Hope Springs Eternal . .. and It Snowed!


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Christian has to be at work, long before the crack of dawn.  I am an early riser, whether I am working or not, so Christian did not mind, waking me this morning . . .for there was snow on the rabbit patch!  For just a little while, fluffy flakes fell, til a few inches had accumulated.  People either love or hate snow, in the south.  I love it.  Now, this bit of snow, is expected to be  a very short lived affair and it just may melt not long after morning light.  A cold rain is expected to follow, after all, so I sprang out of bed to see the wonder of snow falling. 

It was hours before daylight, but I could see the territory was covered and snow was falling in big fluffy flakes.  I knew Mama would not be so amused, as she is not a fan of snow.  I love it.  That is the thing about snow, in the south . . .people love it or hate it.  I have never met anyone neutral on this subject. The aftermath is mud and it is a messy affair – and woe to housekeepers because of that-but I will bear a dirty floor, for a few hours of wonder.

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As soon as daylight came, I went out to survey the landscape.  The pines were frosted and I found them beautiful.  The fields and the woodlands behind them, were fit for a postcard . . .surely not even Mama, could deny that.  To walk in “woods filled up with snow” is an almost holy experience.  Oh, I regretted not splurging on some snow boots, almost immediately. 

Now, all you have heard about the south and snow is true.  I expect, even churches will close today.  Most  small towns, do not have snow plows.  If they do, that is of no consequence to country dwellers, for we rely on the farmers to clear out roads.  Besides, only a few souls are brave enough to venture out.  Country roads, are often lined with woods causing patches of ice to cover the road.  This is what causes the madness at the groceries in the days  before a prediction of snow.  As far as I know, no southener has ever starved during a snow storm.  Besides, stores and businesses often close altogether, in the event of snow.  

There was only a slight chance of snow, today.  That is all there ever is, for us.  Once years ago, snow was forecast with certainty.  In light of that, my dear friends and co-workers, Rae and Jo Dee, and I  decided to spend the night together, for school would be closed, after all.  We bought a lot of the junk food, we considered forbidden-and stayed up late.  Of course, I was the first to wake the next day, and immediately went to the window to see the snow.  I shrieked in horror “It didn’t snow!”  I may as well have screamed “fire!” for a ruckus ensued.  We were scrambling with such a confusion, looking for shoes and clothes to wear.  We never did that again.

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By mid morning, a cold rain was falling.  The wind blew and so the pines whispered.  I put on a pot of “Great Northern” beans, for they take a long while to get done, if cooked slowly, as they ought to be.  I baked bread too, for I always cook when there is any sort of storm.   Since this was the first snow of the season -and it may well be the only snow, as well, I could not make “snow cream”.  First snow is considered dirty, for it cleans the air.  Fact or fiction,   my elders drilled this in my head and so I must hope, it snows again.   

I was delighted, that a favorite old movie was on.  “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” is a sweet, “happily ever after story”.   There was also “Jane Eyre” later on.  I did a little housekeeping while the wind  howled and the rain  fell in big droplets, steadily.  There wasn’t a bit of snow anywhere by mid afternoon. By three o’clock, I turned a lamp on.  The wind and rain had increased and seemed to have joined forces.   

Sunday, was full of fanfare.  At times, I was busy, and at times I rested.  I went over my Christmas list and “checked it twice”.  The laundry basket is empty and the floors are clean.  The burdens of last week had no bearing on me, this day.  It was as if the wind had swept them far away, along with everything else, not nailed down.   I felt as steadfast, as the old oak just outside the window, by the “morning table”.  Suddenly, it dawned on me  that storms of all sorts, pop up , full of a rage, loud and threatening.  They rearrange all in their path – and though they may cause the oak to tremble, the old tree does not fall.  

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On Monday, there was a two hour delay for schools.  I suspect the streets in towns were flooded.  I was up at my usual time -early.  The air was still, so the pines did not whisper,  The mockingbird did not sing, either.  A light rain fell and was the only sound breaking the silence of the morning.  Hearing the  steady tapping rhythm, of the raindrops on the leaves, was very calming and provoked a comfort, that could be felt, deeply.  The delay afforded me the pleasure of listening to this earthly lullaby.  Mornings are very important to me.  In some way, they seem to affect the rest of the day, thus I do what I can to live my mornings pleasantly and peacefully.  Some mornings, I awaken and will immediately, stump my toe and then predictably will spill coffee -on those days , I simply get still . . .and start over.  It seems to break the spell, often.  I have often wondered why things happen in threes, but they always do, hence I stop at a series of two, if allowed.  

