Christmas time has always brought the smell of cookies, a smell associated with lights, sounds, snow, and family. Time during the holidays was spent by counting down the days till Christmas with the old Advent Calendar my grandmother had sewn for my mother, hunting for the perfect tree with the family until our feet were frozen from the cold, and making so many cookies that the house smelled of the doughy goodness for days afterward. Memories like these were ones to be shared with family. As I grew older and hit that pretentious pre-teen stage, I began to take traditions such as making cookies, and counting down the days on the Advent Calendar for granted.
As a young girl entering middle school, I had the firm belief that things like those long-standing traditions were things that I would be able to enjoy later. I had more important things going on then. Why stop for some tradition that I’d gone through with every year I could remember? So that year was the first year I decided not to make cookies, and to let my brother help my mom instead. I went to my room to read. I would have the years to come to make cookies and participate in the family traditions. I was content instead to read this year.
I had just missed my last chance.
In the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain illness. This came as a shock to my whole family. She was a good person who loved her family more than anything and thought of others before herself. Why her?
Six months after she was diagnosed, my mother died. I would never experience another Christmas or birthday with her. I would never get to come home from school and tell her about my newest crush. I would never get to show her the A I got in algebra that year. I would never bake Christmas cookies with her again, or hunt for a Christmas tree. She would never see my first year in high school, or see me try on my prom dress, or see me graduate from high school. She wouldn’t be there when I left for college and took my first steps into the real world. My whole world had crashed down on my head, and I soon began to regret how I’d taken the time with my mother for granted.
Taking things for granted is something we as humans tend to do. We never think that something that has always been there for us, or something that we can always count on, will ever be gone from our lives. We glance by it without giving it a second thought. If it’s there today, it’ll be there tomorrow, right? If only we could realize before it’s too late that it’s the things in life that we take for granted that are the most precious things we could ever have. Once we lose these things, we begin to miss them, and regret ever having taken them for granted in the first place. We regret the smallest things, knowing that they weren’t that small. Things like telling our loved ones that we actually do love them, things that we never think about until it’s too late. Not a day goes by when I don’t regret not telling my mother more often that I loved her, or that she was my role model. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t regret taking her for granted.
I know now to treasure every moment I have with my family. The stories I hear from my father about his childhood are things I love to hear, no matter how many times I hear them. I listen to my mother’s friends and siblings tell me bits and pieces of my mother’s life, and love the fact that I am a lot like her. I live each day knowing that I may lose the things closest to me. But I know now to tell my loved ones that I do care about them. I can no longer take things for granted. Life handed me this lesson in a cruel way, but I’ve grown because of it. Not a day goes by where I don’t miss my mother more than anything, but it’s a hurt that reminds me of the lesson I’ve learned. It’s a hurt that I’ve grown to live with, and a hurt that makes me remember my mother and how much she loved me, my brother, and my father. It reminds me that she did not take us for granted, but showed every day that she cared about us and that we were her world. It reminds me that she was a better person than I could ever be, and that she is still my role model.
And now as I bake the Christmas cookies with my brother and my father, I can’t help but remember those times when I was a little girl and mommy would let me put the sprinkles on the cookies. I remember those times fondly, remembering a time where I took nothing for granted, and wish that I could somehow go back and tell my mother one last time that I love her.
Some things should never be taken for granted.
Michelle Daymon is a sophomore from Macedonia, Ohio, majoring in Political Science.