It was snowing at the early service, this morning. It did not last long, and only could be considered a dusting, but the chance to watch it fall, was not short on beauty. Snow is so very rare here, in the south, that we must be content with even the most brief episodes of it. The winter trees were especially pretty, with snow on their branches. By, ten am, the snow had turned to sleet, which is a messy affair. Cash and Christopher Robin did not linger when they went out. Cash did run around the yard and seemed to enjoy it for a moment. Christopher Robin was not the least impressed and seemed disgusted altogether.
Christmas passed and left behind some beautiful memories. One of my favorites, was playing music with Brant and Christian. Lyla had a small trashcan, we converted to a drum – and she almost stole the show.
We always go to my parents on Christmas night for a light meal and to exchange gifts. I mixed up some name tags, and Mama opened a sketch pad and crayons, meant for Lyla. Daddy opened earrings. Mama was as scared of the sketch pad, as Daddy was of the earrings, so we all got a laugh. The weather changed from mild to a cold, known only to winter, as we dined on our familiar Christmas fare . It was quite a shock to walk out from the warm house, full of chatter, into a frigid, still, “Silent Night”.
Everyone went home yesterday, and in their absence, the rabbit patch seemed especially quiet and almost somber. I kept myself busy by taking down wreaths and removing the precious ornaments from the tree. I did not put away the china, for true to its’ name, “Winter Greetings”-it is perfectly appropriate for use til February. The pattern is full of ribbons and redbirds and this year, I was given two new pieces. I wrapped the remnants of a pound cake and the last bit of gingerbread. I put a new pot in the cupboard and took one out, as I adhered to my own rule made, during the “cleansing” in July.
I took my sweet time restoring order. Every year, I tend to mope about for a while, when everyone goes home. For years, I out and out cried, the minute they pulled out of the drive. I would wave cheerfully and blow kisses . . and then go in and cry aloud. Now, though, I miss them awfully bad, I do not resort to such drastic measures. It took me a long time to make peace with this part of my journey, but thankfully, and at last, I have.
Mostly, the Christmas closet is once again the “keeper of all things Christmas”. I did leave a snowman here and there, but the Christmas books are back on the shelf. Tomorrow, I hope to finish painting the living room.
A bright and cold morning has dawned. It does not feel like a Thursday-it does not feel like any day in particular. It just seems like some day, after Christmas. The sky is mostly clear and is a gentle shade of blue. There are a few streaks of thin stratus clouds. The air is still as it has ever been . It is also quiet. . .so am I. I can not feel hurried under such conditions.
I have a few tasks to complete-and the living room is one of them. Tomorrow, I leave for Elizabeth City, and so I must pack for that. (in my new luggage) I ought to cook things to take with me, also, as Jennys’ kitchen is still being remodeled.
Of course, the beginning of a new year is at hand. I have never been one to celebrate the new year with great fanfare. I celebrate it quietly, as the event puts me in a reflective mood. I do not make specific, lofty resolutions, as some do, as I lack the fortitude to carry them out. I will simply remind myself, of what really matters to me, what I truly value and set out to make those things priorities. It is a long and thorough process -and does not require fancy clothes or a loud party. It is mostly between me and God. In some way, to me every day is the start of a new year. I am not against parties to celebrate a new year or fireworks-but, instead, think we should all act as we are inspired to do so. What a shame it would be, if every one lit a candle, as I do, and there were no displays of fireworks, to unite the world, in celebration.
For now, I will be glad for this day and its’ details. I love ordinary days, when the sun shines on the rabbit patch,- and Christopher Robin and Cash doze in the light of sunbeams, by the “morning table”. This day is worth celebrating, too.
Christmas eve morning is here . . and with it rain. I woke to the sound of rain and it was lovely. I wished it were snow. ( Just a light friendly snow that would not hinder anyones’ progress) None the less, it is the magical eve of Christmas, and rain will suit me fine. I couldn’t complain today, if I wanted to, for I especially love Christmas eve. Besides, the holiday lights still twinkle, and the kitchen smells like Christmas fare. The table, will be adorned with the Christmas china, and most importantly-my loved ones will gather around it.