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I came home and began my chores, as I always do.  I do know I intend to pick out heavier clothes for tomorrow, for that cold rain is still falling.  The misty drizzle of the early morning became  downright rain while I was on the way to work and it has been raining ever since. 

This week is already looking as if it will be a busy one too.  Lyla is in a Christmas program at her preschool on Wednesday.  I am packing tonight, to attend.  Daddy has an appointment on Friday, so I want to be  back home for that.  

I have not been busy unpacking the seventy-five boxes roosting in every corner of the farmhouse.  “Hope does spring eternal” for me, it seems.  I have not yet formed much of a plan, but that will make itself known, at some point.  The shock, of it all has dulled, to the point that I no longer feel curious about why this happened.  I think we are all so used to having a sensible explanation for things.  Not every answer is clear cut, though.  Not every predicament will ever make total sense.  This earthly journey has many a twist and many a turns, and sometimes we are in a blind spot.  

We also, live at a time, that we are used to getting what we want, mostly quickly.  I can not even imagine that my Mama waited til Christmas to get oranges, as a child.  “Waiting”  has become a lost art, but even in our modern world, sometimes we must just wait.  I will be the first to say, that waiting is difficult and must be handled delicately.  I wish that things had gone smoothly and as planned.  So, I am also reminded, that we are not going to “like” all of the outcomes. 

There I was on the brink of a new way to live, one I desired highly and the whole thing crashed like a fragile house of cards, all at once.  (There is so much more to this story, besides a house sale, not going through. ) I really had tried to to do things right and make every accommodation, when needs arose and yet, it all happened anyway.  I  have muddled through all of this and have found myself quite juvenile.  My daddy used to say “You are old enough to know better!”  when I had committed some childish crime- or behaved poorly, when  I didn’t get what I wanted.  Those words ring true today, right now.  I am old enough to know better. 

So, in light of all this, I will wait with all of the grace, I can muster. The seventy-five boxes lurking here and there do not mock me, but instead implore me to have hope.  Besides, my collection of treasure increases in abundance with each day that passes, with each step of the journey.  My children have surrounded me and filled the wellsprings of my heart.  . . friends have tended to me with diligence and loyalty, for I have no “fair weather” friends.  My parents are as dependable as they were in my childhood.  How can one complain, under such circumstances?  I came across a mere “bump n the road” and needn’t be gloomy, which is really not a bit of fun.   . . and it is Christmas. . . . and by golly . . . . it snowed!

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Against All Odds


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Sometimes one day turns into another, in an ordinary fashion.  I strive to have as many of those as I can.  I take great pains to live a mostly leisure life, where things like supper , are the occasion of the day.  I love a “quiet and peaceable” life.   . . None of that happened this week.

First of all, it was the week of the “Holiday Concert” at school.  This is a busy and exciting week, for all of us.  The classes learned winter songs from ten different countries.  Then, there were the violinists, at least one hundred of them, played carols.  The older students, also decorated the campus with lights and served hot chocolate, cotton candy and cookies.  It was all lovely and everything turned out beautifully, but it was an incredibly busy week.

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For eighteen years, my mom, sisters and I have gathered the first week of December for a shopping trip.  We have been joined by my nieces, Hayley and Dana, since they grew up, too.  This year, we changed things up.  We did not want daddy alone, for that long of a day and Mama who takes great pride in her decorations, had not even really started, save the mantel.  This year, we all met early, at their house for breakfast and plans to decorate.  Dana and I decorated the tree.  Connie and Hayley, worked on the porch and Delores created Christmas scenes throughout the house.  By noon, I was frying the cornbread, that Delores loves.  A large pot of brunswick stew was simmering and everyone took a turn, chopping the slaw, for that will wear you out.  Connie brought her home made barbecue, for the main dish.  Since Delores and Hayley had December birthdays, Mama made a chocolate cake from scratch for Delores and a lemon meringue pie, for Hayley.  It was quite a feast.  Brant came for the meal, which thrilled me.  He carried stew and some of the left over sweet potato pancakes, from breakfast, with him when he left. 

