My husband’s mother, Irene, was the kindest, sweetest, softest person you would ever want to meet. I may be wrong, but I believe the woman never raised her voice. Ever. When she baked cookies they were shaped perfectly. It is possible that they appeared out of thin air. Yes, she was that amazing.
And here is where the story begins. Those closest to Irene knew she had some gusto hidden in beneath her sweet personality. My husband told stories. When he played junior high football, she helped him train. One time he mentioned in passing that if they allowed wooden spoons in baseball, she would have been an all-star player. Up until I shared the forthcoming story, I had never seen this side of Irene.
Over the Christmas holiday of 2005, our family binge-watched the entire seventh Season of the Amazing Race. It was an all out, pull all the blankets and the pillows in the living room. Everyone wore their Christmas pajamas. And thanks to Irene who stayed with us in our Arizona home, we had munchies.
If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll just tell you. Irene is the muse for the family matriarch, Aunt Tee. For the entire binge session, Irene quietly commented on the activities but conveyed little emotion about the results. Seriously, she could have played poker. While I hated Rob and Amber, she objectively commented on the method to their madness and assured me everything would work out. My heart wanted to believe her, but Rob’s duplicitous behavior irked me. Why couldn’t he trip in a mud puddle and get stuck?
So we are in the last minutes of the season. And, one contestant doesn’t have money for the cab fare. (No spoilers in this blog) The team could just high tail it to the mat and pay when all was said and done. But this guy had to show good character. Irene sat there quietly and observed the events unfold. I lost my mind.
When the winning team crossed the mat, our family went into full our team just won the Superbowl mode. We’re talking yelling, jumping, hoots of joy, and hugging abounded. Irene broke through her usually calm demeanor and was in there with us adding to the celebration. That stuck with me. The family matriarch enjoyed the Amazing Race! To this day, every time I watch the Amazing Race, she is there with me in spirit.
Twelve years later, she moved on. Our kids moved out. My husband and I moved into his childhood home. I had no job and somehow Nanowrimo came up. Nanowrimo isn’t as stressful as the Amazing Race, but it was enough of a challenge for me to remember that Christmas with Irene. I wrote the story in the house she lived in for over fifty years. I’m sure she was whispering over my shoulder in those three a.m. writing sprints and shaking her head when I gorged myself on Oreos. But we got it done. Three days early.
And there you have it. The story behind the story of Let The Games Begin. People make the mistake of thinking that it’s the earth-shattering moments that change your life. And, yes that is true. But sometimes, life molds the heart by warming it with a subtle gesture of love. I know…the world of Ashbrook, Montana developed out of a quiet, uneventful to the rest of the world, family Christmas.
And, so I close this post wishing you warm moments and smiles.