happy hollydays

Readers, meet my Mom.  Mom, meet my readers.  Her name is Holly (née Green).  You can imagine that Christmas is of particular importance to a woman who grew up as a little girl named Holly Green.

If you were to pass my mother on a sidewalk, here’s what you’d see:  a petite woman with elegant silver-white hair coiffed in a stylish bob.  What you might not recognize from looking at her is the college student who marched for civil rights and met Martin Luther King.  You might not glimpse the university senior who finally acquiesced to be set up on a blind date with my Dad one day in December and was married and volunteering in the Peace Corps by June.  You might not see the young mother who made us powered milk and had a living room that sat empty for seven years until they could afford to furnish it.  In short, she is a polite yet immovable force.

Especially at Christmas time.  Consider this vignette from a time when I was a little girl.  The family service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve was in direct conflict with the Christmas party thrown by my parents’ dear (Jewish) friends.  Holly was unwilling to give up either event.  From one year to the next, the church service was mysteriously shifted to begin an hour and a half earlier.  Plenty of time for Holly’s kids to be in the nativity pageant and then drive the dozen blocks to the Soule’s party.

How did she manage the great switcheroo?  It is a glimpse into her mastermind.  She can explain things in a way that makes everyone else in the room believe the idea is in their best interest and that they helped craft the solution, even though she was the force behind it all.  As my brother-in-law Doug said at our wedding “General Schwarzkopf has nothing on Holly”.

Another one of her gifts is the ability to take an ordinary experience and transform it into a symbolic gesture that deeply emotionally resonates.  As my brothers and I like to joke- Christmas isn’t over until she’s made somebody cry.  In a good way.  So if you get a gift accompanied by a typed letter with a purple ink signature at the bottom?  Fugetaboutit.  You’ll be reduced to a puddle by the end of the first paragraph.  {Remind me sometime to tell you the story of the framed bell and the quote from The Polar Express.  But bring your Kleenex – I recommend the Costco-sized package}.

I’ve learned a long list of lessons from my Mom over the years — how to:  sort laundry;  view life;  buy children’s shoes half a size too big;  look for the best in everyone, even when they can’t see it themselves;  sew a straight line;  see the world as a village; believe in effort and redemption.  I may not have learned to cook, but I learned the recipe for humanity.

So this Christmas as I reflect back on the Eve’s of my childhood, I wonder.  Why did she feel so compelled to have the service changed?  We could have easily slipped out a side door after communion.  Why stay?  I suspect it is this.  Because to her, the end mattered most of all.  When all is said and done in the service– after the greeting, the readings, the sermon;  after the prayers, the benediction, the blessing;  after it all comes the dismissal.  It is here that her wisdom can be found.  It is here that her vision for the world becomes translated into words.  It is here her life’s work is revealed.  It is here, at this most poignant time of year, she wants us to remember:

Go in Peace to Love and Serve.



Merry Christmas, Happy Hollydays.

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