Dana sketched, and was good company as I cleaned the kitchen.  Dana had cleaned up after breakfast and  since she is quite an artist, and always has a sketch pad, I asked her to draw a rabbit.  It was adorable and I remain impressed with her ability.    What sweet memories she and I made this day, decorating the tree together, and spending time together, in a kitchen.

Connie, being known as a hard worker, rallied us to tackle the yard, next.  Hayley, like me does not like to rake leaves, but agreed, it was better, in good company.  When we left, the whole place was orderly and little lights twinkled.  Ribbons and garland , and wreaths proclaimed Christmas in the clean yard, too.

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On Wednesday, I received a message that the sale of the rabbit patch, was not going through.  Even, as I write this, now days later,  I am still shocked. The message was short and final, and I felt a great many emotions, all at once.  I still do not know what happened – or why.  Instead of concentrating on the missing information, I decided to to think about what is next and trusted  that “next” would surely be better.  Still, I had the dreaded task, of telling my children.  I knew Brant and Tres would be terribly aggravated and that Jenny and Christian would be hurt.  Kyle would take it best, but he would be disappointed for me.  . . and truly, all of us would be terribly disappointed.  I worried for the people, I was buying the cottage from, and what this would mean for them.  But, I had to prepare myself quickly, for Christian was home, when I drove in the yard, that day . . . and somehow, there was a small Christmas tree shining through a window.

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Mama and Delores, were quite concerned that I would not be decorating for the holidays, and like little Christmas fairies, had slipped in the farmhouse and placed a table top tree in the den.  Christian was happy for me, as they all know that I love Christmas, especially.  (My decorations are all packed up, as I was expecting to move during Christmas break.)  I decided to delay my news, as I could not spoil the goodness of the moment.  

That night, I thought a lot of things, in the light of the little tree.   I remembered the details of this six month ordeal.  I knew the blunders now, of my lack of “business” sense and declared not to repeat those same mistakes.  I was annoyed that it had taken six months and then fell apart in a day. I felt a sense of loss and yet not hopelessness, as so often accompanies an unrealised dream. I was not sorry, that I had dreamed.  I did not feel defeated, though I did feel weary. I simply could not feel angry, for I had prayed fervently, for the right thing to happen. I am not yet at liberty, to tell the whole story, but rest assured a lot of wonderful plans were dashed. So many thoughts were jumbling around, yet I managed to maintain a peace, though at times, it was shaky.  “Things work out for a reason” and “The best is yet to come”  and “God works in mysterious ways”  -all crossed my mind, in intervals, through the chaos of my thoughts.  Finally, I cried, not because, I did not believe any of that, but because, I was saddened.  I realised too, I was “sick and tired” of the harrowing last six months.  I was ready to put that behind me, after all.  Sometimes, “No” is the answer, to  a prayer.  

The task at hand, was to show my children what to do with disappointment, for I can not spare them of that.  Really, when I thought about it, I was disappointed because I had concocted a goal for myself, that apparently was not in my best interest, at this particular time.  Other than, my lack of business, I had exercised grace and fortitude .  Now, I had to show them recovery, which in this life should be a highly desired skill, for we all need that at times. I had to take that “blessed high road” again.  

When at last, I did bear the news, things turned out as I expected.  Jenny was sad and Christian was too.  The boys were highly disturbed and Mama cried. It was awful and in some way, I felt  guilty of creating this calamity. 

I have no clue, how I will afford to make repairs to this old house nor how I will maintain the land and barns.  These are very real concerns for me nearing the age of sixty.  “Starting over”  on your own, lacks the luster, it has in youth.   Just finding a job, at this age is a predicament, in itself.  Against the odds,  I still believe that it will work out.   I have not unpacked a single thing. Against all odds, I still entertain lofty notions though,  I am waiting, again, this time for clarity, about how to proceed. 

I have a beautiful life, right now today.  First and foremost, a little King was born and became my own, and I declare now, that “He does work in mysterious ways!”  I have the dearest family, a heart could ever hope for.    I have loving and loyal friends –  and on and on I could go  . .  and so, it is hard to be downcast, for long. Instead, I await for something more, than I could have hoped for and until then, I will live my beautiful life, and make repairs as I can. 

