A Little Golden Kind of Christmas Story

Forty-nine years ago today my parents said “I do” because they did and that was the beginning of a fantastic journey full of brilliant, simple moments and more love than one house could hold.  Forty-nine years ago right now, I believe they were warming up some Pepsi or some such because they’d heard that it was delicious.  I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of them, newlyweds, in the kitchen in their little rented home in Valdosta, Georgia standing over the stove with grins they couldn’t wipe off their faces (at least I would imagine so), and I never thought to ask if it was any good.

I would think probably not, since they never made it in the years that I can recall.

Still.

That love.  Those two people who loved each other, loved others–

I miss them.

They especially loved little ones.  And books.  I’ve shared before how in the later years they’d choose a special book or two to share around the holidays.  As a comfort and way to connect with them after Mama passed on in 2013, I attempted to continue the tradition.  Some years it’s been easy to find a book right off.  Others it took longer.  This year was the latter.  Most definitely the latter.  I tested some, read lots, but none felt completely right.  And again, I found myself drawn to books about trees.  Which makes sense really, since going out to Granny’s farm, traipsing through the woods, and finding our very own Christmas tree all those years are some of my favorite holiday memories.

So this year I tried not to pick out a Christmas tree story.  That was proving difficult, and I had set this past Wednesday as my personal deadline.  Wednesday morning Aub and I sat with a stack of Christmas books and looked through them.  Then…..I found it.

I vaguely remembered Mama’s excitement at finding this book a few years back.  I thought and dug through my memory banks that I expect are getting to be like what my Granddaddy described as Fibber McGee’s closet, and I kept coming up with my sweet cousin for some reason.  So while Aub looked up my Mama’s Amazon account record, I texted my cousin.  Sure enough, she’d given it to my cousin a few years ago.  Appropriate.  Perfect for her actually.  However, I was sad.  I really love this book!

So I continued searching.  Aub left for work, and I started to read on my own.  I found two I liked, but I still couldn’t choose.  Then it hit me–maybe I should bring my littles in on this year’s choice.  They know about the tradition, and as it turns out, they were tickled to help choose.

I think they chose well.

So our Princess, Cooter, and I are thrilled to announce this year’s choice for Maemae’s Christmas book.

It really is perfect.  I have such happy memories of Little Golden Books growing up.  Those gold edges and perfectly same-sized books–hard covers and beautiful, colorful illustrations–we had quite a few sitting on our book shelf…..waiting to be taken down and read again and again.  Some of those same ones grace my shelves now.  But not this one.  I was thrilled to find it, as I’d not read it before.  I love the sweet stories and poems, especially the one about the animals and people’s reactions to “no snow.”  But what tickled me the most was Cooter’s reaction to the story about the little squirrel.  Read it.  See if you can figure out at what moment he said, “UH OH” out loud–concerned that things were about to go awry.  I don’t want to spoil it, but that was Cooter’s favorite part of the book.

I highly recommend both of these books.  I also recommend the other book (which our Princess especially loved).  It is a sweet story of a strong woman who makes a difference in our world with her caring, strength, and ingenuity.  A great story not just for the holidays but everyday, right?


What are your favorite holiday and Christmas stories?  I would love to hear about them.

I hope your holidays are filled with hours and hours of enjoyment and good books to read, but most importantly, I hope these days are filled with the living out of your own great story.

Merry memory-making!

Love to all.

 

Never Doubt the Power of the Moments

Another landmark moment.  Cooter finished reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” a couple of weeks ago.  Our deal is read it, and then you get to watch it.  He had to wait to watch the movie until his big sister Aub came home from college Friday afternoon.  He was ready to hit play the moment she walked through the door.  Thankfully, he did let me get supper served first.

They all loved it.  He got through the loss of his favorite character and handled it with strength and only a few tears welled up.  (Though he’d never admit it)  What’s funny is I had no idea that this was also a Harry Potter Marathon weekend on one of the TV channels.  So last night, I found myself sitting up alone, about to write.  I clicked through and saw that the very same movie had just started playing.

True Confession:  The Harry Potter movies are the same for me as Princess Diaries 2.  If they’re on, I’m watching.

