Cottage Cheese: My Favorite Christmas Memory

People go to Tybee Island and stay in a vintage cottage from Mermaid Cottages for many reasons.  For me, it’s about the memories that come back to me every time I walk through a cottage, touching the walls, smelling the different kinds of woods used throughout the house, the vintage photographs, old books, quilts and the knick knacks peeking out at me in each room.  Each experience helps me to lighen up and remember that I once was just a kid.

Although there were five chidren in all, my older sister, a younger brother and I were all about three years apart.  My oldest brother had been raised pretty much by himsef and my youngest brother, too.  “Lucky dogs”, I used to think.

We three siblings in the middle were close in ages, but we didn’t really play together all that often.  My sister was older, bigger, stronger and meaner (Love ya, sis!).  I either had to play her way or get whomped.  My younger brother never quite mastered the art of getting away with mischief.  His handiwork was all over whatever calamity and destruction he created, so he stayed in trouble alot…and got whomped by my parents (I told ya you’d get it, bro).  Thus explains my solo wanderings and escapades into imaginary worlds where my shenanigans were limited only by the number of hours in a day.  That and my slight curiosity with nudity. Well…Okay.  My non-stop obsession with being free as the wind.

I’d go in the opposite direction from each of them and off in the distance I could be heard, “WHOOPEE!” which meant I was out of my mother’s eyesight and the clothes would come off.  I don’t guess it would have been too big an issue, except for the fact that I usually could not find my clothes when it came time to head back home.  I’d have to hide out in the yard and try to sneak back in the house past my mom.  On the rare occasions when I could beat my siblings in the house without them exclaiming, “He’s naked as a jaybird again!”,  my mother’s extra set of eyes in the back of her head radar would spot me and I’d soon be reminded of how clothes could be of some use…especially when I’d get switched on my bare bottom for leaving my clothes scattered throughout the woods…yet again.

 “Boy! What. am. I. gonna. do. with. you? How. many. times. have. I. got. to. tell. you. ’bout. running. naked. like. you’re. some. kind. of. wild. animal! Huh? Answer me… ,” My mom gave me one whack for every word.

Christmas. Parents, you should know. No matter how much you’d like for your children to stay little and believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and all things children should believe in, there are always other kids in school that take great pleasure in spilling the beans.  Life can be hard. The truth, sometimes brutal.

However, my mother would have none of that.  She made it very clear.  “If ya’ll want to listen to those other kids and not believe in Santa Claus just let me know and I’ll tell him not to come,”  Nothing doin’ on my part.  “I believe, Mama. I’ll be good.”

Yet, my mother was a master at creating the most wonderful Christmas mornings a kid could ever have. She somehow always managed to surprise us with the most wonerful toys. Holidays, traditions, religion, and family were here domain.  She could not be outdone or outsmarted.  She who reigned supreme.

I guess that’s why as an adult I worked so hard to make my mother’s last Christmas holidays something special for her.

The last Christmas with Mom, I went all out and showered her with everything I thought she would like.  She got clothes, gardening tools, furniture and other things for her house.  I had even hidden cash and gift cards throughout her gifts and she squealed with delight while opening each package. I got her good.  I had bested the Supreme Creator of all special occasions.

Within minutes the tears started flowing.  I was confused, “Mom!  What’s the matter?”  She said, “I don’t know how to say ‘Thank You’ for all of this.  There’s so much I can’t see it all at once!  Just as quickly she added, “I hope you children can forgive me.”  Now, one thing I know for sure.  My mother never failed at being a mom.  I can never remember one single time that I ever had been disappointed by my mother.
She said she wanted to tell me about a Chrismas long ago.  One year, when my siblings and I were very small my mother was bedridden with the flu.  She was so sick she could not get out of bed.  Each day, she begged my father to make the time to get the things on the Christmas list she had prepared.  Each day, my dad would say, “I’m too busy.  I’ll get to it tomorrow.”  He eventually told her, “They’re just little kids.  What’s the difference?  They’ll never know.”  My mother replied, “Yes, they’re little. They may not remember what toys they get or how much money was spent, but my children will always know they are loved.  You’ll know and I’ll know whether we’ve done right by our children.”

On Christmas Eve, in desperation, my mother got out of her sick bed, dressed as best she could and set out for town.  The only thing open was a little discount store.  Everything had already been picked over and there was certainly nothing there that was on her carefully and thoughtfully prepared list.  Yet, she gathered and collected and paid for the pitiful plastic goods.        
“I hope you can forgive me, son.  Your father and I failed you children that Christmas.”  For the life of me I cannot remember any Christmas, birthday, Easter, school play, graduation or any moment in my life when I was disappointed.  I have nothing but the most incredible memories of my childhood.  My mother made everything special.  Most of all, I remember being loved…whether I deserved it or not.  My mother was Christmas every day of her life.
So, as it turns out my favorite Christmas memory is one that I can’t remember in particular, but it’s of a Christmas that showed me just how lucky I had been to grow up with my mom.  I always try to be thankful for my mother’s teachings.  That she loved me enough to make sure I would be a good person.  That she loved me enough to let me be a child as long as possble. That she loved me enough I now realize I should enjoy those memories and not be sad.
So, if you’re strolling along the streets of Tybee and hear somewhere off in the distance, “WHOOPEE!” , just remember.  “Don’t look, Ethel!”

Have a Very, Merry Christmas, ya’ll!
It’s about doing right because you love and because you’ve been loved.  It’s the importance of knowing you’ve done good unto others.  It’s time to celebrate the good memories.  It’s Cottage Cheese!