Nutcrackers cue memories of Christmases past
Last updated 12/11/2019 at 5:02pm | View PDF
I should have taken more nutcrackers.
My mother-in-law wanted me to take more. She wanted us to take lots of things as she and my father-in-law were clearing out the Western Springs house they had lived in for almost 50 years.
Sandra had struggled with rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments for years, and eventually the stairs proved too much for her. She and my father-in-law, John, were moving into a condo at Lake Hinsdale Village, where everything would be on one floor and their unit had a view of the lake.
Unfortunately, she spent very little time there before she ended up in the hospital, then in rehab, then in assisted living in Lombard.
But we didn't know that at the time. We only knew they had six weeks to move out and she was envisioning a packing process - in which we'd come over for dinner and look through some things and take what we wanted - that we estimated would require at least a year.
Ainsley was a preschooler and Dan was traveling and I had work. Their move, to be honest, was one additional stressor at an already stressful time. We already had too much stuff of our own. We wondered why they hadn't started cleaning out the house earlier. And were surprised by just how emotionally attached Sandra was to soooo many of her possessions.
We saw the move as a good thing - to a location just a couple of miles away and a space that would be much easier to navigate and maintain.
We celebrated only one Christmas at their new address, in 2015. The following Christmas she was in the nursing home at Lexington Square and in February 2017, she died.
I think of her often, especially at this time of year. I have so many wonderful memories of celebrating the holidays with her and John.
We'd open presents Christmas Eve at their house, and while John was still working as a mailman in downtown Hinsdale, he did a fair amount of shopping at the jewelry stores on his route. We'd go around the room, taking turns opening one gift at a time. After we were all done, Sandra always had a sizable stack of small unopened gifts from John.
Then there was the Christmas at our house, when Ainsley was 2 or 3 and Sandra gave her a beautiful new baby doll and a lovely crib. Sandra just beamed as Ainsley put her new baby doll to bed over and over in the new crib, thrilled that her granddaughter loved the gifts she had given her.
Our Christmas tree is filled with ornaments Sandra gave us as gifts, beautiful glass globes she discovered on vacation and cat ornaments she gave me when Wrigley was still alive.
I unpacked the nutcrackers Sandra gave me Sunday. She picked out four and sent them home with Dan after he was helping them pack one day. They are charming. I have a chimney sweep, a snowman, a soldier and the one I've always loved, the cheesemonger. They sit on top of a china cabinet that was in Sandra's dining room when she was a child.
I say I should have taken more nutcrackers, but I don't really want them. I long for something else - to celebrate Christmas with the wonderful woman who gave them to me.
- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected]