Tradition is Just Remembering

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Snickerdoodles, chocolate drop peanut butter, sugar cookie angels, gingerbread men. Flour dusting my cheeks, the oven warming my back. I think of you, Grandma. I remember you, Aunt Sandy. I use your recipe, Momma. And I talk as I go, slow and repetitive. “Grandma Leona always made sure that the butter was well blended. Do you know why?” She shakes her haystack hair, licking flour from her fingers. He copies his best friend, shakes his head and laps up the powder. “It makes the batter rise better, so he cookies look nicer and taste good all the way through.” They do or don’t hear me, but they wear their tiny aprons, pull their fingers through the flour and make little wet snail tracks on the counter.

We dip into potholes our car almost can’t withstand. They bump up and down in the back seats, putting their hands in the air and wailing. Making a roller coaster out of a car ride. We walk the rows of short, tall, fat, pokey, fluffy, sparse, pines, nobles and firs. They put curious noses to the needles. He cries when a particularly needled spruce pokes his nose. “Grandpa loved to cut down his own tree. He’d bring his own saw, get underneath it in his gardener’s overalls. He grimace and grunt, but he’d always come up smiling as it fell down. I think he always wanted to be a lumberjack.” The kids like the word lumberjack and sing a song about it. I wonder if they heard the other part, the part about a father I loved, a grandpa they will never know.

We sing songs loudly as we decorate the tree, stringing lights to old Christmas carols. And I can smell the cinnamon candles, the hot cocoa. I can feel the chill of a winter snow. I look out the window and expect to see the fresh, heavy mush of December in Illinois. But all I see is Evergreen. Because I live in the Northwest, now, not the Midwest. But I can feel my siblings, my mother, my step-father, when I hang my old decorations on the tree.

I attempt to sew my children pajama pants, but I’ve cut the pattern all wrong. The bobbin spins free of the machine like a mischievous toddler, every time I touch the pedal. Tears sprinkle my cheeks because I wanted to offer my children the comfort of brand new cotton, stitched by hand. We didn’t have a lot of money but we always had brand new pajama bottoms, and a mother who found the time to fit so much love into our lives.

My cousin shares a post of a recipe in a scrawl quick and messy. I remember the grocery lists we’d read to you, squinting to make out your words.  And I sob uncontrollably. More than I sobbed when I heard that you left us forever because my emotions are stupid and they have chosen today to work. I could make those waffles, the sweet sour cream, the dripping syrup, the chewy heaviness of Christmas Eve. I could make your tradition stand, Aunt Sandy, even this far away.

All I have to do is remember and try. And try to remember what made me understand my worth. You all worked it into the meals you cooked, the trees you picked, the crust you made, the way you looked at me to make sure my eyes followed your process, soaked in your words. You remembered, and you made me remember. And tradition is just remembering, after all.

It’s why I have seasonal joy and seasonal sadness. I know not every person has this joy. I know some people have no memories of moments packed with love. That makes me sad. Sadder than I feel today, missing the wonderful people in my life who have passed away. Because the times they come back, the time they took to create in me the memories worth sharing have brought me back from the brink. I always have my memories. And they always save me.

4589075_orig   26123043H.M. Jones is the author of the B.R.A.G Medallion book Monochrome, as well as the short stories “The Light Storm of 2015” and “Tiptoe Through Time.” Her poetry is scattered all over the place, as are her blogs. But all of her writing is infused with memory, not all of them hers. Follow her on Twitter @HMJonesWrites, Facebook or her website.

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The Faces We Display

'Oh,he's ok if you get on the right side of him.'

‘Oh,he’s ok if you get on the right side of him.’

As an author, it’s important for me to have a social presence. And I don’t mind blogging, sharing silly book memes or nerd events. I like doing those things. I like guest blogging, sharing poetry and sharing good articles. But I’m not a big fan of the social media selves so many of us create. Including myself.

I wrote about how I stopped posting selfies. It has been a wonderful experiment, for me. I don’t expect that to be the case with everyone. I was using the selfies as a self-affirmation of how I want others to see me, instead of just appreciating how I actually am: no makeup, wrinkles, chub. I was creating a me who was the perfect mom, a wonderful cook, an expert geek.

And I am some of those things sometimes. But not usually. Mostly, I’m an okay mom whose getting by, who likes her mother-in-law’s cooking better and would prefer to stick to making side dishes for her mother-in-law’s meals. I am a geek. That’s pretty true. But I overdo it on my author site because there is a certain person I think people expect to see from me. a person who is smart and capable, who is witty and sarcastic and geeky. A person who is open-minded and cool.

Again, that’s not a bad persona, necessarily, but it’s still a persona. I’m pretty normal, really, apart from some bi-polar mood swings and talking to myself when I’m trying to come up with dialogue. But even if I’m not normal, I always feel inclined to share my abnormalities with others, prove to others that I’m like “this.” I feel like social media does that for many people. It’s about creating a persona that other people will enjoy sharing, commenting on and liking.

It makes me tired. I have a hard enough time with my contending moods. I don’t want to create myself online all the time. I just want to get through the day without a suicidal thought, depression so numbing it doesn’t even hurt. I just want to be able to tame the stupid rage that hits for no reason. I just want to maintain a level voice and brush away the ever present agitation that plagues most of my days. Does that portrait I painted you sound a bit awful? Well, that’s the truth. That’s how I see me. I see me as someone who is getting by, despite the fact that she is off. I know a person who prays, daily, that today will be a day where she doesn’t take every comment personally, get agitated over normal silly kid things, will be able to get out of bed and get her kids off to school without feeling like she is failing and falling behind.

I like acting, and I feel like I was pretty good at it when I had the time to hit the stage. Many a theater was graced by fake drunk Hannah, kleptomaniac Hannah, romantic Hannah, heartless business woman Hannah. But I don’t want to do it all the time. And I don’t really like seeing other people I know do it. I see pictures of people I love and I’m like, “You don’t look like that, and that’s okay. You’re beautiful.” “You don’t talk like that, and I’m glad. If you did, I wouldn’t be your friend.” And so on.

I’m Hannah Jones. My author name is H.M. Jones. We are not the same. And we are both sick of acting like something we are not.