When the rain breaks, I will gather pine-enough that you smell it when walking in. Paired with the apples and oranges, the smell of Christmas will be prevalent. My oldest sons, Brant and Tres will drive in from Wilmington today-and Mama and Daddy will join us for a Christmas eve supper. I am already cooking and clean linens are on the beds. I have a lot of floors to scrub, that will immediately be tracked with dirt and mud, when everyone comes in. The dogs will be bathed at the last moment and candles will be lit-especially the one in the “welcome home” lantern at the back door. The boys will not have wrapped a single present and so I am always on alert to begin that task in the late hours.
I did not get back to the rabbit patch, til well after dark. yesterday. I drove back in muted light, which was a far cry better than the drive going, in the rain. I had to stop by the grocery store, and there in lies the culprit of my late arrival, home. To complicate matters, I was undecided about what dishes to bring to the gathering on Christmas night, at the home of my parents. It must have shown, as a young man asked if he could help me. I decided to make “Aunt Agnes’ apple salad” and the cheddar garlic biscuits, my niece, Hayley, loves. The check out lines were full, more than I have ever seen them int the small town. When I became the next to check out, the gentleman in front of me, promptly, dropped a gallon of milk which exploded upon impact. Now, there really is no merit to “crying over spilt milk” and so I became last in the next line, without holding a grudge. The man that dropped it was full of distress and there was no need to add to it.
In the Afternoon
What a commotion, there was in the old farmhouse-and it lasted til just past one. Finally, at long last, the floors were scrubbed and the scent of fresh pine lingered in the air. Cash had a bath and candles were lit. What lovely moments, when all is ready and the children due to arrive.
I lit the “welcome home” lantern and thought, Christmas eve is a lovely time.
Dear Readers of the rabbit patch diary, I can not thank you enough for the gifts of kind and encouraging words, you leave me. So many times, I am moved to tears at the sight of them. How generous you all are. As big as this world is, you all have a way of making it a cozy and friendly place. Thank you, with all my heart. Merry, merry Christmas . . . love Michele
I arrived in Elizabeth City, early in the afternoon, on Wednesday. It had rained the whole day. When I crossed the three rivers, it was impossible to see where the rivers ended and the sky started, on the horizon.
How good it felt to turn in to the familiar Riverside Village, by the laughing river. It had been close to a fortnight, since my last visit. Trees have shed their leaves and now, front doors are adorned with wreaths. Windows donned twinkling lights, from the little cottages to the stately manors, making the drive a “merry and bright” occasion.
It was a sweet reunion for me. Lyla ran to the door saying “Honeybee is back!” We hugged for a long time in silence. She showed me her Christmas tree, not long after I got there. Will and Jenny are having their kitchen remodeled and I was eager to see the progress, on that too. The kitchen is absolutely beautiful, but not yet functional-of course, I brought several meals with me to help out.
On Thursday, which was “the longest evening of the year”, Lyla and I were able to stroll through the village. Lyla had some jingle bells and she would ring them at the sight of people, dogs and cats-and say “merry Christmas!” She missed two people in a row, and so I stopped to ask her why . . .she was fast asleep, clutching her bells.
Will was stopping by his moms’, Miss Claudia, in the afternoon, and so I sent her some old fashioned Christmas candies and a holiday towel for the kitchen. I have a few more small gifts for her, but they could wait, as I was hoping for a visit with her, myself, during my stay. Jenny and I wrapped presents and how pretty they looked under the tree. We stopped just before Will came home. Will had a large gift with him, that he placed around the tree. . . I found out later, it was for me!
Miss Claudia sent me a luggage set-I had not had a new one in twenty years! The one I use now is really, Kyles’. The set is a lovely shade of turquoise and I am quite thrilled with it. What a surprise for me and it touched me deeply that Miss Claudia was so generous.
Friday, was the day Jenny and I set aside, to shop. Both of us had some “loose ends” to tie up. Our lists were minimal and quite precise. We got up early and were out and about by shortly after nine. The expedition was quite successful and we made good time. By mid afternoon, the gifts were under the tree and there was no sign of our grand production.
With the kitchen out of commission, we have had to forego such things as baking cookies and constructing gingerbread houses. I will practice baking cookies after Christmas Maybe we will start those traditions next year. (when Lyla is old enough to know not to eat the roof of a gingerbread house)
Christmas evokes memories of traditions and people, too. Often, traditions are born without intent. I know I always buy apples and oranges at Christmas-enough that you smell them when you walk in the door, at the rabbit patch. I do so because, my parents did. I remember waking to the delightful smell, and knowing Santa had been. My parents did, because their parents did so. Traditions, remind us that in an ever changing world, some things do remain the same. This is of great comfort to me, as there are less and less familiar circumstances now.
I remember my people at Christmas. People like Aunt Agnes, who played the piano jauntily-no matter the song. She played Christmas carols and flashed a smile throughout every one of them. I remember Aunt Josie- and Pop and Grandma. I remember the year, that Grandma “ordered” a Christmas tree, instead of finding one in the woods. It was unheard of and we were quite curious to see it. We all went over, the day it arrived to see “the aluminum tree”. What a horrible shock it was for me, to see a silver stick with branches. The “tree” looked as unreal, as anything I had ever seen-because it was. Grandma said people in Florida had these trees and I reckoned then, that Florida was not an ordinary land.
I remember “Mama Hodges”, my great grandmother. She handed her great grandchildren an envelope every year,with five dollars inside. She made pound cakes regularly-and the kitchen always smelled of them.
I have especially thought about my dads’ mother, my grandmama- Ruth Arlean Warren. Grandmama lived to almost ninety-three. She has been gone just under ten years-and is still missed.
Christmas is a time to remember, the gifts “of a lifetime” given by those before us-gifts, that helped form us, into who we are, right now. . . unlike tea sets and trains, the gifts of loved ones, do not “break their main springs or clockworks” thus becoming useless or uninteresting. Gifts of loved ones “happen” to us . . .bestowed naturally and habitually. I wish now, I had thanked them, for teaching me to love a garden, songbirds and flowers. Beyond those things, I learned how to be resourceful and to deplore wastefulness. I was taught the value of work
I learned to be grateful and to pray. These things still sustain me and have been just the tools, I have needed, thus far.
Today is the first day of the holiday break. The morning was too lovely not to notice, as I drove to work. There was a mist hanging over the fields and pastures. When the sun rose over the tree line, the mist became tinted and what a difference, it made to the countryside. The sun looked like a bright clementine for a while. Moments later it turned the color that only the sun can claim. . . though maybe the daffodils would disagree, as they come as close as anything I know of.
The air was only slightly chilled. So far, a warm Christmas day is predicted. I took a chance and put a live poinsettia out by the lamp post. The temperature even at night, is supposed to be mild. . . time will tell, as it always does.
School dismissed early today and I took full advantage of that. I bought a gift for my sister, filled the car with gas, and then came home. I commenced to wrapping presents, determined to finish that project. Tomorrow, at long last, I am going to Elizabeth City, and I so want to leave the house in good order.
It took the best part of the afternoon, but it is with great pleasure I can say that the presents are wrapped and nestled beneath the tree. Most of the ornaments have been hung and how beautifully familiar they are. The kitchen is a kitchen again-and oh, the Christmas china is on the table. I also started packing. How good it feels to prepare for a visit with my only daughter and grandchild. I will stay a few days and then come back to the rabbit patch, for my older sons, Brant and Tres are coming home on Christmas eve. To say, I am “happy as a lark” is an understatement. If all goes well, I hope to have a special supper for Christmas eve. Lyla will be waiting for Santa, for the first time this year, so they will not come til Christmas day. I have no idea what time my sons will arrive, either. It matters little to me, what details work out, as long as they all get here safely. I always say, that I am my happiest, when my children are all gathered and sleeping under my roof again. Of course, they find this amusing and have no comprehension of this notion. The boys tease me, that we are sleeping-and so they wonder how this could evoke such joy for me. The truth is, all I know is that for a little while, we are “the way we were”.
When the children were young, they received three gifts from Santa-in keeping with the gifts of the “Wise men”. Jenny plans to do so with Lyla. One of the gifts, was always a book-and I still have them, of course. Mama would ask the children what they wanted for Christmas, and they would say things like Lucky Charms or White bread. When Jenny was two, she asked Santa for”fried chicken and diamond earrings”. These stories still tickle me. Tres asked for a snowman one year, as we have never had a white Christmas, in this “neck of the woods”. Lyla has already visited with Santa and she asked for “presents”. When I was young, I saw the “real Santa” and did not know it at the time.
Mama used to sew and make all of our “Sunday ” dresses. Sometimes they matched, but not always. I used to hate the “fittings” for I was bound to get stuck by pins no matter how still I stood. The fittings also seemed to come at the most undesirable times, too. They seemed to come, when my sister I were creating the most exciting dramas with our dolls. Mama sewed a lot and we took little notice of what she was doing at the sewing machine. In fact, we tried to steer clear of Mama altogether, when she was sewing.
Most every year, we got a doll for Christmas-real dolls that looked like babies and shut their eyes to go to sleep. I probably loved dolls more than any other toy. I still remember their names, for the dolls were our companions and were never far from us. One year, the dolls came with a lot of little dresses. I thought “Santa” had performed some miracle, as the dolls had dresses made from the same materials as our own. I remember knowing one dress was going to be itchy, and so did not make the doll wear that one often.
It was years later when I pieced things together. I was no longer playing with dolls and so I asked Mama about that particular Christmas. Mama said money was especially tight that year, and so she made all of those little dresses. She said it was tedious work, as the dresses were so little and it took her a long while to make them. That is when it “dawned on me”, that I had seen the real Santa, after all.
One year Kyle asked for a bike for Christmas. We bought one , not assembled, as money was tight that year for us. I wanted that bike put together and begged my husband to do so weeks before Christmas. Jamie said it would take him twenty minutes tops and not to worry. Jamie worked on that bike for hours, Christmas Eve night-finally a neighbor and friend joined the effort. Nuts and bolts were missing, and some were not the right size. It was a harrowing night and I declare Kyle got up within an hour of the completion. . .the real Santa forgot to eat the cookies, that year.
It is raining at the early service. It is a softly falling rain, and begs one to linger under a soft blanket. I have a lot of “loose ends” to tie up, before I leave, so I can not heed the beckoning of a morning rain. I must use extra caution on my drive to Elizabeth City. I must pack the rain coat- and the “Christmas books” that tell the stories of the many reasons, I love Christmas. I will sing “Joy to the World” with Lyla and “Away in a Manger”-Lyla will sing her “Twinkle Bells” and I will laugh-and I am bound to cry too, as I am so sentimental (and Irish).
Dear Diary-I am glad for Christmas, when hearts are especially tender to one another. I am glad for memories of being loved, for I always have been. . . and I am especially glad that “All hearts come home for Christmas”.
Morning broke again with a holy silence. It is hard to be anything but reverent when all around you is still. The peace washes over you like rain and acts like a comforting tonic. . . when the day is born gently. I am always humbled at the majesty of nature, and at the same time empowered, knowing I am part of it, for our Source is the same.
I came in and started on the “Christmas projects” . I started right off sorting the presents, by family. When all was said and done, one present was missing. I took everything out of the Christmas closet, something that has not happened in years. Well, now the Christmas closet is in good order. This was the only closet, not cleaned out in July. Besides gifts, the closet holds wrapping accessories and my beloved Christmas china. I had not planned on this task and besides that, I did not find the gift. The hall was a disaster and I explained to Christian I was looking for a gift, He made tracks, remembering the search for the ornaments. As I was putting things back in the closet, I found the gift. It was in a bag, hanging on the door of the closet.