I will love the winter twilight and the stark beauty of bare trees,  I will watch the moon rise over the old barn and the sun set over a resting field, turning it a coppery , gold in the process.  In the mornings, frost will shine silver and sparkle in the first light.  I will bide my time, listening to the pines whisper and the blackbirds chatter -and watch for that silver lining, in good faith.

 

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The First of December . . .and Always


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The first day of December has dawned, quietly and subtly.  The world simply got light . . and while it did a mockingbird sang.  I have not heard a mockingbird or any bird sing, in a while.  The chatter of blackbirds, while cheerful, does not “hold a candle” to the sweet melody of the mockingbird.  I stopped everything and listened.  With the air, being so mild today, it could have been a morning in April.  I do not know why, but tears filled my eyes.  I did not realise, until that moment, that I had missed the morning song of birds, so much.  I love the winter and welcome it with my whole heart.  I especially love December and Christmas time, but I did remember spring  while the mockingbird sang, and felt “homesick” for a spring morning.  

I couldn’t help but think of the poem, “I Heard a Bird Sing” by Oliver Herford.  I loved it the first time, I read it, and had the children  memorize it.  Today, I lived this verse.  My day was started with a little bit of wonder.

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Housekeeping is on the agenda today.  You can not “run the roads” and do much of anything else.   I also plan to cook.  There are several long overdue tasks besides the usual chores.  The territory is an awful state and with rain in the forecast, today and tomorrow, it will remain so.   I am quite sure the neighbors have given up all hope of my recovery –  and with the community being full of such tidy folks . . . what a disappointment,  I must be just now.  Some day, I will redeem myself.

I put the windows up, though I am thinking that will  be a short-lived affair.  Still, I have always done so if the opportunity arises . . even in December.  On a leap of faith, I packed up my spring and summer clothes . . .just in case, I really am moving.  I am quite a minimalist, by nature and so, it didn’t take long.  

It was one of those timeless days. where the light does not change, as the hours pass.  It could have been anytime,when Christian came in-but it was only noon.  I  was washing linens and shared my lofty plans for the rest of the day, with him.

 I had mixed up a batch of shampoo for Cash and Christopher Robin and so I started on that project.  They were neither happy, but both tolerated  their bath, well.  I looked out the window by the “morning table” and noticed how still the countryside was.  It certainly seemed, that the weatherman was right about rain coming in.  It dawned on me, that this would be a good day to burn the garden -and so I did.  I am not good at starting fires, no matter what I have in my arsenal, but at last, I managed a small flame.  I burned til the rain came.  I at least, had a good start. I removed the autumn wreath from the back door, as I came in. 

The rain fell at a steady pace.  It was the perfect kind of day, to start a new book -and I had one.   . .“Elizabeth and Her German Garden” , so it was very tempting.  I knew if I started it though, that I would not accomplish another thing, for I get hopelessly drawn in to books and do not even want to stop to eat. (Mama is the same way.)  I laid the book aside, and placed a stack of bills, on top of it.  That would keep me on task, as it is time to pay bills . . and I dread it.  I am on a shoe string budget, first of all and sometimes, I think, I  have spent  a good deal of life , just trying to keep the lights on!

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 I was putting away laundry and it was suddenly dark.  It was still raining, too.  I was too tired to face the bills, hence, I did not start my new book.  I went to bed early, after a supper of left overs, for  I am cleaning out the freezer . . .just in case.

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I was up long before the sun, on Sunday.  The rain had tapered off to a mere drizzle.  I made coffee – and opened the bills.  After  calculating my predicament, I was very thankful, that most of my Christmas shopping was done.  Recently, all sorts of things outside of the budget had arisen.  There was a hefty fee for extending the contract on the cottage and then I took the car for an oil change and ended up having two new tires put on.  One of the tires was in such awful shape that I cringed when I saw it.  I must pay better attention, I decided.  

Now every month, for most all of my adult life, somehow, I have “kept the lights on”.  Sometimes, I have dreamed of winning the lottery, but chances are mighty slim, as I do not play.  Sometimes, I think, I have won a lottery, of sorts, for I am rich, when it comes to loved ones and wealthy when it comes to contentment. . . and I have “kept the lights on”, after all.  Still, I can not deny that having some money is appealing.  

