This is one of those rare times when I had difficulty deciding what to write this week. I knew that I wanted to stick with ‘feel good’ stories throughout the holiday season, I just wasn’t sure where to go with it. I think it’s because I made the mistake of watching the news for a few minutes the other day. Given everything that’s going on in the world right now, it made it hard to find the positives. Then I turned off the TV and looked around the room. I saw two beautiful, angelic little girls playing with dolls and ponies (along with the remnants of my last pair of reading glasses) and I realized I needed to narrow my focus. I don’t need to look much further than my own life to find enough good cheer (and humor) to get us through the holiday season. So I’m going to pick up right where I left off last week and write about the people and things in my life that I’m thankful for; hopefully you can all relate and maybe smile.

In years past, my December articles have been stories about my fond childhood Christmas memories, my thoughts on the true meaning of the holidays, and an occasional diatribe about how they’ve been over-commercialized and bastardized into nothing more than a cash cow for business. I’m going to go a different route this year. You can go back and read some of my pieces from Decembers past with just a few clicks if you are so inclined.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to write some anecdotal stories about the things and people I’m most grateful for. So why not start right at the top and talk about my Mom. It’s no secret that she and my children are my favorite subjects to discuss and write about. It’s also no secret that I miss her every day, and never more than during the holidays. So if you’ll indulge me, here are few short stories about the strongest and most wonderful person I’ve ever known.

She and I were always very close, and I’m not too big a man to admit now that I was perhaps secretly a Momma’s boy. One of my fondest and earliest memories from my childhood was the year I was in kindergarten in Baltimore County. I went half a day and I was in the afternoon class. Every day without fail she and I would play the game Candyland before my bus came. Somehow, through a combination of sleight of hand and magic that only a Mom can muster, I always managed to win. I was always the blue character, and she was always the red one. If I live to be 150 years old, I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed playing that game with her every morning. Prior to right now, no one has ever known what I’m about to tell you. At her viewing, I made sure that I was the last person to visit her casket before it was closed. I placed in her hands the blue guy and the red guy from the very same Candyland game we played when I was a child. It was just a small token to make sure that she took a little bit of me with her, but the fact is, a huge part of me was buried with her.

Now let’s flash forward a few years and to my high school years. My mom was always super supportive of me in everything I did. We rarely butted heads, but her frustration with my chronic underachieving was omnipresent, more specifically with my grades and school work. I was always the kid with the really high IQ and the really low GPA. It drove this poor woman insane that I would just refuse to put forth the effort and do the work. The only thing I truly excelled at in school was being the class clown (if you can imagine that). I was perpetually lazy, easily distracted, and just repeatedly failed to do the simplest things that were required of me. This was prior to the days when pharmaceutical companies ruled the western hemisphere, so it did not yet have a clever name like A.D.D. To put it in perspective, had I been the president, or the leader of any country at the time, history would have labeled me The Great Procrastinator. I’m actually surprised looking back on it that this character flaw of mine didn’t put her in the grave long before the cancer.

It was about my junior year in high school, and I had a major project to work on and was given three full months to complete it. I can’t for the life of me remember the specifics of the project, or even what class it was for. Hell, I wasn’t focused on it then, I’m certainly not going to be three decades later. I had not yet started the project when it occurred to me that it was due the next day. There was a reason we were given three months to do this project, and everyone else in my class wisely used the entire allotted time. I casually approached my Mom and explained to her that I needed a lengthy list of supplies for this school project. She said; “Okay, remind my later in the week, we can’t go get them tonight.” I said; “but it’s due tomorrow.”

Anyone remember the show the Incredible Hulk from the 70’s? Well there was a point in each episode when some unsuspecting D-bag would invariably piss off mild mannered Dr. David Banner. At this point, his eyes would start to glow green and he would morph into this massive, bulging beast and just start wrecking stuff and growling. Up to this point, I had always thought that it was just some Hollywood camera trickery and special effects that made this happen. That is until I witnessed my own Mom do it. Other than the turning green part it was spot on Hulk morphage (yes, I just invented a word). Or at least that’s how I remember it. I don’t recall her ever being that angry at any point during my upbringing. I think my Dad even went and hid in the basement.

For the next 20 minutes or so, I sat silently and endured the wrath as she unleashed fury like never before. If a bunch of college students were sitting there as spectators, they would have invented a drinking game where you take a sip every time you hear some form of the word “procrastination” and the night would have ended with all of them vomiting. When she had finally exhausted herself and seemed to have nothing more to say, she went silent and stared at me as if it were my turn to speak. After sitting in stunned silence through the entire ordeal, I looked at her and simply said; “can we talk about this later?”

I blindsided her. She stopped, put her head down and shook it, and actually smiled. When she looked up, she said; “get your coat you asshole, we’re going to the store.” It was a very rare occasion that she cursed, but at this moment it seemed fitting and well deserved.

I stayed up all night, turned in my project on time and got a C which I was always perfectly content with. I think that drove her equally insane.

Thanks Mom, I miss you.

Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols.