Much to Be Grateful for This Holiday Season

My grandma, me and my dad on Christmas Eve. I took this photo with my MacBook, which explains the surprised looks and the somewhat warped-looking faces. Happy holidays to all!
My grandma, me and my dad on Christmas Eve. I took this photo with my MacBook, which explains the surprised looks and the somewhat warped-looking faces. Happy holidays to all!

I’m at home now, listening to the snow melt into the wee hours of Christmas day. My neighbors’ lights are turned off, and the streets are silent. No cars are rushing by, no sirens echo in the distance.

It’s a perfect night to curl under the covers with a warm fleece blanket and something cuddly — a pet, a stuffed animal, a loved one. It’s a perfect night for kids to fall asleep and dream about sugarplums and fairies. It’s a night to be with family, to go to midnight Mass and to sing “Silent Night” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” And it’s a time to be grateful — for all that we have, all that we’ve gained, and all that we were lucky enough to have for so long.

I can’t help but think about my late mom around the holidays. She would stuff my stocking, which she made herself, with Hershey Kisses, tiny stuffed animals and costume jewelry. She always knew what I wanted. I’d wake up extra early in the morning, rush into my parents’ bedroom and say, “Mommy, Daddy, wake up! It’s Chriiiistmaaaas!”

“I know, Mal, Merry Christmas! Let’s just wait a little longer. Go back to bed until 7:30 a.m.,” Mom would say.

“But it’s Christmas! Do I have to?”

“Yes, two more hours.”

Two hours to an adult is hardly ever enough time. For a child, two hours can seem like an eternity.

When my alarm clock hit 7:29 a.m., I’d jump out of bed again and burst through my parents’ door.

“It’s time!! It’s time!!” I’d exclaim.

“OK, we’re getting up,” Dad would say as Mom stretched her arms and yawned.

I loved getting gifts (what child doesn’t?), but I also loved the pictures my dad would take of my mom and me. I loved the hugs mom and I would exchange when she bought me something I had wanted. Most years, she didn’t even have to ask me for a Christmas wish list. She just knew.

If Mom were here this Christmas, she would have gone to midnight Mass with me and my dad, and she would have already filled my stocking with care. Dads do things differently. They fill stockings after midnight Mass and don’t have as much to fill them with, not because they don’t care, but because they’re not Mom.

The loss of my mother is no doubt painful around this time of year, but when I start to get sad, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have had her for the time that I did. Some children don’t even get to know their moms. I had her for 11 years, long enough to have memories of our time together. Even if most of these memories are of her when she was sick with cancer, I still consider them worth having.

The holidays are notorious for bringing up memories of people we’ve lost. It can be difficult to embrace these memories because they remind us of what we no longer have, and they make us yearn for better times,  for desires unfulfilled, for the kind of joy that comes from loving relationships with parents, spouses and friends. I have these yearnings — for a significant other, for friends who are far away, for my mom — but I know that I have much to be grateful for this holiday season, and that for now, I’m where I belong, here at home.

The snow is still melting, and the night is still silent. Soon, after one last-minute, 2 a.m. gift wrap, it’ll be time for bed. When I go to bed, I’ll say a prayer for my mom and for all those whom I know and love. I wish you a peaceful holiday season and the kind of happiness that comes from knowing that despite the hardships we face in life, we are all still lucky and still loved.

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at

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