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Keep Calm and Carry on This Christmas

Bright cherry red “Keep Calm and Carry On” pillows and coffee mugs stand out amongst all the other tchotchkes crowding the shelves at TJ Maxx this holiday season. I smile and laugh to myself and think of my beloved mother who passed away eight years ago today. She wasn’t British and she wasn’t stoic. In fact, she was quite the opposite. If a world war was about to break out, or if the basement flooded after a thunderstorm, my mom’s motto was to “Panic and Carry On” (the other meaning of the verb which is to behave badly).

She was never the voice of reason when hearing sad news. I can still remember her, after answering¬† a phone call that brought her bad news, screaming loudly “Oh my God, cousin ____(fill in the blank with any old neighborhood nickname such as Petey, Chichi or Giggles), died??” She didn’t like unexpected visitors – especially creatures. One morning at breakfast, a tiny mouse scampered across the kitchen floor. My mom jumped onto the kitchen table and yelled “A mouse! A mouse!”

She took great pride in maintaining a neat house. So she wasn’t happy one Christmas morning circa 1969. Two hours after unwrapping our gifts, we huddled on my brother’s bed to try out his new Spiro-matic. It was a turntable that rotated paper while you squirted bottles of paint onto to it to create a multicolored picture. We must have turned up the dial a little too high because after a few turns, the paint spattered all over the bedspread, the wall and the dresser. When my mom came in to check on us and saw the colorful mess, she screeched “NOOOOOO”, lunged toward the bed, snatched up the Spiro-matic and each one of the paint bottles and stormed out of the room. It was never to be seen again.

Serenity never was my mother’s strong suit, but luckily for my siblings and me she was generous, loving and funny.¬† She passed away at 82 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. On the day of her viewing, an ice storm arrived, but numerous family and friends braved the harsh weather to pay their respects and recall their moments with her.

That Christmas, hard as it was, we kept calm and carried on our family tradition of having everyone over for a big Italian dinner, exchanging gifts and sharing stories.

This year, if you find yourself amid stress and sadness, may you and your family find the strength to keep calm and carry on your most meaningful traditions of the holiday season.

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Phone: 215-543-9339