It's hard this time of year to not be a tad pensive; reflective on the year that passed and the years that have passed, collectively. It's a season that evokes intense emotion for many. Total bliss and quiet sadness dance together in unexpected ways.
We're over-induldging in comfort foods and favorite treats while anticipating the lifestyle shift as we embrace health in New Year's resolutions, right around the corner. After at least one last evening of imbibing on sparkling wine, that is.
Earlier this year, my mom's oldest sister, Delphine, passed away.
My Mom is the second youngest of seven children - 5 girls and 2 boys. The men moved to Southern California, the other siblings raised their families in the Midwest, but my Mom and Aunt Delphine raised theirs in the Northwest.
Delphine and her husband, Gene, had six children of their own. I have so many fond memories over the years spending the holidays with the Kettler family.
One year, Aunt Delphine and Uncle Gene were living in West Seattle and all six kids were still at home, and they were hosting Christmas. My Mom figures this was probably in the late 1960's.
My Mom had gone to Gov-Mart Bazaar, a place where you could find very inexpensive (read: cheap) little things. (Looks like it was later acquired by Thirfty Payless.)
She got a bag of little tie-ons for Christmas gifts. Most of them were little bells, etc. One of them was a little mouse.
But this was no ordinary mouse.
This was an ugly, gaudy little mouse. It wore a gold lame dress. It carried a baton. It had dangly little legs. It was tacky.
It ended up on a gift from my Mom to Aunt Delphine. Who knows what the actual present was. The kids couldn't stop laughing.
My Mom recalls that Maxine laughed so hard, she cried. Everyone was rolling around on the floor laughing. The Kettlers are known for their fabulous senses of humor, afterall.
And a tradition was born.
This ugly, gold-lame-wearing, baton-holding, straggly little mouse became an annual joke. Year after year, it would be passed back and forth. Pieces and appendages started to fall off. The lame dress looked more and more tattered with every year.
Some years were missed. Hectic holidays. My Mom started her own family (enter Carter and Noelle). Grandma Kampa rotated through living with her children.
One particularly hectic year, my Mom just hadn't quite gotten around to taking down the Christmas tree. When she finally did, on March 31st, she found the little mouse tucked away in its branches.
My Mom joked with her, "You put that mouse in the tree just to see when I'd take my Christmas tree down!"
The mouse broke free from only being a Christmas tradition. The two sisters would tuck it into a birthday present. Mail it for the 4th of July. It would end up in a kitchen cupboard or a bookshelf - just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes it would show up at the kids' homes, where Aunt Delphine had been visiting.
This mouse was passed between Priscilla and Delphine for, likely, around 40 years!
When Aunt Delphine passed, my Mom had hoped to place it in her coffin. When this didn't happen, she realized it is probably because the mouse needs to live on. When I go there this holiday season, I'm going to try to find it and, at the very least, take a photo of it. And, cousins, don't be surprised if the mouse continues to circulate for many more years to come.
I'm thankful for the time we shared, earlier this year, celebrating Aunt Delphine's life.
In loving memory of Aunt Delphine. You are missed.