So I worked a bit and listened to the movie in the background, pausing for my favorite parts.  Towards the end, Harry is very close to being completely taken over by evil forces in his mind and heart.  What saves him from that is a montage of flashback  memories–a photo of his parents, hugs from his best friend, sitting and laughing over next to nothing with his two closest friends–one by one the people he cared about came to mind, and he was able not only to fight against the evil but also to say (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I feel sorry for you.  You will never know what it is like to feel love.”

Bless.

All those moments.  The times we sit and just “be” with someone else–talking, listening, sharing, laughing, crying, sitting quietly–all of those moments are stored up as an arsenal against all the hard and dark and broken times in our lives.

Store them well.  Make all the good memories.  Never question the worth of a kind word or a smile to a stranger.  Never doubt the good you do when you listen to the story of a young child or sing along to the radio with your friend.  Never feel that you are wasting time just sitting with a friend, each of you doing your own thing.  Never hesitate to share a laugh or encouragement or affection.

All of those things keep the light burning and in times of darkness will guide you home.

You matter.  Your words and laugh and all you are matter.  More than you can ever know.

Giving thanks for all the joyful memories I have tucked away and can pull back out when the storms approach.

Wishing you all the same.

Love to all.

Patronus

To produce a patronus which is a strong protective force, you must think of your happiest thoughts and memories. Lovely….. By frostnova [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas…..

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By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland (Christmas is almost over) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

as I prepare to break down Christmas and pack away the ornaments, I sift through the memories made this Christmas season, and my heart is full to bustin’.

There are so many precious moments, big and small, that I have tucked away to keep me warm this winter and in the ones to come, but these twelve stand out for me tonight:

1–The first night that we were all under the same roof for the first time in several months, and I took that sweet, deep breath of thankfulness.

2–Listening to Christmas music while baking Mama’s cookies in the kitchen, using her very own cookie cutters.

3–Taking the Zoo Crew up to Wesleyan on a cold, wet afternoon to hear the Washboard Band play and hear Aub in her percussion debut.

4–The joy of sharing St. Lucia Day festivities with friends and family at Evening Prayer as my writerfriend D and I shared our stories of light for the second year in a row.  It’s a tradition now, y’all.

5–Attending “White Christmas” at a local theater with youth actors and actresses.  Seeing their beaming faces at the end for the curtain call–they were so pleased with the job they had done.  As well they should be. I fell in love with the place, the young people, and the story all over again.

6–The joy of sitting next to One I Hold Dear as I watched my littles perform for their Christmas programs.  When folks do things they don’t have to do out of love and just because they want to, that is a beautiful gift.

7–Hearing Christmas songs played live in my own home. As we wrap up our first year of piano lessons, it has been so much fun to hear the littles playing Christmas carols for us.  I am anticipating even more songs in the coming year to brighten our holidays.

8–The musical offerings talented and beautiful folks shared at Evening Prayer both before and after Christmas.  So much time, talent, and dedication went into those evenings.  I love each and every one of them for making my holidays truly special with their music, smiles, and laughter.

9–Seeing the faces of children, young and old, as they saw Santa Claus when he visited us at Bare Bulb Coffee.  So many precious secrets whispered in Santa’s ear.  The smiles were bright and everlasting.  My heart will never quite be the same again.

10–Hearing “Silent Night” in the candlelit church on Christmas Eve.  I choked up and couldn’t sing all the words.  I felt so connected to the ones who are no longer with us who also sang those words on so many Christmas Eve nights over the years.  I felt surrounded by a host of those I love.

11–Those precious, quiet moments in the wee hours of Christmas morning, when I sat there by myself in the midst of gifts and love, and I was excited, worn out, relieved, happy, and filled with wonder and peace.  And as I sat there, loathe to leave the sweet twinkle lights and their golden glow and the love that filled the room, I thought about how all of those emotions were probably present that very first Christmas morning.  That’s when my heart filled with gratitude, and I found myself weeping as I headed to bed for a few hours of slumber.

12–One of the very best moments was seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes and hearing the anticipation in their voices as they wrapped and then gave their Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. They were more excited to give the gifts they’d chosen than they were to open up the ones with their names on them.  That was a huge gift to me, and I am so thankful for their giving hearts.

