My mother passed away nine years ago on November 30th at 3:07 pm. I am in the kitchen this morning. We are getting ready for the day. My mother’s collection of snowmen are on display. The kids are near ecstatic because their “elf on a sheft” aka “Elfy” came last night even though it’s not officially December 1st. I do everything in my power to whip them into an even greater holiday frenzy because their joy brings me joy so I am also playing holiday songs and defusing “holiday joy.”
As I pour my coffee “Mary’s Boy Child” begins to play — a Christmas hymm set to a Jamaican beat that my mother used to love. I can see her doing that goofy dance she’d break into whenever it came on. And I am suddenly overtaken by a familiar sadness and grief. For a moment I stand there paralyzed, my back to my children, clutching my coffee, remembering. Remembering her, wishing for her and my heart breaks once again because they never got to meet her.
“I’m going to tell my teacher that Elfy came today!” My six year old says to me, her eyes are wide and she is so clearly thrilled.
And just like that I am giddy. And grateful for the snowmen and my mother’s goofy dance and the Christmas legacy she left behind.
Today I am thinking about “wabisabi,” the idea that beauty comes not from perfection but from the opposite:
The chip in my mother’s favorite vase, inherited after she passed.
The missing teeth in my six year old’s smile.
The lines solidifying around my mouth, proof of forty-three years of joy, sadness, fear, self-doubt, celebration…
It’s the idea that true beauty is what’s real. It comes not from the new, shiny thing we were able to acquire but from the relationships we’ve developed over time and the story that each object, person and place has to tell. It is the beauty of our losses, our imperfections, our vulnerability.
And it is, to me, the permission to be at peace, even joyful, in the times when things are not perfect.