memories of eggnog, and creating joy

Every year at Christmas, perhaps on the night we decorated our Christmas tree, but definitely on the evening of Christmas Eve, my father  treated us with cups of eggnog. At some point in the evening, after dinner, Dad would head into the kitchen to prepare the drink.

The eggnog was never homemade, always store bought, but he never served it straight out of the plastic jug. He made a point to doctor it up, making the drink special in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he just sprinkled some nutmeg on top, but maybe there was more to it than that. You just never knew with my dad.

That first sip of the sweet, milkshake-thick drink was always a surprise and a delight. It felt indulgent and excessive, and I loved my father for that. I felt special, being allowed to share in this obviously adult ritual. Dad drank his eggnog down quickly, not pausing to savor each mouthful as I did, then wiped his mouth with the back of one hand. I remember his satisfied smile then, eyes sparkling, as he looked around the room at me, my brother, and my mom. Any strife that existed in that cozy living room — any bickering or grudges held or slights felt — were gone, entirely, for those moments we savored the eggnog.

In the many years that have passed since those first sips of the holiday treat, my memories of the taste of eggnog are bound together tightly with feelings of peacefulness and joy.

This past week has been more stressful than usual. We hosted two parties last weekend, a holiday party for my work and a sleepover party for my daughter’s ninth birthday. The parties were wonderful, and I enjoyed every bit of them. The stress leading up to the events was expected and, at least for me, a normal part of the party-planning experience.

But then my father-in-law had emergency back surgery after a fall left him with a fractured vertebrae in his spine. His surgery happened one week ago today, the day of the first party, and he worsened over the next several days, ultimately winding up in the intensive care unit. The stress of this on my husband has been immeasurable, and to make things worse, there was some major family drama in the middle of the week that nearly tipped us both over the edge. Sam and I have hugged each other very tightly these last few days, and the strife and stress have only served to make us stronger, together.

One more day of work and then I’m off for the holidays with my children. I plan to change things up around here, lighten the mood and brighten our spirits. I’m thinking of baking cookies and cakes. We’ll be wrapping presents and planning Christmas dinner. There will be Christmas carol singing, very off-key singing probably, but we will sing nonetheless. I plan to start and end each day with hugs and with I-love-you‘s.

And I bought some eggnog. It’s time for some peacefulness and joy.

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17 Responses to “she took her name off the list”

  1. 1
    Gail — December 18, 2014 @ 6:00 pm


    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 18th, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

      xoxo right back to you, Gail.

  2. 2

    MJ – I am so sorry to hear about this but glad your mum is on the road to recovery. She’s so lucky to have a daughter like you (and I bet she loves being known as the Doctor’s mum!) XOX

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 18th, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

      Thank you so much, Mardi. xo

  3. 3
    Cheryl — December 18, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

    Too often the diagnosis is broken heart. But they can mend and she is showing that. You are a daughter she can be proud of too.

  4. 4
    Janis — December 18, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    I believe that your mom is wonderful. Look at who she raised ;–)

  5. 5
    Paula Kelly-Bourque — December 18, 2014 @ 7:29 pm

    I have read so many of your posts about you, your father, your family with such a lump in my throat that it was hard to swallow. This one just plain made me tear up. My heart goes out to your Mother, truly it does and I shall remember her and your family in my prayers. God bless all of you.

  6. 6
    Liren — December 19, 2014 @ 1:41 am

    Mothers always think of themselves last, why is it so? MJ, this post touched the deepest part of my heart, and I’m glad she has you there as she remembers herself and how important she is. Sending love to you as you stay strong for your family, too.

  7. 7
    Leigh — December 19, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    Beautifully written. I’m sending so much love to you both. xo

  8. 8
    Flavia — December 19, 2014 @ 11:47 am

    Thank you for sharing such a beautifully written post, MJ. You are blessed to have a mother like yours; not everyone is so fortunate. I can relate to your mom in some ways after being a caregiver for my great-aunt at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. Unlike your mom who dedicated years to caregiving, I only took on the responsibility for five months, but I know what it was like to take myself completely “off the list”, and I know the feelings of sadness and grief that settle into your heart when caregiving responsibilities were over. There is so much that stays with you and so much to “process”. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was often frustrating and heartbreaking. But it was also a blessing and a privilege.

    My prayers are with your mom for a full recovery and a journey back to putting herself not just back on the list, but right at the top. Merry Christmas my friend. So happy to know you. xo

  9. 9
    Sharon — December 19, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

    This made me cry. I so empathize. I hope she takes time to have fun. I have been going through poor health,knee replacement and anxiety wasn’t able to eat for a month I was so shaky and anxious. I hope your Mom feels better soon. I finally started to eat and making energy drinks. I just blend peanut butter, milk, ice, half banana and little chocolate syrup. Seemed to help…at least mentally 🙂

  10. 10
    Alicia K. — December 19, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your mom’s story. I’m guessing many of us can relate and empathize in some way. I’ve printed your recipe and shall rename it Mrs. George’s Daughter’s Butter Cookies to remind me whenever I look at it of this story about your strong and beautiful mom who put herself back on the list. I cheer for her!

  11. 11
    Cherie — December 19, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    This touched me so – I’m so glad your mother has put herself back on the list 🙂

    I am going through a divorce, and things for so long have been about taking care of everyone else and keeping all the balls in the air. As things progress I am realizing that for a long time I’ve taken myself off the list. I am trying very hard to find a way back to myself, to get myself on the list, to put my oxygen mask on so I can help those around me do the same.

    My prayers for your mother’s mental and physical health – and for you as you find a new balance caring for her and supporting HER as she cares for your brother.

  12. 12
    Vanessa @frenchfoodiemom — December 20, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

    MJ, thank you for gifting us your mother’s beautiful story. Such a lovely tribute and an important reminder to all of us in the middle place, busy taking care of both children and parents, to not forget our own needs. I hope your mom returns to her dominoes and books soon. She is lucky to have your love and support.

    Your cookie recipe will be our first baked item in our new stove later today.

  13. 13
    Katie Fiore — December 20, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

    Such a touching and moving story. You’ve put it into words beautifully as well.

  14. 14
    Colleen — December 22, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    Condolences on the loss of your father. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I have tears on so many levels. But hope, too. Thank you for sharing.

  15. 15
    Mallory @forkvsspoon — December 29, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

    So touching – you have a story telling gift, especially with stories that are hard to write but they are often the ones that hit a chord with so many. Thanks for sharing and much love to you and your mom!

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