Y’all, I was just kidding.  Twelve?  All the little moments.  Cups of coffee with friends.  Surprise visits with folks I haven’t seen for far too long.  Painting with my little friends and watching them focus and work so hard to create their own masterpieces.  Sitting around a fire with precious people as the sun went down and the stars came out.  Watching the children play with their friends as the excitement of Christmas came closer and closer.  Wrapping up in warm, colorful afghans and talking late into the night.  Hallmark Christmas movies.  Watching my brother teach my Aub how to make “Maemae’s” biscuits.  Phone calls and Christmas cards.  Hugs galore.  Cousins who make me smile and laugh.  Oh the joy and peace that passes all understanding!

All of that.

May each and every day of this New Year be filled with just such gifts for all of us.

Love to all.  Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas!

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By Grover cleveland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas…..

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six pairs of little bare feet.

Running through the yard, romping through the house.  Getting them where they wanted to be, catching skinks and lizards and frogs and lovingly creating them wonderful habitats.  Running after each other and riding bikes and scooters.  Wandering all over Blackberry Flats.  Or little bare feet, kicked back, relaxing, just being together.

The cousins are in town, and we are very, very happy.

Love and laughter fills my house and the one at Blackberry Flats, full to bustin’.

Merry memory making has commenced.

And yes, in the photo above, you have counted correctly.  There are only five pairs of feet and fifty toes instead of sixty.  That’s because when you play all day after a long trip from home and you are a little fella of a certain age, you just might not want your feet in a picture.  Even though they are the cutest little feet you ever did see.

You’ll have to take my word for it, because Baby Monkey wasn’t having it.  He had better things to do.

And I’m okay with that.

Thankful for all the sounds of little feet and big, for laughter and stories and make-believe and all the imaginations.  This is the most beautiful sound of the season, and this is what brings Christmas to my heart.

Love to all.

 

 

Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas…..

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two Mock Pecan pies.

Christmas Eve was my baking day.  I love baking as a general rule.  Our family has decided you either have the baking gene or the cooking gene.  Sister claims I got the baking one, while she got the cooking one.  “But your children are luckier than mine,” she said.  “It’s not like you won’t cook just because you like to bake–you’re going to feed them.  But me, it’s rare that I bake treats for mine.  Yours get the food and the treats.”

What I don’t tell her is sometimes, just ever so occasionally, the treats are the food.

The Fella asked for a Buttermilk Custard pie, and Aub wanted the Mock Pecan Pie.  I wanted to do some baking for other folks as well, and I wanted to get in one more batch of Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies (Swedish Ginger Cookies), so I knew I’d be in the kitchen for a while.

I have my Great Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard recipe.  It makes two pies, so I started to work mixing and pouring and blending.  I preheated the oven, poured the mixture into the crusts, and placed them in the oven.  Then I was off on the next round of baking.  As I watched the pies, I noticed they weren’t behaving as per usual, but I shrugged.  I could taste test one and send the other as a gift IF the first tasted okay.

About the time I was pulling the pies out of the oven, I noticed the message on the microwave, alerting me to the fact that something was ready inside, and would I please remove it.

Huh.  I wondered who had prepared something and left it sitting there.  Seriously, people?  I went over and popped the door open and uh-oh.

I looked back at my pies.  And then at the butter sitting in the bowl all nice and melted. Sigh.

Okay.  So I had butterless buttermilk custard pies now.  Two of them.

Double sigh.

After Aub did a taste test and reassured me that the pies still tasted good–(yes, they had enough sugar, but they were missing the required butter portion of my Daddy’s test of something being good)–I went ahead and made a second batch of Aunt Maye’s Buttermilk Custard pies to have for gifts.  The first two would not be leaving this house.

As I poured the mixture into the pie crusts for the second time that day, Aub said, “Ummm, Mama?”

“Yes?!” I was more than a tad short with her.

“Ummm, shouldn’t the buttermilk be in those as well?”

I looked over and sure enough, there sat my buttermilk.  In the measuring cup on the counter, just as pretty as you please.

Y’all, I’m not sure I was meant to make those pies that day.

Still, I poured the mixture BACK into the bowl and stirred in the buttermilk and tried again.  They came out looking beautiful and just as they should.

It was after that fiasco that I made the two beautiful Mock Pecan Pies for Aub.  She says they taste really good, and I may or may not *ahem* be able to confirm that statement.