I remember a Christmas eve, a few years back.  I had a bit more than the usual amount left over, after the bills were paid.  In haste, I went out to buy a few extra gifts for my children.  Please know, my children always got socks, bedroom shoes and a book-guitar strings for Christian and art supplies.  It was always the same. . .so this particular Christmas, I could splurge, if just a little.  I was so happy and decided to bring supper home, as well-another indulgence.  I called the boys, to tell them I was almost home and had supper, too.  The minute I hung up, the car died.  I mean it cut off on the highway altogether.  I barely got it off the road.  The engine would not even try to start!  The lights were out and I was immediately in a state of panic.   I called Kyle, who got a posse of local men and my daddy, to come get me.  Daddy being a mechanic went about diagnosing the problem, but it was pitch dark and so he could really only guess.  Everything he imagined, seemed to cost about five hundred dollars, which I did not have.  I felt punished for having bought things like chocolate . . .and supper!  I was ashamed of abandoning my good senses and on and on I went.  Finally, when I was weary from lamenting, I pulled myself together.  I was on Christmas break, and wouldn’t need the car for another ten days.  I could come up with some plan, surely in that time. . .and it was Christmas eve, after all.

The next morning, Daddy called.  He had awaken at first light, to look at the car.  The whole problem was a loose wire!  A simple and very free solution to my catastrophe.  He would be bringing my twenty year old car, “home” to me , safe and sound.  Well, I laughed and cried, when we hung up -at the same time!  Such relief flooded over me.  When I collected my thoughts, I told God, that I should have known not to fret, for He always has provided for me faithfully.  I told Him, I regretted my foolishness , in thinking otherwise.  I told Him, while I knew I can always depend on Him for everything, including money, I just wished He would  let me write it down in my bank account!  

This is a very true story, and it is not that old, either.  The old car was replaced just a few years ago, with another used car, gifted to me by Tres.  Christian still gets guitar strings and art supplies for Christmas-and the boys still ask for socks, too.  

Today, as I start paying the bills, I remember that time and countless others, that turned out the same.  I remain responsible but I do not fear being generous.  I do not harbor shame, if I am doing my best and I expect things to work out., even in light of my mistakes.   What liberty, I know now, when unhindered by my own limitations of my Father.

My dear friend Rae, lost her job and and a husband within a six month period.  It was an awful season for her.  I asked her once, how she was financially and she replied “fine, I never worry about money, for I trust God, to care for me.”  She was not left with much of an inheritance, and so I was stunned at her bravery and faith.  Moments later, I was laughing.  Now Rae was stunned and asked me” what was funny?”  I told her that she trusted God like He had all the money in the world-and I acted like He had ten dollars to spare!  She laughed too.

Now, when I need new tires, I can say “its’ just money” for it is.   . .and it is just God, that makes the difference. . . .now at the first of December . . .and always.

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The Rabbit Patch Remembers


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The last few days have been cold.  Nights are below freezing and in the day, we southeners, now don our “winter coats”.  I walk to the car, in the morning on frozen ground.  I do not mind the cold weather unless there is wind.  A cold wind is about unbearable.  I have always heard that “New Englanders were a sturdy lot-and I suppose they are, for I can not imagine day after day of these conditions.  Of course they have snow too- a lot of snow.  When it does snow here, the least bit, southeners  hunker down and no one is going anywhere!  Instead, we are home cooking hearty dishes like stews or beans . . .in warm, comfortable “house clothes”.  In the absence of snow, it has been business as usual.  

With December, just a few days away, many of us are thinking about Christmas.  I  confess now, that I think about Christmas all year.  Farm Life puts on quite a production at Christmas.  Houses, barns and sheds are covered in lights.  Reindeer graze on the lawns and wreaths are hung on doors and fences.  Bows adorn lamp posts and the affect is charming.  

I moved to the Farm Life Community, more than a decade ago, in May.  I met my first friend, here just a few days later.  “Miss Sylvia” came and presented me a cook book, of recipes compiled by the local women.  It was a “welcome” gift, and it is my favorite cook book.   The recipes do not  start with a can of soup or instant pudding.  These women cook from” scratch” and their dishes have stood the test of time.  