By noon, Kyle had the tree up and shining through the double windows in the living room. I was wrapping presents and humming as I did so. For the first time in years, I ran out of boxes, then tape, and then wrapping paper! I always buy a surplus of supplies after the holiday. so it is a mystery to me how that happened. I had to go to town, in the midst of things. The nearest town is about fifteen minutes, so I combed my hair and went. I had about fifty gift bags, but Christmas is but once a year, and I really love wrapped presents. I found some candy cane paper, snowmen and Santa (for Lyla) – all red and white, so I was pleased, but this was the second hour of interruption for me, if you count the Christmas closet ordeal . . .and I did.
I slipped a chicken and broccoli casserole in the oven and put on a pot of rice- and continued wrapping presents. Kyle and I worked on the porch. Kyle loves Christmas. He did not complain once as we worked, but ran to find extension cords and light bulbs, eagerly. This made the work go quickly. Thankfully, all of the lights worked. I had tested them yesterday, but that doesn’t always ensure success.
Tonight, I am going to work til I can’t. I have not given up on making cookies either . . . of course, tomorrow is Monday-and you know that changes everything.
The early service, in the rabbit patch territory, was a cold and still one, today. I went out to collect pine cones and thought the sound of the door shutting, would shatter the world. Heavy frost was just beginning to sparkle in the first light. Cash and Christopher Robin, had been so eager to accompany me, and had darted out in an unmannerly fashion. They seemed quite shocked at the stark landscape, covered with icy crystals. . . and stopped dead in their tracks, for a moments to survey just where they had landed. I had a bit of luck and found plenty of pine cones quickly. Pine cones are wonderful for starting fires. When I came in, that dog and cat did too, like a flash, as if they were escaping from something horrid. I started a fire in the wood stove and then a small one in the den, with the “morning table”. How good it felt to be at home and what “great expectations” I was harboring.
I was hopeful that the bedroom would be be put back together-and maybe we would finally get our Christmas decorations put up. Dare I try to make cookies . . again ?-(the kind you want to eat). The morning is full of hope, for me.
By mid morning the bed was set up and most of the shoes were in the closet. Of course, the door to the closet needs some adjustments as it no longer shuts properly, but drags on the carpet, instead. The dresser sits against the wall, waiting patiently for the mirror to be hung above it. The only job, I do not take pleasure in, that looms before me , is hanging a stack of clean clothes . Cash and Christopher Robin are not allowed in the only carpeted room in the house and this caused a great deal of distress for them. The circumstances are new to them as they are nearly always wherever I am. Still, I was unmoved by their pleading as I am well aware of what their reaction may be to a new, soft floor-and was not willing to risk it. When the linens were on the bed, and the faint scent of lavender wafted in the air, I felt like the tragedy of the discovered hole in the floor was distant and far behind me. I had been right-it was just a hole in the floor, after all.
At last, in the moments just after the noon hour, the bedroom was mostly complete. Even the little mirror was hung. Not everything that came out, went back in. Once again, I had a small box for donation. At least, there wasn’t a bit of trash. It has really surprised me to find how few possessions I typically use. I have not yet missed a thing I disposed of in July. I thought, to myself , that I have “been moving out”, in a way, for a long time-and I laughed at that.
I can never stay on just one task, it seems. Ever so often, I would venture to the storage barn, and bring some “Christmas” in the house. The wreaths came in one by one, some needed new ribbons. Lights came in and were checked strand by strand. As I searched. I was so very grateful, that the storage barn had been cleaned out this past summer. Of course now, we will not eat at the kitchen table this weekend. As , I rambled in the barn, I noticed I had not come across the ornaments. Each time, I went out, I looked without any luck. When it was almost dark, I was sure, that somehow I had accidentlly “donated” the precious ornaments. I almost cried remembering Jenny as a little girl, picking out a snowflake each year. I have five ornaments alike, of each kind, to represent my children. Most were bought at Christmas shops and were especially pretty. Through the years, the collection has grown until it is quite an impressive assortment. I gave up and felt awful about it. These were some possessions, I was very sorry to lose. As is my habit, I repeated they were just ornaments. I struggled not to cry over “things” in front of Christian. . .but, it was difficult as the ornaments represented some fond memories. One day, I intended to give each child a “set” of them. Just as dusk set in, I decided to take one last look. . .and- I found them! I will not be so prideful about my noble ability to care so little about possessions, in the future.
