I called her to let her know we were driving to her place in Illinois. I told her we were bringing her presents to her and she didn’t have to do anything special; we would be staying in a hotel close by and we would work around her schedule. She seemed excited and glad that we were coming by but oddly detached. Whatever. I was irritated at this point.
Every year, I tried to do Christmas the way I thought would make her happy. She had certain expectations and if I didn’t meet those expectations her face showed it. I did everything I could to not have her look at me like I was a disappointment. I decorated the way she liked and, for the most part, I made the food the way she liked it - I was a little passive-aggressive with the mashed potatoes; I still am - if they’re slightly lumpy you can call it “artisan” and get away with it. I took her to the stores she wanted to visit, and if there was a Christmas show downtown I got tickets. I made sure she had her favorite cereal, shampoo and toiletries at my house so she didn’t have to pack them. I know that the hoops I jumped through were mostly self-imposed but, even as an adult, I wanted her approval.
We had told her when we would be arriving; we could be accurate down to the minute thanks to a nifty thing called navigation. She called several times even though I called her when we left and I told her that I would call her every 2 hours as well as when we were 1 hour out from getting there. One of her friends called to ask when we would be arriving because mom had told her she didn’t know. Weird. All the calls were over Bluetooth so Bill heard them, too. He looked over at me a few times and I could swear I saw sadness; this from a man who tolerated my mother for my benefit, no love lost between either one of them. Here I was, irritated with her for making us do this, and he was looking concerned.
He reached over and grabbed my hand and that’s when I started to cry. I don’t think I let go of him until we finally got to mom’s.