Miss Sylvia had deep roots in Farm Life and it seemed she was “kin” to most everybody, or else went to school with them.  She was glad to see that the old farm house would be occupied.  Every room needed painting and the yard was full of debris.  I was an awful mess, when she showed up.  I was telling her all that I was doing, and without a moments hesitation, she asked me if I decorated for Christmas?  I was a bit stunned at her question, but she went on and told me that the community placed great stock in good decorating.  I assured her that I did, and she seemed very relieved.  

As it turned out, Miss Sylvia used to work at a florist shop.  She made bows, and had earned herself quite a reputation.  She offered to make bows for me and so I took her up on it, each year, in early December.  One year, particularly stands out in my memory and I never fail to remember it, this time of the year.  It was the year that I used the red bows with small white polka dots.

I had the idea that the ribbon would be just perfect for a country home and I searched high and low for months, for it.  At long last I found just the right look and presented it to Miss Sylvia, as soon as I got home.  Miss Sylvia examined it thoroughly, and said at last, that “it was ugly!”  She went on to say, it wouldn’t hold up, and said again “and it is ugly, too”.  Being she was an elder, I sheepishly asked her to make them anyway.  A day or so later, she called and said the” bows were ready – and just as she predicted, they were ugly”.  Well, I hung them and I loved them!  I still laugh remembering that.  I always miss my dear,  Miss Sylvia, but most especially at Christmas.

Now, this year, all of my decorations are packed up and I may not even decorate at all!  It all depends on  what unfolds in the very next few weeks in what has become certainly,  a saga. . .selling the rabbit patch.  Either way,  if there is a sprig of pine on the mantel – or a wreath hung, it will be a last minute attempt to mark the grand occasion of my beloved Christmas.  Maybe this year, I will carry on the tradition of “Old Christmas”.  . .another thing I remember about Miss Sylvia, for she always marked the visit of the wise men, to the Christ child, with a party. 

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Work is especially busy, just now.  The violinists-over two hundred of them – are practicing  fervently and the children are also learning songs in various languages for the annual Holiday Concert.  I never tire of Christmas music.  I especially like the old music.  The old songs never fail to spark my own childhood memories. . .one being the year, that Grandmama got a tree in a box.

I do not know what I was expecting . . .but it was not what I saw.  I remember clearly the shock of seeing my first “aluminum tree”.  It was silver with blue ornaments. . . a far cry from the usual, little cedars, cut from a ditch bank.  Grandmama was so very proud of it and said, the folks in Florida, were using them regularly now.  To me, Florida must have been another country altogether and they musn’t have had. a single patch of woods anywhere.  Grandmama was “happy as a lark” with her modern tree.  I was speechless.  In my wildest childhood dreams, I could not have imagined an “aluminum tree”.  Thankfully, “Dean Martin” was singing on the record player, as usual, so at least something, made sense.

Every thing seems to evoke memories, this time of the year.  Of course, I am prone to being sentimental, on a regular basis, but I realise especially at Christmas, that I have quite a  storehouse of beautiful memories in my collection.  . .and I do not want to forget a one of them.  In some way, it seems that remembering, is like a “housekeeping of the heart”.  I sort things out, and tidy up any tattered fragments. It is odd that I do not remember but a few gifts that I received.  Instead,  I remember clearly, things like the tinsel that Mama saved each year.  Putting it on the tree, was slow and tedious work . . .taking it off was worse.  Mama was very particular about her tinsel, and how it was placed on the tree.  The task was not going quickly.  . .and that is all there was to it.  After the initial complaining and protests, for no one wanted to hang single strands of tinsel, a hush would fall on us.  It was as if we were in a trance brought on by the dangling silver. When the heat came  on, or the door was opened-the tinsel  would sway and flutter as if it had a life of its’own.  I was so happy when Mama traded the tinsel for a garland-yet now, over fifty years later, I remember the tinsel.

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As we bid November farewell, with its’ scarlet and golden woodlands  and with the blackbirds flying,  we know it did not leave us empty-handed.  November gives us a quiet, steady dose of  gentle beauty that stirs thoughts of home and hearth  – and makes us remember the most beautiful things.