We are nearing another completion of a year, and I don’t mean 2020. I’m turning 64 on Monday. Sixty-four. There was a time in my life when 64 sounded like a death sentence. Of course, I was 13 at the time. Anyone over 30 seemed ancient to me. I’ve obviously changed my tune.

Having a birthday in the first two weeks of December always prompted the same comment from my friends... “That’s too bad. Bet you don’t get much with it being so close to Christmas.” I was always surprised to hear that because my mom never allowed Christmas to impact the significance of my birthday as I grew up. She made a concerted effort not to make me feel slighted. I have no complaints.

After my birthday, Mom concentrated on making Christmas as big as two parents working to raise a family of six can. It was my mother who, inadvertently, instilled in me a love for the season I can’t begin to fully articulate.

It was important to Mom none of us felt slighted or overlooked on Christmas morning when we’d finally get to opening the presents. I remember seeing her sheet with the Christmas count for each of us (actually, I hunted it down until I found it each year). She was going to be certain we had about the same number of gifts to open and that she spent about the same amount of money on each of us.

Mom chose this season to teach me about saving money. I’m not sure if I was displaying a future issue I’d have with spending, or if she was trying to head that off at the pass. She was a bank teller. She had all sorts of little money-saving gimmicks. The first one happened at a young age when she began giving me an allowance. She brought home dime and quarter holders. They were simply thick stock cards with slots for all the potential coins. I was to fill them before I could spend the money. Smart woman, my mom.

The second technique she decided I needed as I got older and was making some money was to open a Christmas Club account at the bank. Beginning in January, I was to put however much I wanted into my Christmas Club account, monthly. Then, when December rolled around, I’d have money to use on buying presents for family and friends. It was actually a good idea, and it was effective. She told me she did it every year, so she could buy gifts annually. She was teaching me responsibility and wise financial management skills (as much as a teen could learn). When I did it, I felt more mature.

Mom loved decorating the house. She especially reserved two tasks for only herself. First, she delighted in meticulously putting icicles on the family tree. I always wanted to help, but she’d impatiently say, “Put them on carefully, one at a time, or don’t do it at all.” It was too tedious a job for this young boy! The second was about her special tree she acquired for our living room, standing in front of the window facing the street. It was an aluminum tree, complete with a rotating color wheel that rotated from the floor, slowly shedding four different lights onto the tree. She bought special decorations for only that tree. She felt a special connection with it; Mom loved that tree.

Never do I feel Mom’s presence more in my life than in December for both my birthday and Christmas. She left us just before her 62nd birthday, but in my heart, she never really left at all. I do draw the line at the icicles, though. I still don’t have the patience she did!

Time’s up! See you next week!