I love winter mornings. They are so still. In the absence of bird song , the day is born in silence. Now, the mornings sparkle, for frost covers the territory and any sound at all seems to crack the air. The trees shine their beautiful truth, in the first light. Now they hold no secrets. The older I get, the more I value truth-good or bad -truth liberates the soul. It really does “set one free”, as it is written.
Now the time of Christmas wanes like an old moon. I will celebrate til January 6th, for I love “old Christmas” and somehow commemorating the visit of the wise men , seems a fitting and natural conclusion to such a glorious, time as Christmas. Now, like everyone else, we had a different sort of Christmas, this year. We settled for visits, instead of the usual large gathering, on Christmas night. After the trip to Raleigh, Mama and I spent a day in Elizabeth City with Will, Jenny and my beloved little girls, Brynn and Lyla.
The grandaughters were brimming with anticipation,of Sanats’ visit. Lyla was practicing her best behavior, so that the elves had nothing to tattle about. Mama and I toured their new home. It is a beautiful and sensible home-and within walking distance of the “laughing river”. How grateful I was, to see this blessing for them, first hand. What contentment welled up in my heart and I prayed for the home to be filled with goodness and mirth.
The day passed too quickly and while Brynn dozed in her mothers’ arms, Mama and I headed home.
A few short days later, my sisters and I were at Mamas’ house. We tried as best as could to divert ourselves from the great sorrow of not having Daddy with us. In some way, I had dreaded the affair altogether, Knowing we could not deny, that we all had this grief in common, the prospect of any merriment, seemed impossible . . .but I was wrong. We had a lot more in common, than grief. We had Mama and each other. We had the same elders and shared the same memories. We loved each others’ children . . .and so there was great solace in that.
I spent Christmas eve at Mamas’ house. On Christmas day, Tres, Sarah, Kyle and Christian came. Mama and I had prepared a meal and so this day was much better than Thanksgiving. It was fun cooking together and it was wonderful to wait together, for everyones’ arrival.
Outside, the coldest wind of the year blew, fiercely. The little community was quiet, other than the howling of that wind. Hardly a car drove by, for covid was in the neighborhood. Several families were in quarantine and had to cancel any prospect of celebrating together. A beloved neighbor was fighting for his life . . and losing. His wife was home alone and had to rely on phone calls from the doctors to know anything about her husband. She never got a bit of good news. Each call was worse than the one before it. The final call came on Christmas night. Our dear friend left us the next morning.
This man was but a few years, older than me and every bit as active. In the thirty years, we knew him,no one has ever had a bad thing to say about him. As far we are all concerned, he left with a “clean slate” . . .and that says volumes.
If death, does not make us think about living . .then I suppose nothing will. No matter what you believe happens after death, this life counts. What we do with it matters. In youth, man dreams big and with a lot of determination. We are often convinced then, that we will change this world and therefore leave our mark in some spectacular way. One way or another, we all end up in the same “rat race”. Some acquire more stuff than others . . .some acquire prestige . . some have some sort of power. I guess, it all comes down to whatever mission we select.
Thankfully, circumstances prevail, that allow us to reevaluate and help us define our priorities with a more seasoned precision . We continue making these wonderful discoveries, of who we are. What we truly love is out “front and center”! It comes to light and may even shock us, though it was there all along. . .likewise, our undesirable traits. Suddenly, you at last know yourself and this is the one mission, we all really share -and the one that matters most of all, I think. Our path is sacred, twisted, shadowed and how sweet those patches of light. Ever so often, a truth, our truth, leaps out, shining like a beacon or . . like an awful rock to fall over. Either way, we are the better, for the light-and the rocks, too.
I had several more revelations, during this quiet Christmas. Each one seemed like a Christmas gift, of sorts, but I will write about them at the more timely New year event, when most people do consider such things.
Mama will spend New Year in Raleigh and tomorrow, I leave for Elizabeth City. Brant and Sydney should arrive tomorrow evening. I have never been sentimental about celebrating the new year. . .but I am sentimental about seeing my children and grandchildren. . . after all. they are “my patches of light”.
Last week end in Raleigh, was”time well spent”. Mama and I arrived on Friday. It was an unseasonably warm day and so not long after getting there, I took little Ryan out for a stroll. A few trees were still celebrating autumn with bright apricot leaves-and some were golden too. How they lit up the landscape! We met an older woman hand delivering her Christmas cards. This cheered me, for it was something familiar. With Christmas so very different this year . . I found the encounter, beautiful. . . and did not take it lightly. Likewise, a simple wreath on a door, did my heart “good’. I remembered how I especially love familiar things.
