Merry Christmas!

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One of my most treasured and favorite people in this world, she who has listened and loved and given grace and shared wisdom and been there to hug me when my heart was breaking, gave me this gift yesterday. It was just what I wanted and needed this Christmas. How about you?

May you have peace, sweet peace, and harmony, golden harmony, today and everyday–Merry Christmas!

Love to all.

The Man from Hollywood…..and the Christmas Spirit

This afternoon I made a trip up to Daybreak.  We weren’t officially having our Sister Circle today, but since the shelter is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wanted to go up and see our friends and wish them a Merry Christmas.

As I was saying goodbye to Mac and wishing him a good Christmas, I gave him a hug and noticed that his coat was damp.  The perils of living outside.  When it rains, everything you owns gets wet.  It is hard–this balancing loving someone whose choices put his very life at risk.  He has other options, other resources.  This is his choice at this time, I have to keep reminding myself.  It still didn’t keep me from worrying about the wind that was getting colder by the minute and him in those damp clothes as he limped away to his “camp” with his friends.

I was lost in my thoughts, standing on the sidewalk outside Daybreak watching him go, when this gentleman carrying two bags stopped and said hello. I turned toward him.

“You volunteer here, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yessir, I do.”

He stuck his hand out and introduced himself.  “I’m Sanford Robertson.  I’ve been in Macon twenty-three days now.  I’m from Hollywood, Florida.”

My mouth dropped.  “Hollywood, Florida?  Really?  My Mama was born there.”

He smile grew bigger.  He asked me if it was a specific hospital.  I couldn’t be sure and told him so.  I told him how I’d misunderstood when I was little about Mama being born in Hollywood, as you might imagine.

He laughed.  “Yes.  A lot of people get them mixed up.  It’s not THAT Hollywood.”

Y’all. I felt like I had a wink from my Mama.  Especially with the next words he said.

“You know there’s a blessing coming for you, right?  You just have to hang on a little while longer.  But yes ma’am, there’s one coming for you.”

I felt like Mama was there encouraging me again.  Hang in there.  It will be okay.  Oh my heart.

Mr. R continued to share his story.  He’s in town because he trusted someone, a fiancée, a little too much, followed her here, and gave her all his money. After which she was no longer his fiancée.  And so he’s stuck here.  Until he can work something else out.

In the meantime, he walks the streets of Macon making people smile and blessing them.  And sharing the spirit of Christmas and the Spirit.

Last week he found himself at the bus station.  There was a young woman there, crying her eyes out. “She was a child really,” he said.  “Twenty-two years old.  Babies having babies.  She has two.”

He approached her and asked, “Why are you crying, child?”

She sobbed harder.  He stood there until she could gather herself and speak again.  Turns out she was in a hard place.  She and her sister live in a home together with their four little ones between them–the youngest less than two months old.  She can’t pay the bills and she’s scared.

Mr. R offered to pray with her.  She nodded.  They joined hands and he prayed.  He’s a preacher’s kid, so he’s heard a few in his life.  After the prayer, she thanked him and he started to walk away.

“You ever have one of those moments when the Spirit taps you on the shoulder and wants you to do something, and you look around sure that He’s got the wrong person?  That He doesn’t really mean YOU?”

Ummm, once or twice, yessir.  Sure have.

“Well, the Spirit told me I should offer her the groceries I was about to pick up from the Mission.  I shook my head, and I kept on walking.  At least I tried to.  Yeah, I tried to keep on walking away, but it’s like my feet were frozen in place.  You know what I mean?”

I do.  We’ve all got a bit of Jonah in us, don’t we?

He sighed.  “Well, I finally figured out I wasn’t going to be leaving without doing what the Spirit wanted me to do, so I turned back around, and I told her where I was heading and that whatever I had coming my way was hers.  Hers and that family of hers.”

He tugged at his jacket.  The wind was picking up a bit. He continued his story. “Then she asked me, ‘Just tell me this one thing.  Why do you want to do this?’ and I told her, ‘I don’t want to do this.  But I’m going to.'”

I laughed.  He chuckled too.

“Well, I went on down to the Mission.  I told the man there, I was straight with him, that things had changed a bit, and that I had a friend who was in a bad way.  Worse than I was.  And he loaded me down with a ham, turkey, case of peanut butter, rice……” He listed all the things he could remember receiving.  They were very generous.  He estimated it was $75-$80 worth of groceries.  But I’m telling you I went to the store just the other day.  It was worth a lot more than that.

Mr. R started thinking about how he was going to get all of these groceries across town.  “That devil was trying to get me to keep those groceries for myself, I can tell you that.  From the moment I tried to walk away from her, he was a’tryin’ to change my mind.  But I was having none of that.  I used to be full of foolishness, but God’s working on me, and I’m not going to go back on my word that easy.”

He stood outside the Mission.  He had $3 to his name, all in his pocket.  He offered it to a few folks to drive him over to the young woman’s home.  Seems they all were headed in a different direction.  Again that devil was offering him an out.  Then he saw a grocery cart close by.  Just there, belonging to nobody.  So he loaded everything in it.  And tried to figure out how he was going to push that heavy cart all the way to her home.

“Then I seen one of them homeless fellas from down here [Daybreak] walk by.  I told him I had $3 and that was all I had, but it was all his if he’d help me push this cart over to her house.”  He paused and waved his arm out.  “We pushed that thing up all them hills, but you know, he stuck with me the whole time.”

When he got there, the young woman wasn’t home.  Her sister was, and she could scarce believe her eyes.  He opened their refrigerator and there was a half jug of milk and a bottle of water.  And that was all.  Hardly anything in their pantry either.  And they weren’t going to get any more assistance before January 1.

Y’all.  I can’t even.

He unloaded, and the sister timidly asked him a question.  “Mr. R?  Do you mind if I give you a hug?”

He said he has granddaughters older than these girls, and that when that “child” hugged him, she held on tight.  “You just don’t know how you’ve saved us,” she said.  “You just don’t know.”

The young woman who hadn’t been home when he made his delivery called him at the shelter later on.  She, too, was in tears.  “I had no idea you’d bring this much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

By now the clouds were gathering and turning into shades of dark gray.  My sweatshirt that had been too warm on the ride up to Macon was nowhere near enough as I stood there listening to Mr. R’s story.  I was thankful he had on a few more layers.

“So you see, like I told her then, there’s a blessing coming, child.  I don’t know from where or when, but you hang on.  It’s coming.  One day.  It will come.” He asked me my name.  I told him. “For you too, Tara.  It’s coming.”

I looked at Mr. R, and for a moment, I was really puzzled.  Could it be that this man, who was headed out this afternoon, walking to the Salvation Army in the hopes of finding a bed for the night, had not a clue that HE was her blessing?  And in many ways–mine for today?

As we parted ways, me not sure if I would ever see him again or if I would get to hear how his story turned out, I gave thanks for Mr. R and his story.  And his birth and life in Hollywood, Florida.  And for his ways, so much like my Mama’s, who also would have given the shirt off her back if someone needed it.  Or her ham and turkey and last $3.  Whatever it took.

What a story for Christmas!  And everyday.  He reminds me of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  He was interruptible, and he changed lives with his gift.  I wonder if those little ones looked at the man coming through the door with all those goodies loaded in a grocery cart, and thought that Father Christmas, Santa Claus himself, had arrived at their door.

The Spirit called him, and he answered.  May it be so with all of us.  (And God, when (not if, I’m afraid) I try to walk away, please freeze my feet too!)

Love to all.  And to all a good night.  Sleep well, Mac, I pray you are somehow miraculously warm and dry.  And Mr. R, may you sleep the slumbers of a soul done good, and those little ones and the sisters with full tummies, may you dream the sweet dreams of those who have been touched by love, a love that asks for nothing in return.  The true Spirit of Christmas.  And the Spirit of every day.

Making the Season Last…..

Yesterday evening one of my friends mentioned to me that she had seen some Cherry Cordial ice cream somewhere.  She mentioned this because she knows how much I love those things–they make me think of my Daddy.  We always wrapped up a box for him and put them under the tree.

As we were talking about how good we knew it would be and wondering where she saw them, I said, almost forlornly, “They’re probably for the holiday season only.”

We both sighed.  She said, “Yeah.  Probably so.”

Isn’t that the saddest thing?  All the good things that will be over on December 26th?

I spend a lot of time and energy on Christmas, working up to the day, as I’m sure many people do.  I really wish more people celebrated the Christmas “season”–from Christmas Day until Epiphany on January 6th.  Christmas movies–when I would actually have time to watch them, Christmas music to listen to and lift the spirits, and best of all–the spirit of folks around us–the giving spirit would carry on beyond December 25th.

I had an amazing retail experience yesterday.  I was shopping for a young man I’ve never met.  I have never shopped for a male that age before and I was clueless.  I only knew the brand of clothes he would like–nothing about styles.  I headed out, a little nervous and a whole lot lost.  When I got to the store, I guess I looked as lost as I felt, because the young sales associate asked me if I needed any help.

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, Yes please, if you don’t mind.

I explained what I was doing, how I didn’t have a clue what to get, and that I needed the best prices because I wanted to get him more than one outfit.  She nodded and led me around the store sharing with me the newly marked down prices on shirts, pants, hoodies, and so on.

For the love.  Bless her.

I probably seemed ancient to her, and yet she was patient and kind and made me feel like I could do this.

And so I did.

As I was checking out, another sales associate and I chatted about the holidays.  I told her how much I appreciated the help I’d gotten because I really wanted to do this right.  She asked me a couple of questions and started clicking on her computer.  She then gave me not one but two different discounts.  She wanted to be a part of helping this young man as well.  Bless her too.  I started crying.  I couldn’t help it.  I’m tired, it’s been a hard week, (and a hard decade for that matter), and I had no clue what I was doing.  And here she was, reaching out to help, and making a difference.  She stopped, and said, “Don’t cry.  It’s okay.”  And I think I blubbered something about how I could get him some shoes now.  I don’t know, I was so blown away by her kindness.  I gave her a heartfelt Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas and left the store, wishing I could have found better words to tell her how much her actions meant to me.

Because you know.  She so could have listened to me rambling and just nodded and done her job, and she would have been well within her rights to do just that.  I expected no different.  But no.  She stepped outside her “have to’s” and did what she could.  I love that.  I want to be just like her.

I was thinking about her and the limited seasonal ice cream and other things that are usually just a part of the holiday season–many of them my favorite things–white twinkly lights (no LED’s please, don’t get me started), Christmas music, excitement and anticipation in my children’s eyes and hearts, friendly greetings, and folks reaching out with a hand to help.

Occasionally we see these things after January 1, but it is something of an anomaly when we do–it’s almost like we don’t trust it, isn’t it?  I mean, what would you do if you found a container of “Santa’s Christmas” ice cream (I think that’s the name of it–it’s a delicious coffee flavor?) in the grocery store in May?  Would you trust the flavor, that it’s okay?  If someone tried to do something kind for you, and they couldn’t shrug it off with “hey, it’s Christmas” because it’s April?  I know it can happen, it just seems like on December 26th a lot of folks are ready to move on, pack up the tree and decorations and shut down the music and movies and get on to the next thing.

I’m happy for them, I really am.  But that’s not me.  I am thankful that I found a radio station that will play Christmas music straight through to New Year’s Eve.  And I just checked and it looks like Hallmark Channel will be showing Christmas movies through until then too.  It’s a start.  I just love the magic of the season, and I guess my heart wonders, just as Miss N of our Sister Circle asked, “Why’s it gotta be just one day?”  

Years ago I told myself I would give me the gift of the week after Christmas.  I would savor the season the whole week long.  Relax and remember.  Celebrate.  I recall a lady I once knew who gave a “Breaking Down Christmas” party every year, just a few days after Christmas.  It was not a New Year’s Eve party, it was a Christmas party.  Only it was AFTER the rush and bustle of Christmas Day, and it was awesome.  Everyone was relaxed and had a wonderful time.

I know some folks might argue that these things would lose their “specialness” if available year-round, but I don’t know.  So if you hear me humming a Christmas tune or see me digging in the freezer at the grocery store in search of Santa’s Christmas or Cherry Cordial ice cream or hear that I’m watching “White Christmas” in February, just chalk it up to whimsy and my quirky ways.   It’s just me, trying to hang on to the magic, and trying to make it last for more than just one day…..

because magic and love and kindness really never go out of season, do they?

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Today I’ve had Keeping Christmas by Henry Van Dyke on my mind and heart….. it’s really special.  Very short, but so full of wisdom and beauty.  You can read it here.   Merry Memory-Making!

Waking Up At Christmas

Oh the great arguments we used to have!

As the oldest, and a true loophole finder, I was often the one pleading our case.

“Five a.m.” I’d say.

“Not one minute before nine, ” my parents, the “other party,” would say.

“Six.”

“Eighty-thirty.”  They’d respond.

And so on.  Until usually, almost every year, the time was set.  7:00 a.m.

The time we were allowed to get our parents up on Christmas morning.

The rule in our house was that we did not go in and see what was under the tree without everyone else.

Most Christmas mornings, especially after Bubba was old enough to understand how exciting it all was, Sister, Mess Cat, and Bubba would come pile into my twin bed in the room I shared with Sister.

Around 5 a.m.

We would laugh in hushed tones and whisper excitedly, giving hints about what we had gotten or made for each other.  What we had gotten for Mama or Daddy.  What we thought Santa might actually bring us.  How hungry we were and ideas for how to sneak a peek without them knowing and how ready we were for 7:00 a.m. to be here already!

When it was a few minutes before seven we would creep down the hall to stand outside of my parents’ bedroom.  We were giggling and shivering and all aflutter with excitement.  When we figured it was 7 exactly, we would tap on their door, gently at first, and then with a little more insistence.

“Who is it?” one of them would call out in the dim light of morning.

We’d all giggle.  “It’s us!”

We would hear them stirring and the sounds of water running.  Mama, just about every year, would say, “Daddy is going to get a shower first, and then we’ll be ready.”

NOOOOOOOOOO!

We always laughed but I think there was a little fear in the back of our minds that he might really be going to take a shower, and oh my goodness, how could we ever wait that long?

And just when we thought we could not stand to wait any longer, nearly bouncing out of our skin with excitement and anticipation, their door would open and *oh relief* there they’d be, dressed and ready to go in and finally get this Christmas morning party started.

We would line up outside the living room door, and Mama would say, “Let me see if Santa has already come.”  She’d peek her head in, check it out, and then turn back to us and give us the okay to head on in.

Waking up on Christmas morning was always the best part of the day.

Back then I guess Mama and Daddy taught us about patience on Christmas morning.  In the years since, they taught us so much more about waking up at Christmas.

Waking up to others.  Those not gathered with us under the tree.  Those who maybe had no tree or family or even a home to gather with or in.  Since newly married they sponsored children through the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.  Something we didn’t know about until we were much older.  It was when I was in college that they taught us about really waking up.  They married on December 17.  Over the years we would give them different things as anniversary gifts.  One year we asked Mama what they would like for their anniversary, and she asked us to do something for others who needed something, that they didn’t need anything.

That was the first year the sibs and I went in together and had our eyes and hearts opened.  There was an elderly couple, living in an old, rather rundown house.  We took them groceries and a few treats for Christmas.  Bless them.  What precious, sweet folks.  They had so little but they were so filled with joy.

That’s what our parents were trying to get us to wake up to all those years on Christmas morning–to the idea that it’s not about what you have, or what’s under the tree, but who you have in your life.  Who is at your side, whispering and giggling on Christmas morning.  Who is walking with you as you journey through the years, the good times and the bad, the laughter and the tears.

The past few years, the tables have turned.  Mama and Daddy have come to our house on Christmas morning.  Some years they were earlier than others.  And then there was the Christmas of 2008.  The year before Daddy got sick.  It was Christmas morning.  I’d been up rather late the night before putting out the cookies and Coca-Cola for Santa.  It was 6:58. I only know this because I opened my eyes to check when I heard……

The doorbell.  Ringing all through the house.

Did I mention it was 6:58 a.m.?  In the morning?

They were quite tickled with themselves.

And once I realized that the Fella could appreciate the humor in the situation, I was delighted at their turnabout.  As were my young’uns.  Once they wiped the sleep out of their eyes.

What a great memory!

Then last year, Mama had talked about the possibility of not coming on Christmas morning because of the weather.  She told me on Christmas Eve that she would check the weather when she got up.  It was 4 a.m. when I realized that Cooter was running a fever.  My heart broke.  I knew that Mama didn’t need to be around him, as she was vulnerable to illness because of medication.  I didn’t want to wake her up, so I waited until 8 a.m. to call her.  No answer.  Ten minutes later.  Still no answer.

Three minutes later.  Her car in the driveway.  Oh yes!  Oh no.

I told her on the porch.  She looked at me and said, “Well, we just won’t hug today, but it will be okay.”  And she hugged me, wrinkled her nose, and let me know it all really would be okay.

And it was.  Better than okay.  I was able to have my last Christmas waking up to see my sweet and spunky Mama’s face.

My Mama, who taught me to wake up and look around me at what others needed and figure out what I could do, left us for a better place in February.  But she is still with us.  I know she is.  I was struggling this year with what I could wake up out of my grief and do this Christmas to help someone else.  And in the craziest of ways, things presented themselves.  Not what I would have thought of and not what I was expecting, but things that woke me up and blessed me anyway.  I’ve had my eyes opened, my heart torn, and my mind blown this holiday season. I’ve cried over what I’ve seen both good and bad, and I’ve laughed with joy.  And I know my Mama had something to do with it.  She liked to help me look outside of myself when I was on my pity pot.  In fact, she insisted on it.  That’s just how she rolled.

When Mama woke up in the mornings, the first thing she’d do was have a glass of chocolate milk.  It helped her feel better since she had to take so much medicine.

And that’s what we all need, isn’t it?  Something to help us get through the bitter and broken and hard to swallow moments in life.

So this Christmas morning, I will have a small glass of chocolate milk in her honor.  And remember all that she and Daddy taught me about waking up at Christmas and every day of the year.  It’s about those you can giggle with, walk with; it’s about looking around and helping when you can, and always keeping your chocolate milk handy.  When the world gets hard, nothing’s better than giggling sisters and brothers and all the chocolate you can find.

Merry Memory-Making!

Other Christmas memories from my childhood–

Daddy and Cherry Cordials

Keeping Christmas Everyday

Christmas a Hundred Years Before

O Christmas Tree

Decking the Halls

About a week ago I was visiting at Mess Cat’s house, admiring her tree, when an ornament caught my eye.  I was transported back in time faster than Marty McFly could start the DeLorean–back to the living room at Blackberry Flats.  I remember the way the angel fairy’s snowflake reflected the different colors.  I loved to sit in “my” chair snuggled up in a blanket, mesmerized by the colorful shadows on the wall, as I crocheted one handmade gift or another for a family member.  (God bless ’em for putting up with me during that phase.)

Mess Cat's angel she got years ago from our Aunt.  I have been looking on eBay to find one just like her.  She brings back wonderful memories of Christmases past.

Mess Cat’s angel she got years ago from our Aunt. I have been looking on eBay to find one just like her. She brings back wonderful memories of Christmases past.

It was about the same time as my visit with her that we decorated our tree.  I found one of my ornaments from childhood.  He is one of my all-time favorites.  Our spirited Aunt, Daddy’s brother’s wife, used to give us all Hallmark ornaments at Christmas.  Confession time–I don’t remember being exceptionally excited about the gift.  Don’t get me wrong, I was thankful and I did think them beautiful and cute and fun to see, but I’m afraid the stuffed animal or tape recorder (oh what a Christmas that was!) garnered more attention from me.

One of my all time favorites.  He spins around inside of the snowflake.  Just awesome.

One of my all time favorites. He spins around inside of the snowflake. Just awesome.

Howsomever…..

the ornaments I still have.   (And okay, a few of the stuffed animals too.)  But that’s it.  As I grew older, I appreciated the gift of the ornaments more and more.  What a treasure!  To look back and remember putting the same ornament on the tree year after year.  Now that’s a grand tradition.

From Aub's Christmas Number 5.  Thankful to my friend who started us collecting ornaments for Aub.

From Aub’s Christmas Number 5. Thankful to my friend who started us collecting ornaments for Aub.

When Aub was a baby, my friend, who had a little guy only six weeks older, started the Baby’s First Five Christmases ornament collection for her.  And another tradition was begun.  Each year, even when we were on our own, I picked out an ornament that held significance for that year.  A few years in there my Great Aunt gave her one as well.  As we pulled the ornaments out to put on the tree this year, I found myself waxing nostalgic.  In just a few years most likely these sweet and funny ornaments–the old fashioned dress shoes that open, the little dolls, the fairy collection, Barbie and her sister sledding, the Christmas mice, the five little bears all numbered as they grew–they won’t be on my tree anymore.

