December 25 was always her birthday. Ever since Mama Wilson (my mom’s mom) and her twin sister were born, hers was a Christmas birthday.

I’m not sure why Mama Wilson never made a fuss about it. Maybe having lost her twin sister to the fever (along with her father). Maybe she didn’t want to take up too much space? I’m sure someone did a birthday something at least once in a decade, but I don’t recall giving her a special and separate birthday present ever.

Christmas BirthdayPortfolio Bags

For two months, I bent my creative energy and back over a sewing machine and tried to channel Mama Wilson and her legendary sewing skills. Somewhere in between legend and this will do, I managed to make a little something out of leftovers for all of my mom’s grandchildren (five of Mama Wilson’s great-grandkids).

Inspired by a portfolio that I saw at a retreat this year, I made a pattern, used mom’s old jeans, pants, shirts, and an umbrella, and made portfolio bags for my children and niblings. It doesn’t make up for the years of neglecting Mama Wilson’s birthday, but I hope she’s smiling down on this convergence of energies: her skills, the memory of her fierce daughter, and the young lives unfolding.

If you look closely, Mama Wilson is holding scissors in her hand and has a piece of cloth draped across her thighs.

Happy birthday, Mama Wilson

I can’t find a reasonably priced color wheel, but I’ve erected a couple of aluminum trees in your honor. Your memory, love, and even your loving meanness are stitched into the bags five of your great grands will carry. You’d be proud (or maybe disappointed) that, even though I banged up a knuckle on the needle mechanism, I didn’t run the needle through my finger. Not even once.

On this day, I remember you. I remember your scissors and skills, your dumplings and pies, and the tree. Legend has it that you would venture into the closet tucked in the heart of the house where the tree lingered in dusty darkness except for three weeks of December. After scooting the tree out, you would yank the sheet away to reveal a ready-decorated tree.

Today I realized you pre-decorated your tree before pre-decorated artificial trees were a thing. What a genius gift to yourself for your birthday month.

Happy Birthday, Mama Wilson. And Happy Birthday to all the Christmas Birthdayers making merry through this day.

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