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Backing up to begin the story of 2023

Sue BB


The year I became my mother

This post is the beginning of the year 2023 with roots in 2022. Some of you may have read this post as I planned on using it for my Christmas letter. Be warned, it's rather long.

Christmas 2022, I became my mother. It wasn’t planned. I’m not sure it was supposed to happen, but it did. It’s the way of the world. Eventually, one generation replaces the other.

It’s begins slowly. You go about your day with confidence forgetting to check the mirror before you leave the house. In my mind I am still 21 and looking foxy. That is until I pass by a large window with the sun behind me, and my reflection stares at me in unbelief.

“Who are you?”

“I am you.”

“No way. You look like my mother. My mother, my aunts — that’s who looks like that, but not me.”

"Look again."

It is the way. I might be shocked at how old I have become, but I feel blessed to be as healthy and productive as I am. In that respect I am totally my mom.

Mom has been gone for about six or seven years now. For some reason, 2022, the year my dad passed away has amplified my missing her. I'm missing both of them. I'm missing the way Christmas used to be.

Here are some Kaseman cousins: Dennis, Rickey, Brunella, Douglas, Debbie, Steve, and me.

Here comes Christmas. Things have been so very different. I’m not sure if it was the two weeks of winter weather holding things up, you know, mail delivery, packages from UPS and trips to the store with empty shelves, or something else. It was simply different.

I wondered why my mom started short-cutting things as she aged. Gifting money instead of stuff at Christmas, not putting up a tree or using frozen dough for dinner rolls at the big meals we enjoyed at their house.

My Christmas spirit got up and left. It began with stuff at my church of 30+ years. Then, what do you buy your children when they have jobs that net them more money than I could imagine earning in my lifetime. Sure, I could make them things, but they don’t even need that kind of stuff… stuff everywhere. I’m guilty of that also. It seems to me that the word “anticipation” has left Webster’s in the dust. Today’s youth wait for very few things with anticipation.

Since my “retirement” (and I use that word loosely) in April 2022, I have begun a purge. For the past 40 years I have walked over Christmas cards and letters bundled by year in plastic tubs stored in the “root cellar.” These pieces of paper and colored card stock are filled with memories, people I can’t remember, people I love and stay in touch with, and handwriting. Yes, cursive handwriting. Many children can’t read cursive anymore. We, JC and I, actually got into a convo with someone last Saturday about why he thinks cursive is not necessary with technology. I tend to disagree. In the future there will a specialized office with trained staff to decipher cursive handwritten documents found in abandoned basements like mine.

As I have been casually going through them, picking out a few items for a “second” review, I found artwork, letters, thank you notes and tons of photos of smiling children or families together for a Christmas photo. It was like my life was passing before my eyes as I watched my friends’ (Karen Benson McMahon) children grow up and have children of their own. I emptied one or two bins before life interrupted the progress.

There were boxes of beautiful German glass Christmas ornaments from my days living in the old Kelsch house in downtown Mandan. It was a house meant for Christmas. My tree, always real, reached to the wood-beamed ceiling. There was dated thick red carpet over hardwood floors and a real fireplace. I decorated my tree with vintage ornaments collected at rummage sales in the 80s, strung popcorn, glass blown icicles from someplace like Sundance and loads and loads of love.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have still have a tree. It’s from Lavonne’s Hallmark in Mandan, when Mandan had a Hallmark store. It is green, the color of the Grinch and looks like a Charlie Brown tree decorated with beaded spiders.

Christmas is not the same.

I thought, if I give these treasured Christmas decorations to my daughter, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law I might still enjoy them on their trees instead of in boxes as they have been for the past 15 years.

Then there's the multiple Christmas dinners my children have to attend. We celebrate with an early Christmas dinner, and rather than fuss with a turkey and all the trimmings, I served Salisbury steak, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and Jell-O mold, among other side dishes. It was a nice 50s-style meal.

We also had Christmas early to clear our calendar for the biggest event of the year, J.C.’s birthday. He’s not getting any younger.

NOT — it was more important we were available for the birth of a granddaughter, Audenia Mae Barnhard, sister to the Fabulous Miss Elle, on Dec. 30., by my daughter, Claire, and her new husband Jason. Now that’s a big event.

In April, we were expecting another grandchild, a yet-to-be-named boy, giving Lucy and Oliver a younger brother. He came a little early and was named Finley Hill making seven grandchildren.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to the 40-60 grandchildren (my cousins) we would see at Christmas time at my grandparent’s home.

WOW. Somehow I thought those days would never end, but they did, and my aunts and uncles are slowing moving to the “kingdom” so they can be together again — no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain. I told J.C. “We need to have some parties so we can see people outside of all the funerals we had this year — friends and family.”

Finally, there’s the Christmas card thing. I used to design a unique and personalized card ever year and write notes (not a long ones) in each one. That didn’t happen, not even close. Rather than order special cards, I thought I would send out the ones that I inherited from my father when we cleaned out his house for the last time (yes, we had about three or four or five go-arounds moving them from their house in Gackle, to Jamestown to the assisted living to nursing home and back again more than once).

I decided, "why waste a good card?" That’s my mother talking for sure.

Battling the snow and doing farmers markets well into December meant I was busy filling pfeffernusse cookie orders and making fingerless gloves. For some reason, I just can’t quit buying yarn and playing in my studio. I thought without a full-time job, I would be able to design my heart out. NOT. Somehow life gets in the way.

Therefore, if you did not receive a card from me, it’s because with the best of intentions. I wanted to take the time to write a note and handwrite an address on the envelope, at the same time, using of all the mismatched cards hiding in my closet, but I never got that far. I don’t know — blame it on the knitting machine, or recovering lampshades or shoveling snow. Or maybe Christmas 2022, I need some transitioning time to my new role as the “elder” of the family.

Being my mother means cutting back on dinners, scaled-back gifts to the children (not that my children complained about the sacks of money I distributed to a select few), hopefully fun and useful things to the grandchildren, downsizing and all the things that go with it.

Unlike my mother, who liked to stay home even more than myself, I went south the day my granddaughter was born. It’s not easy for me to be away from my house for an extended period of time, but I am getting better.

That trip, my friends, is the beginning of the story.

This is the longest post I have done in a long time. Rather than working on my Christian Apocalyptic love story, my Kaseman family history book or my other books circling my brain looking to get out of my brain, I had to empty my heart of its unnamed feelings about Christmas 2022. It’s a mixture of grief, loss, gain, family, memories and snow — lots and lots of snow.

BUT, as the Grinch's story goes, “He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. Somehow it came, it came just the same.”

Love to you all my friends and family. I feel better already even if its July and 90-degrees outdoors.


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