And I’m okay with that.  It’s the reason I started the collection.  So she’ll have ornaments to look back and remember with one day.   But still…..I will miss them.

Our tree is a mashup of personalities as there are ornaments that represent each one of us and our quirks and meaningful moments. From the Fella’s “Christmas Vacation” collection to a Manning boy football player for me (does it really matter which one?) to Princess’ ballerinas to Cooter’s newly begun collection of Star Wars ornaments, and of course, the ones Aub has gotten over the years–guitar, Hoops and Yoyo, the mouse in the silver cup.  It is fun to reminisce each year.  Especially the homemade ornaments.  Mess Cat even has one that Aub made when she was quite small on her tree.

Aub, when she was quite small.

Aub, when she was quite small.

And then there’s the whimsical, like the fishing bobber we got from Go Fish, fishing with Santa last Sunday.

Love it!  The ultimate fishing ornament--can be used year round.

Love it! The ultimate fishing ornament–can be used year round.

Some of my favorites though are 46 years old to be exact.  Mama and Daddy married on December 17.  They didn’t have a whole lot of anything.  I think they were renting a little place in Valdosta where they were both in school at the time.  Newly married, not much to their names.  Definitely no Christmas ornaments.  So they made them.

My most favorite ornaments of all--the ones Mama and Daddy made when their first Christmas together.

My most favorite ornaments of all–the ones Mama and Daddy made their first Christmas together.

These precious little yarn people have graced our trees at Blackberry Flats for a long, long time.  I like to think about Mama and Daddy working together to make these sweet Christmas people.  I wonder which creative genius came up with the idea?  After all, this was back in the days before Pinterest.  Practically the dinosaur age, right?  Once Mama stopped putting up a full size tree, she passed them along to me.  I adore them and cannot figure out how they have held up so well all these years. I loved finding each couple hanging separately on the tree.  The fabric ones Mama made with fabric left over from making me clothes. I had a skirt made from this  fabric–Aub also wore it when she was two.  I think our rocker cushion might have been made from it as well.  I love the embroidery on the stocking.  (Obviously these were made a couple of years later.)  Such a wonderful story and example of the beauty of Christmas being found in the simple things.

I am thankful that my siblings let me have Mama’s Christmas decorations.  She has shared many of them with us over the years, but what is left they have given me.  And I am thankful.  As I pulled them down from their storage spot at the top of my old closet, I felt the ending of an era. Santa now sits on my mantle (he was moved from under the tree for his own protection–he is likely close to sixty years old now, you know).   Mama’s latchhook Santa made by her sister-in-law that I can’t ever remember not hanging in the kitchen/dining area at Christmas now hangs in our dining nook.  And finally, the piece de resistance–

the mistletoe.

Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see.....

Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see…..

It hung year after year after year above the door to the laundry room which led to outside.  No one came in that house that didn’t pass under that mistletoe (some of the newer additions to the family had to duck under it), and Mama/Maemae would be standing there with her arms out, ready to give whoever it was a great big hug.  Oh that mistletoe.  It almost feels sacrilegious for it to hang in my house.  And yet it must.  It’s not Christmas without it. And the best Mistletoe. Story. There. Ever. Was.

Years. Ago.  Before the Giant started fighting with Daddy.  Before so much that has happened ever did.  It was a joyful time, and my cousin B had come over.  I think it was when he was leaving he found himself standing under the mistletoe.  He’s always had a great sense of humor.  He looked at Daddy standing in the kitchen, spread his arms wide, looked up  at the mistletoe, then back at Daddy, and said, “Uncle Bill!!!!!”  Daddy did not miss a beat.  He called my cousin’s name, strode straight over to him, gave him a great big hug and a big ol sloppy kiss.  And the rest is history.  We laughed and laughed.  Actually, I’m still laughing over that one.

Tonight I am thankful for industrious, creative, and generous parents who made beautiful, long-lasting Christmas decorations with love and patience, and who shared them and their stories with me.  I give thanks for my siblings who let me have the rest of Mama’s Christmas things–all the things she and the children would put out together each year around the first of December.  And I give thanks for my spirited aunt and my friend who, years ago, knew something that it would take me years to learn and appreciate–the gift of an ornament is more than merely a decoration, it’s the gift of memories collected year after year after year.

