bastions get you down.

  9. Merry Christmas David. Congrats on two things… One, you survived another year. Two, for finding yourself saved by your photography!

    Hope 2013 is a benchmark year.

  10. Thanks Derrick. Merry Christmas to you too. If 2013 isn’t a banner benchmark year, I’m in trouble. I have a number of plans to make it one. Besides, if just half of the projects pan out that I started in 2012 that haven’t come together due to delays, I will do just fine. The main thing is that the work continues to get wider exposure, despite my personal mishaps.

  11. Mark says:

    Beautiful poem David. My mother is a poet, although she doesn’t write much anymore. Life I think ultimately got in the way and took away that solace of hers I think. Maybe it will return again someday, the way many of us depart and return to photography.

    I don’t have very many pleasant memories from this time of year – it was always filled with a bit of turmoil when I was a kid, and by the time I was old enough, it had just lost its appeal.

    I am only starting again to try to appreciate the time I do like to spend with family, even if the commercialism and fuss over this holiday still seem to dominate my thoughts.

    I wish you the best, and the brightest opportunities in the new year.

  12. Hi Mark, Thank you for the well wishes. I also wish you the best in 2013. I hope your holidays are enjoyable with your family this year. Seems like Christmas and other holidays have the meaning we bring to them based on our experiences, especially during childhood. Sad to hear yours was not so great back then, but it sounds like they are better now. Harder in some ways to go the other direction, depending on how extreme in either case. At least we made it through the end of the world. Someone just said that it really ended last night at midnight. Today is the Mayan New Year and a new start of the long count calendar, I believe. Anyway, I feel fine…

  13. A lovely and poignant post David. Your poem is an eloquent expression of the seasonal memory of your mother.
    This time of the year always brings fond memories of loved ones and good times past. Having been raised Jewish, I have only a few years’ foundation for Christmas memories with my wife’s family. Now with my mother-in-law passed on we are back to quiet Christmas days spent together, just the two of us….well, three of us counting Murphy.
    You had a very tumultuous year with many challenges. Here’s to a much less challenging year, fewer adversities and more cheer. And “graceful aging”. :-)

  14. Hi Steve, thank you for the compliments. Yeah, I need to work on the graceful aging. I suppose I could be more graceful about everything. Probably too much resistance and barreling straight ahead. I find flexibility is the key to making these transitions. My condolences on your loss. Do you still celebrate Hanukkah too?

  15. Not really David. I am not a follower of any religion. If not for my wife I would only celebrate Spring and Autumn. :-)

  16. Hey Steve, I understand that. Spring and Fall are what those of us who follow the religion of photography celebrate. I’m not sure if you read my blog post where Minor White said Art is one of the faiths of the world: http://landscapephotographyblogger.com/minor-white-letters-1/

    I find faith interesting, not just in the religious sense, but in all senses including spiritual and just mundane confidence in the unseen without scientific proof. I have also studied many of the religions of the world, but I have noticed that religion is man made. If you don’t practice any other faith besides photography, I don’t judge you. I was just saying on Twitter that I celebrate Christmas because I am a Christian-Buddhist-Pagan-Druid. My philosophy probably encompasses other religions too.

    I’m sure plenty of radical fundamentalists will judge me, even though I believe in the same God, Great Spirit, Unified Field, All That Is, whatever you want to call it. I’m sure the fundamentalists would say they own a different God. After all, their God throws tantrums, takes revenge, launches fire bombs at people, causes them to suffer in floods, famine and otherwise kills them off when they don’t give him the attention he demands. Then of course he blames them and sends them to burn in hell for all eternity, or at least until the next end of the world.

  17. I guess I missed that posting David. So it seems one might assume Minor White to be your godfather. :-)
    I try not to get into religion or politics for the most part (either just makes me crazy and I prefer sanity) so I will not add anything but to say that I pretty much agree with your statements. I’d say that my philosophy is resemblant of some religions but party to none but my inner-self. :-)

  18. I sure appreciate these return visits and comments, Steve. One could do worse than to have Minor White as a Godfather, but I don’t officially have a Godfather, per se. I too feel that the inner self is the best guide to matters metaphysical. Many people read the Bible, Koran, or a lot of new age books and fill their minds with a lot of knowledge and wisdom surely, but this does not necessarily contribute to personal growth or inner peace. The answers are within inside the silence. Besides, many of us who photograph nature have often experienced God more in the quiet or natural tumult of nature, than the edifices constructed by the mind, either physical or mental. Also, I find that many people tend to believe what an authority says that another authority said that somebody edited that somebody re-copied that someone else wrote down 70-100 years after Jesus said it 2,000 years ago. People believe this over their own direct experience. Same goes for the writings of other prophets. Scholars have discovered that some of it was most likely actually said, more of it was made up by the middle MEN along the way.

  19. That is a beautiful poem David – wonderful post! I hope next year is far better for you!

  20. Thanks a lot, Ron. As I said over on your blog, I wish you prosperity and happiness in the new year as well.

  21. Greg Russell says:

    Hi, David. I read and re-read this poem several times before the holidays; I thought I had commented, but I guess not. Maybe 2013 will be the year I get my memory back. :-)

    Anyway, it’s a beautiful poem and a wonderful sentiment towards your mother. While I am wonderful friends with my dad, and my goal in life is to be half the father he is, I’ve always been very close to my mom…Christmas would be very different without her.

    Looking forward to 2013, David…I hope you are having a wonderful new year; thank you for your friendship and I am grateful to have you as a colleague as well.

  22. Greg, I appreciate you reading the poem and for sharing how your own parents impact Christmas for you. Funny how some of those old memories are as clear as day, but I too have problems recalling with more recent events. As I’ve said before in various ways, I am grateful for the long distance association we have developed. It looks to be an exciting 2013. Hope yours is stellar. You deserve it.

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