I also made two small pound cakes that day, but that hardly bears mentioning.  After years and years of making those, I can just about make them in my sleep.  Well, at least, let’s just say I have yet to leave anything more serious than the vanilla out of that recipe.

Two is a good number for Christmas.  Two batches of two Buttermilk Custard Pies.  Two Mock Pecan Pies.  Two times forgetting an ingredient and twice the fun and laughter over my mishaps now that it’s all behind me and I’ve gotten some good sleep.

There’s nothing like the good sleep of the night after all  the Christmas fun, is there?

Wishing you all at least two chances to get things right and twice the fun during this beautiful season.

Love to all.

 

 

All the Pictures WITH them

Today I had the joy–and it was sheer joy–of seeing the faces of children as they saw Santa Claus up close and personal.

Our favorite little coffee shop hosted Santa in the chair next to the Christmas tree up on the little stage.  Family after family came in and approached Santa with timid footsteps and eager.  With shy smiles, radiant, beaming faces, or with worried frowns.  Some children went straight up to Santa, while others had to warm up to him from afar.  Santa sat with children of ALL ages on his lap or standing next to his chair, and he listened.  He held hands and handed out candy canes and smiled and laughed and coaxed little ones into smiling for the camera.

Most parents pulled their phones out and took pictures of their children with the jolly old elf.  Group shots and individual ones with Santa and their children.

And that’s when I had to step in.  I was that person reaching for their phones, insisting they get in at least one picture too.  For a family shot.

Almost every time, the parent would insist he/she hadn’t really planned on being in the picture, so they looked “a mess.”  Still I insisted.

One day your children will thank you.  They will be glad they have pictures of you and them together.  

I know of what I speak.

Over the years, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures of me and my Mama.  She was either taking the picture or in the kitchen while the rest of us were taking them.  So when I find one of the two of us, it brings me great joy.

I don’t have enough pictures with my Mama and Daddy.

So today, I reached for phones and insisted parents jump in there, and I took two or six shots of each family with Santa, insisting the parents look at the pictures before they left, so we could redo if we needed to.

It was an honor to see their faces.  Because when the whole family was in there with Santa, the parents’ smiles were usually bigger than those of the children.  Every single time.

If you are going to be with folks you love over the holidays, take lots of pictures with them, not just of them–all the people, parents and children.  Use the little square in the corner of your screen to turn the camera around and take selfies with them if you have to.  Whatever you have to do, create some magical pictures with the folks you love for you and others to look back on and remember and feel all the love once again.

My favorite moment today–when the veil was so thin–was when I looked in the eyes of a young Mama who got it.  She saw into my soul and why it mattered so much to me, and I saw into hers and knew that it was important for her too.  She was a tearfully happy Mama in the picture with her very young littles which I took through tears of my own.

Tonight I give thanks for the pictures I do have with my folks, and I give thanks for all the times I look at someone I love and say, “Let’s take a picture together and they say, ‘Okay.'” The photos bring back joyful memories and make me smile and remember and hold my people close.  Once again.  The years between us just melt away.

Merry memory-making, y’all.

Love to all.

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Santa waves in greeting to one of his little visitors.

 

 

 

Making It the Norm

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Ever have one of those days?

Often, my friends, often.

And then it occurs to me, that if “free time” is so “not the norm” that the potential of having it causes me to question my own sanity, there might be a problem.

If my schedule is so packed that finding an hour here or a morning there with “nothing,” makes me wonder what I’ve forgotten–well, it’s a shame.  A crying shame.

We deserve better.

Just like when we’ve carried a weight or burden for so long, and we finally decide or reach a point where we are able to let it go.  Suddenly we’re so unfettered that we are nearly light-headed and hardly know how to live without that weight.

Or when we’ve felt bad physically for a while, and after making deliberate choices or seeing a good professional who can help, suddenly we feel so much better we don’t even know that what we are feeling is better.  We can’t trust it.

It’s too much.

Feeling good physically and not weighted down with worries and woes should be the norm, not an anomaly.

As we head into the holidays, let’s all make a pact not to over schedule ourselves or our families.  Let’s have all kinds of moments and days where “nothing” is the norm, and we have all this time to be with the folks we love.  Let’s aim to let go of the worries of the season and focus instead on the warmth and fellowship of the last days of this year.

Wishing you all a day of “free time”–one where you can go and make all the memories.

Love to all.