And that is where the real treasure in them lies.  Oh Christmas tree, you are full of the stories, aren’t you?

 

(Special thanks to Mess Cat for the pictures of her ornaments–I found a surprise for you girl!  Can’t wait to share it with you.  hint–it’s just like one in one of the pictures.  Love to all.)

A Christmas Story I’d Like to Read

The book of Luke in the Good Book starts with first one pretty miraculous story and then another.

Elizabeth and Zachariah are pretty old, and one day the angel Gabriel comes to Zachariah, a priest, in the temple and tells him that Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy.  Zachariah thinks about this, his age and everything, and pretty much says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.  Do you know how old we are?”  Gabriel isn’t playing around, and he tells Zachariah that yes, it’s true, and just for not believing him, Zachariah will not be able to speak until after the baby’s birth.

Well then.

Meanwhile, Zachariah finishes his assignment, goes home, Elizabeth becomes pregnant, and Zachariah can’t speak.  In another town, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary is also visited by Gabriel.  Apparently he’s a pretty intimidating angel, as he tells Mary not to be afraid just as he did Zachariah.  He tells her about her pregnancy, how she’s been chosen by God to give birth to the Son of God.  She is also struck by disbelief, but I guess Gabriel’s getting used to it, because he kindly answers her questions and then tells her that Elizabeth is six months pregnant. “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:38)

Mary doesn’t let grass grow under her feet.  She takes off and heads straight to Zachariah’s house.  When she arrives she is greeted by Elizabeth, whose baby in her womb leaps at the presence of Mary and her unborn child.  Elizabeth somehow knows that Mary is the mother of her Lord and expresses her joy over Mary’s presence.  Mary responds from her heart filled with joy and gratitude over being chosen by God.  And then…..

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What?  I’m sorry.  I’m flipping through the Good Book, thinking to myself, “Somebody has taken a page of ten from this book.  What happened?  Three months?  Are you serious?  Nothing?”

Nope, nothing.  Not a word.

Now this.  This is the story I want to read.  Really, really.  Two women, each expecting her own miracle, hanging out together in a home where the man of the house cannot speak. (No offense meant, guys.)  Can’t you see them? They are the original awesome cousins and sister friends.  Giddy with laughter while kneading bread on the smooth wooden surface.  Quiet moments lost in their own thoughts as they sit in companionable silence while knitting or sewing or shelling peas.  Cleaning the house together–“many hands make for light work.”  Comparing pregnancy notes.  Sympathizing over the aches and pains.  Celebrating the little flutters and kicks.  Whispering in hushed yet excited tones over how the world is about to change.  Over the news that they know.  And what they imagine it will be like. Patting Zachariah on the shoulder good-naturedly as he sighs and tries to enter the conversation with his hands, trying to get his thoughts across.  Sitting together at the table sipping the soup and savoring the moments that would pass all too soon.

Three months.  Two women. Each sharing her own form of the miracle of new life.

This.  This is the Christmas story I want someone to write.  Yes, I’m okay with a fictionalized version.  I just know it would make for a great book–one that would cover all the gamut of emotions–joy, laughter, fear, worry, happiness, exhaustion, peacefulness, exhilaration, and anticipation.  The strength of women, cousins, sisters, sharing a journey–one that would take the world and all of us to places we’ve never been. These two women who shared three months’ time together, intimately and comfortably, are about to give birth to boys who are going to change the lives of everyone forever.

That’s a tale of epic proportions, and yet, it is beautiful in its simplicity.  The sharing of tasks, thoughts, time, and prayers.  And affection.  Love for one another, love for their unborn sons, and love for the God they seek to serve.

Yeah, that book would be placed at the top of my “to be read” stack.  And I don’t think Mt. Washmore on my couch, waiting to be folded, or hungry mouths or lessons needing to be done could distract me from it.  That’s a true story for the season.

