In the years prior to my mother’s stroke, she had begun collecting snowmen. They became her new favorite way of decorating for the holidays, even though she only collected one or two per year. Her final collection was not a large one, and I’m not entirely sure where they all are.

The past two Christmases have been tough. She passed away in June of 2014, and while we put out the decorations and happy faces for my nieces and nephews, it was – and still is – a difficult time of year. But this year’s different, at least for me. I was visiting friends last month, and during a quick shopping trip to Kroger I noticed the lawn and porch decorations for sale outside the store: snowmen. A week later, I was in my own hometown for a town-wide open house that the businesses had put together. One of the shops features artwork. You know the type, the rustic art, with the cute figures and the slightly unsaturated colors, all of it painted on found objects.

There was a group of teenagers outside of this particular shop, singing carols to people as they walked or drove by. They were related to the owner of the shop, and eagerly told me of the wonder that awaited me just inside the door. They were fantastic, and cheered me, and I went in.

Without any warning I was surrounded by snowmen. The owner had chosen this year to paint nothing but snowmen and women on pallets and strips of wood and metal lids and any other surface that would take acrylic paint. It was wonderful, and all I could think was how much Mom would have enjoyed it, the whole evening. She might have bought something at that shop, and she would have loved walking from shop to shop, poking into nooks and crannies to see what was available, and finding people to talk to in each one.

And she would. Mom knew so many people, and she was so gregarious, so giving of herself. I miss her always, but I think I miss her most right now, at this time of year. I miss cooking with her, and making cooking, and planning holiday meals. I miss going shopping with her, and wrapping presents, and going with her to church on Christmas Eve.

This year is different, though. I miss her, but I’m not so soul-crushingly sad as I have been. I want to celebrate, because by celebrating, by doing the things we did together, I am remembering her, and our good times. By keeping those traditions going, I am keeping a small part of her alive. I think she’d like that.