Ballet Slippers and Silver Bells

My mind has been thick with nostalgia and my heart heavy with the missing as Christmas fills our senses. Flashes of yesteryear…moments captured in time like a snapshot stopping my hurried steps.

I am seven, standing proudly in the black leotard and pink tights my mother worked three jobs to buy, my long, wavy brown hair pulled into a bun. Silver Bells fills the studio with a melody that makes  me close my eyes and really believe it’s Christmas time in the city . I practice my plies as little girls with more grace than I…girls who don’t live in the trailer park…snicker in a group. I look at my mother, standing a little straighter , my tiny pink ballet slippers gliding across the worn wood floors. Ballet was never my thing, but that year, with snow falling in the background, Silver bells filling the air…that year was magic.

Another flash…another year, 1980-something…another moment captured in time. My mother, wearing the long nightgown with the zipper our neighbors gave to her one Christmas morning. They started the tradition of coming over Christmas morning shortly after we moved to the first house my mother owned. The flashes run together in a blur of memories. I can still taste the orange and bag of candy consumed on many a Christmas Eve at the prettiest church in town,laughing with Billy…his mouth full of chocolate. My grandpa laughing an identical laugh in unison with mom , his arm draped around her, eyes wrinkled with joy as he gives her shoulder a gentle squeeze one Christmas Eve.


The house lit up like Vegas…different themed trees in every room. Her tree. Her home made ornaments documenting the various themes of each year’s home made Christmas…the macaroni angel, the year of crochet, cross stitch, the year of wooden peg angels, the year we filled my cart with mauve Victorian decor and bought the Mariah Carey Christmas CD at Hills.

Shopping with my mother so many Christmases of my grown up life. Oh how she loved to buy presents for her people. Flash…mom pushing me in a wheel chair so I could shop while on bed rest for Faith and Grace. Flash…the year she bought me a brand new tree as we shopped on a day when we were angry with our husbands. She always spent more on days we weren’t happy with our husbands.


Laughing in her kitchen…

Baking with Nicki and her people…making buckeyes for the first time…marveling at the gathering of women. Flash…my own Gerken baking day…with Sarah and a young Timothy and even younger James, covered in flour. This year’s Gerken baking day left my kitchen filled with big kids who are not mine by blood, but certainly mine in my heart.

Cousins filling my grandmother’s house, families young and full of promise…moms wearing 80s attire…big bows around their necks with big hair to match and hips curvy from the birthing. The smell of grandma’s homemade noodles filling the kitchen. Seventies carpet. Gathering around the fireplace, the noise of family…filled with love and security. Life ahead.


Santa leaving his big bag of toys on the porch at my other grandma’s house. Sitting on my father’s lap…I’m seven again…wearing my new sweater vest, my hair carefully curled by my mother earlier in the day.


Timothy’s first Christmas. His eyes heavy with sleep, wearing his second hand puppy dog pajamas, as I woke him up in the wee hours of the morning…too excited to wait any longer. Tim yawning in the background…wrapped in a red and black blanket……starting our own traditions in the tiny one bedroom apartment we once called home.

Laughing together as I helped decorate her tree on our last Christmas with her. I’m glad I didn’t know about the missing that waited for us…the ache a momma feels for her baby, I knew. But the ache a daughter feels for her mother still lay ahead as we added the decorations to her tree in between giggles.

I can’t go back and conjure each moment into reality…but each memory is part of me, part of today…woven into the tapestry of this life. So, I will fill my tiny home with as many people I love and as much laughter as we can muster, for as many years as the Lord allows.

Because laughing with people I love…this tiny house full…well…that’s my favorite.


May you find joy and peace in this Christmas season as we celebrate the amazing gift…that Jesus came for us. May there be quiet moments of reflection, warm memories to fill your heart, and laughter, if you can muster it…laughing with people you love, imperfect and broken though we may be. There is hope.


For on this day, in the city of David, a Savior was born. You will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger…

P.S. So desperate was I to release the words in the wee hours of this morning, this post was typed entirely on my phone. Impressive…or sad…whichever. But, if you’re a writer, you get it! :) Merry Christmas!


  1. Typed on a phone or not, it was a beautiful post.

  2. Perfectly written…. I’ve been a little down lately and thinking about my child in Heaven instead of creating beautiful memories with her older siblings.

    Time to change that!

    Thank you for such an inspiring post. Happy Holidays!

  3. Merry Christmas!!!

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