(Anybody get wind of a version that I wasn’t aware of, please send me a link.  You will make my day.  🙂  )

 

 

(Update on my daughter’s friend, Miss K, who is in critical condition in the hospital.  She is still on the ventilator but it’s not set as high I believe, which is good.  They think she has improved enough to take her off the full-time dialysis machine to the 4-hour one.  She responded to her mother asking her if she was hot or if she wanted the air on.  And she shook her head yes, that she was ready to get out of the bed.  The doctors want to continue to keep her heavily sedated so her body won’t stress over anything.  They want her body to focus on healing from the sepsis and the pneumonia.  Her mother wrote: “For her Wesleyan sisters, have fun with your families and enjoy your holidays, she should be better and ready for you guys when you return…..that’s my own little prayer…”   As it is ours, sweet Mama.  Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers for Miss K and her family.   Their Christmas will be very different this year, and it makes me cry that she thought of her daughter’s friends and wished them well.  Life is so precious and fragile, isn’t it?  Love to all.)

It’s Just Stuff…..Or Maybe Not

Isn’t it interesting how a single thing can hold so many memories and emotions inside of it?

Yesterday I was given a precious gift that took me back to being little and sitting at a counter eating biscuits just out of the oven, playing Monopoly marathons with cousins, and watching Granddaddy drink his coffee with a cup and bowl.  I was taken back to open windows and picking vegetables from the garden, walking down a dirt road in the heat of summer, and cooling off in the afternoons watching “Gunsmoke” in the house.  I once asked Granddaddy why he drank coffee in the summer, and he said it cooled him off.  It intrigued me that he tilted his cup over to pour some in the bowl to cool, and he drank that first.  I can see Granny standing on the other side of the counter, washing dishes looking out the window at the hummingbirds.  I can smell the honeysuckle and feel the sand in the sandpile under my feet.  And I can still see the baby pigs and the cows, and I remember going there and getting dirty playing with the cows before my Aunt’s wedding.  (And no, Mama wasn’t happy.)

All of that and so much more.  Just from holding one little really huge thing.

“It’s just stuff.”

I’ve heard that a lot in my life, especially in the past four years of having people I love leave this world and their stuff behind.  And I know it’s true.  It is just stuff.  And yet…..

The little turtle that sat at my Great Aunt’s in her bathroom on the shelf is memory-filled.  I talked to it a lot during the visits when I went to check on my Great Aunt while Mama and Daddy were at Emory and fighting the Giant.

Santa and Mrs. Claus. As best as I can remember, Granny and Daddy made this together.

Santa and Mrs. Claus. As best as I can remember, Granny and Daddy made this together.

The Santa that my Daddy and Granny made together sits on my mantle right now.  It takes me back to cold, gray winter days standing at the plate-glass window looking out over Granny’s front porch and into the fields across the dirt road.  I remember alternating sitting next to Santa, fascinated with how he was made, and backing up to the heater that warmed the house, standing next to my Daddy.  My favorite place to be.  Always.

The grandfather clock stays in my hallway taking me back to the wall of clocks that was in my Great Aunt’s house.  My Great Uncle loved clocks and figuring out what made them “tick.”  At one point, he had a whole wall of them.  Beautiful.  Steady.  Dependable.

The jewelry box and bag of crocheting and sewing notions bring back memories of all the wonderful needlework and crocheted projects my Mama’s Cousin put her time and love into over the years.  And the needlework I have of hers is a treasure and will be for generations to come.

The slotted spoon that belonged to my Great Great Aunt takes me back to  ice-cold Coca-Cola in the bottle in the kitchen before we’d go “into the house.”  Church’s chicken at the dining room table, complete with cherry pies.  And the big furnace floor grate that was fascinating and terrifying all at the same time.

There are little and not so little things all over my house that bring back memories.  I see the hands of the ones I love, winding a clock, stitching beauty into creation, cutting up a pineapple, stirring the butterbeans, pulling the corn from its stalk, turning the page of a storybook, and hands crossed behind a back to warm them by the fire.  Oh, their hands.  The ones that patted me on the head, held onto mine, hugged me close.  How I miss all of them.

It’s just stuff.

Maybe.  But the stories and memories each little or big thing holds tight within?  That is where the real treasure lies.  The stories are the reason I am so drawn to the stuff.  To see.  To touch.  To remember.  To hear their voices and the stories once again.  And to feel hugged and loved.  It’s not about the stuff.  It’s about the love behind them.