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Becoming my mother. Becoming Santa Clause.

How a mother makes Christmas

The holiday season is in full force. The trees in the windows, the lit up houses and Christmas carols, cookies, parties and presents all conjure up different childhood memories for each of us year after year.

For me Christmas is my mother.

Thanksgiving comes and goes and it’s like my mom sprinkles something in the air and poof, there are poinsettias exactly where poinsettias look best, boughs of greenery adorned with twinkling lights placed carefully around door frames and on window sills, pinecones in all of the right places and everything magically smells like cinnamon.

She transforms her house in the country into something you see in magazines. So I come over to visit so I can feel like I’m one of those fancy “people-props” you see in scenes in Better Homes and Gardens. I wear my khakis and wool Christmas sweater with the deer on the chest for effect. And we sip cider or wine and talk about how nice it looks, how wonderful it smells…how khaki is most certainly my color.

My mom is one of the most unlikely characters you would find out here on the ranch.  When she fell in love with a cowboy from Western North Dakota who was in love with a landscape and lifestyle that didn’t quite match the lawn mowing, polo shirt wearing man she may have been expecting, she wasn’t fazed in the least. She just packed up her knee high boots and her cutest jackets and marched her butt out to the ranch to make a life for her and her children.

Yes, this woman has tackled her life out here on the ranch the same way she tackles the holidays: fully prepared, with grace and patience, a touch of class and great taste.

So here she is, in her home under the big winter sky, having raised three daughters and dressed them well (despite late 80s fashion), created a successful career, over-fed her housecats and her family and is preparing to give us the best Christmas ever, just like she has done year after year.

Because my mother’s zest for this festive holiday only begins with the decorations and immaculate Christmas tree and ends up in a great big hearty, hug-worthy pile of giving when it’s all said and done.

My mom loves to give presents. She lights up at the thought of it. She makes lists throughout the year like Santa’s own personal assistant, She gathers her ideas and waits for December so she can finally wrap them up tight in neat little shiny packages with ribbons and bows that coordinate perfectly with each other and the bulbs on her sparkling, immaculate Christmas tree.

She stays up late filling stockings with her family’s favorite candy and soap and socks and trinkets we most definitely don’t need. And she pours Champaign in our orange juice on Christmas morning and watches us come mingling in to discover our gifts displayed in a picture perfect pile next to our respective seats.

This is how Christmas has been since I was old enough to create a memory. And this is how I want Christmas to be until I am old and gray and can no longer bite into a candy cane. And as the season approaches I find, especially now that I’m a mom myself, my inherited Christmas instincts have kicked in and I am happily turning into my mother.

Because, if you were blessed to get a really wonderful mom who created her own rendition of the greatest Christmas ever by baking the best gingerbread cookies, conducting the church Christmas pageant, or waking you up at 6 am on Christmas morning because she couldn’t wait any longer, no matter how irritating or embarrassing, isn’t it our moms who makes the holiday special?

And even now, as adults, when we are left to deck our own halls in our own obnoxious sweaters, don’t we all just want to be in our footy pajamas, sitting under our mother’s tree adorned with the ornaments that remind us of our youth in our parent’s house eating those gingerbread cookies (or that really great appetizer) on Christmas day?

And if we can’t be with our mother’s don’t we all try to recreate the Christmas she made for us in our own homes?

So I’m feeling lucky this season. As we welcome a new child into our home I look forward to creating for them a Christmas sanctuary that they can look back on, one that smells like cinnamon and looks like perfectly placed pine cones and coordinated table settings, yes, but more importantly I want to create for them a holiday that will forever conjure up magical memories long after they’ve up and grown. And if I do it right, like my mother did, perhaps they won’t have to stop believing in the magic of the season. Perhaps I can give to them what my mother gave to me—the belief that Santa exists after all and her name is mom.

Written by Jessie Veeder


Jessie is a singer/songwriter/writer and statewide columnist living on her family’s ranch near Watford City with her husband and daughter. She blogs at . Reach her at (


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