I did hang wreaths today and the contents of the Christmas closet are out in the broad daylight. The bedroom is in good order and Cash nor Christopher Robin seem to care one iota about it. Tomorrow, I am hoping again, the tree will be decorated and presents will be under it. . . and the ornaments will adorn the tree as they have done faithfully, for more than two decades.
Dear Diary, I am glad for warm fires on cold mornings. I am glad for beds with clean linens and wreaths on doors and barns too. I am glad to have gently taught lessons . . . and am especially glad to have found the ornaments, gathered over the years , after all.
Winter came in last night with a cold and mighty wind. It matters little to me that the calendar does not yet declare it is winter at the rabbit patch. All of a sudden, the wind blew with a force, that sent branches flying against the farmhouse and there were even snow flurries of wild, fine flakes . This morning, a substantial amount of autumn leaves had been mercifully swept away to places like the patch of young woods, in the far corner of the territory. What was left of them, lies in heaps, hither and yonder, as if I had raked them, myself.
This morning, the ground was frozen and the faint smell of wood smoke hung in the air. The temperature was in the twenties-and sure chilled my southern blood. The school children donned mittens and cheerful hats with fringe and tassels. We were all disappointed that the snow did not stick and that we had to carry on as usual. In the south a snow day is like a holiday. My friends from up north, that have relocated here, all tease us about this. In Farm Life, and most all of the rural communities, it is the farmers that clear the roads. We are likely to lose power, too. I have no clue how to put chains on tires, and it doesn’t matter, for none of us are going anywhere.
I came home today and made a small fire in the den. Christian has been sick, but he kept the fire in the wood stove tended. Sitting by the fire, I came to a decision. I have decided to take the rabbit patch off the market, until late January. We are in such a state of disarray with the floor repair and the painting,- and until recently the untidy condition of the yard, it just makes sense , to me, to consider an “interlude”. Of course, I have cleared this with my sister, Delores, who is a realtor, in Raleigh-and with Will and Tres, (pronounced Trace) who are business minded and dependably advise me, in such matters. It is Christmas, after all and I am not likely to enjoy any aspect of selling a house, during the holidays. My realtor is in agreement and so we made it official today.
When things are in good order, and Christmas has passed, I will once again post a “for sale” sign under the old oak tree and hope for the best. Until then, I will continue readying the rabbit patch for the new lives that will call it their own, and dream of my next rabbit patch with a cozy cottage, where I will plant roses-and maybe tomatoes. Winter is a good occasion to dream.
Kyle is determined to get the Christmas tree up. The living room is about finished and I see no reason, not to go along with him. Once the tree is up, I will wrap the secrets in the Christmas closet, in pretty paper. I love to wrap presents and take measures to make sure they are attractive. The papers all match in an odd sort of way and ribbons are hand tied . Name tags are hand made and so it is quite an affair altogether. People either love to wrap gifts, or detest it. There seems to be no in between.
How happy I am to announce that the carpet is being installed as I am writing this. I did not get anxious about such a small inconvenience, really-but I am quite relieved and happy that order is being restored. I had gotten used to gathering my clothes and shoes from the hall way and my dresser, which was in the middle of Christians’ room. I learned to adapt to the conditions while I waited for the new floor. Living on the remnants of an old farm has been of great profit to me. I have learned what to do with “interludes” (or how to wait). I suppose “practice makes perfect” rings true in facing minor adversity. . .still, I am so very glad the ordeal is almost over.
I am hopeful that in a short while, Kyle will have his beloved Christmas tree . . .and I will have my shoes, back in the closet . . .and maybe, when order is restored and at last, the Christmas tree twinkles, I will muster the courage and try again, to make cookies.
Dear Diary, I am glad for shelter when a cold wind blows. I am glad for the chance to hope and dream. . . I am glad for Christmas trees and” interludes”. . .and I am very glad for for lessons learned from living on a rabbit patch.