This is the season to give, but I think it's also a good time to forgive.
I've been thinking about my mother lately. Her birthday is the 12th of this month. She would have been 87.
Long before I became Catholic, I went to a psychologist to help me sort out my life. Probably the best advice he gave me about my mother was this: "Think about one positive thing you can remember about her and hang onto that."
I'm not sure if this was for my birthday or Christmas, but my mother took me downtown to Marshall Field's. My mother didn't shop at Field's. It was too expensive, but we went down there to get my Shirley Temple doll.
I remember being awestruck by that store! It looked HUMONGOUS to a six-year-old. Back then, their toy department was any kid's dream even though it was considered "high-end" and out of reach for a working class family like ours.
I remember being at the counter with my mother and staring at the different sized Shirley Temple dolls. Of course, I wanted the largest, and the most expensive, but my mother said no and I got the 15 inch sized doll.
I was a big fan of Shirley Temple and that doll was probably the nicest thing I can think of that my mother did for me.
Thinking about that the other day brought up a question: Do I have any other good memories of my mother? This wasn't easy, but I came up with three:
My mother had an extraordinary laugh.
My mother had a special fondness for "middle children." She felt they were often neglected, so she would zone in on that child and pay attention to them whether it was to teach them a card game or just spend time talking to them.
I think I was in the 5th grade and I was chosen to read an essay about Walt Disney for a competition. Smack in the middle of my presentation, I went blank. After what seemed like an eternity, someone asked if anyone could prompt me. They did and I finished.
I was badly shaken, but on the way home, my mother was surprisingly compassionate. When we got there she made me chocolate pudding. In the middle of the day!
On the negative side, my mother rarely laughed and I would stare in disbelief at her when she paid attention to any kid, because she rarely paid attention to me unless she was screaming at me.
Faith has given me a layering of forgiveness toward my mother. I don't fully forgive her, but I'm a work in progress and I do look forward to the day when I can honestly, and completely forgive her. It's a gift I can give myself any season of the year.
Until then, I hang on to Shirley.