My mother, Helen D. Sefcovic, loved the holidays.
Her coat closet was filled with wreaths, decorated for all the holidays. Each was kept in pristine condition on its own hanger with a bag pulled over the top to keep off dust.
There were kitchen mats for all the holidays and seasons. Rolled, they filled a very large shopping bag.
Kitchen towels also celebrated with motifs of summer, fall, winter, spring and all the special occasions therein.
She wasn't a great cook, but her wonderful sense of style and beauty expressed itself with fashion and decorating.
Until she became too old and weak, she always decorated the outside of her apartment building with Christmas plants and decorations for the pine tree out front.
Her upstairs porch was hung with big red bows or other appropriate holiday decorations.
One of the last times we sat together when she still had geraniums on the porch, a hummingbird visited her plant several times. It was the first time I had ever seen a hummingbird.
When we were little, the Nativity scene was surrounded with a village lit by colored lights.
Photo circa 1960, the village surrounded by wooden fence; me holding the ill-fated Tavvy McTavish who developed an incurable kidney condition.
The lights were concealed beneath glittering cotton snow paper. Mountains were constructed of shoe boxes and rolled up newspaper and tissue for the lead skiers.
There were two ponds with ice skaters. One was very old chipped mirrors. The chips made them all the more beautiful and loved.
Some of the figurines were so old, they were paper mache, not lead. These dated to World War II and the metal shortage.
There were even two doughboys from World War I with rusted round helmets.
The houses also were paper. Some were well constructed, some were cheap, and there was an orange church with a spire. I especially remember one home that looked like stucco with California style arched windows.
Surrounding all was an old Lionel train set on the wide tracks.
Our home, a rented apartment except for about three years just before my father died, glowed with warm colors for the Christmas and New Year's holiday.
In the old days, visiting lasted until Epiphany on January 6th. Relatives traveled to each other's homes in the evenings, packing the family into winter coats, rubber galoshes, mittens, and mufflers. Of course, TV was in its infancy in those days and not the center of our lives. It functioned only in the evenings and only on three networks.
I loved the Christmas village and took it when I got married. I crawled around on the floor and tried to recreate the magic my mother had made for us.
When my husband and I split up and I took off for New Orleans, the decorations were in boxes in the basement of the old hippie house when a pipe burst.
My best friend and my husband acted afraid to tell me the bad news when I got back: some of the village's paper houses had been ruined.
That was the beginning of the end of the village.
A few years later, I sustained a back injury in a mugging and could no longer crawl around the floor.
Still, I lugged the village wherever I went. I set up the Nativity scene and what houses I could where there was space on a mantle or shelf.
One of the last times I set up the entire scene, Athens, GA, during the early 1990s.
Then, even that became too much and I gave all the bottle brush trees, figurines, ponds, and houses to a library.
Now that Mother is gone, I wish I had kept a few of the best ones and the Nativity scene.
This is my first Christmas without my mother.
I went to Mexico and had Christmas with a lovely bunch of people who I shall probably never see again. I saw a hummingbird in one of the trees, and it reminded me of one of the last afternoons I spent with her.
I run away from the holidays, but my mother embraced them until the end.
RIP, Helen D. Sefcovic, I love you and miss you.