I remembered a time, when folks did “hand deliver ” their Christmas cards – and how decorations were simple, but spoke volumes, anyway. Grandmama made her “fruit cocktail” cake and sat it on the “deep freeze’ and the Christmas albums were played daily. The house smelled to “high heaven” of apples and oranges at Christmas – a tradition spawned a century ago, in my family, when such things were only available at Christmas. When things changed, my elders did not. One of my sweetest memories, was Delores and I waking up to the smell of apples and oranges-and calling out to one another, “Wake up! It is Christmas!”
How fitting it was, that Ryan and I went home to Sydney and Mama in the kitchen, baking gingerbread cookies.
I lost count of the books, that Mama read to Ryan, that night. I am thrilled that Ryan dearly loves being read to-and Mama was more than willing to accommodate him. Later, Brant took Ryan for their usual before bedtime revelry while Sydney, Mama and I watched It Happened on Fifth Avenue-and ate cookies.
On Saturday, my sister, Delores and niece Dana. came for a visit. Mama would leave for a visit with them, as they live just under an hour away. This was the first of our new plan for Christmas. Visits with one another, instead of our usual large, ‘all in’ gathering. It really is a fine alternative, under the circumstances, though, it does lack the luster of the former feelings of Christmas ‘ past. . .but who knows, this altered state of Christmas, may at last force us to dwell, on the “holiness” more than the holly.
On Sunday, Brant, Sydney, Ryan and I, traveled to have lunch, at my sisters’ house -and to bring Mama back. it was another day, like late April, but it was Christmas inside. The tree was lovely, though Delores was not pleased with it initially. She is quite picky about her tree and spent the best part of two days, this year, selecting one. Surely, whatever qualms Delores had, are now dismissed. I was quite moved to see the collection of nutcrackers, that I had given my nephew, Brandon, over the years, displayed all over the downstairs. How many years, they reflected! I was glad. to have started the tradition, for they all seemed to fill the house with a proclamation of love.
After our lunch, we all went out to watch Ryan frolic about. Ryan loves sticks and acorns and leaves and he will usually have at least one of those things clinched in his little hands. He would rather be outside, in the first place, which pleases me. I love to see his fair face facing up, gazing at the sky. I carry this picture with me, to rely on, when there is distance between us.
We came back in the mid afternoon, and fell right back in to that routine of Mama reading to Ryan, and all of us eating cookies. That night we watched “The Bishops’ Wife”, which I had suggested on multiple occasions, ever since I had arrived. I do not know, if Sydney had ever watched movies that old. She was delightful company and is too well mannered to complain. . .and I think she enjoyed them!
Regular readers know, that I am hopelessly sentimental and “old fashioned” too. It is true. When I find something good , something authentic, something worthy enough to carry , I can not “leave it behind” like a burned out strand of lights, that certainly has no further use. Instead, ” I keep lovely things”. ..like souvenirs, tucked lovingly in my heart. I practice the old ways as best I can, for it is another way to” tell the story” to my grandchildren and to honor the memory of the elders. To the old ways, we add new ways and so the story grows into our unique version.
One day, the grandchildren will ask me why the house smells of apples and oranges at Christmas. . .and I will say “let me tell you a story . . .
These latter days of autumn are very akin to winter. Nights are cold now and so we rise to heavy frost that shines and sparkles in the first light. The barren fields, are covered in a dazzling luster. I woke to a strong north wind, yesterday. that stripped most of the leaves from the old trees- and carried them to their destiny, far from the rabbitpatch. Now the shade on the territory is scant, reduced to thin lines that curve and zig zag, across the territory, when the sun shines.
Recently, I don a coat and gloves in the early morning and the car must be warmed up. I do not mind cold as some do, but I will complain if there is a gusty wind, in addition.
With this being our first Thanksgiving, without Daddy, and my friend, Julie dying just before the holiday, well, it was a gloomy time. I counted my blessings, reciting them all day, for I have so many. . .but grief was ever present. I could not shake it – and to say otherwise,would be sheer falsehood. Mama and I spent the day together, with brief visits from Kyle and Christian -and Jenny, Sydney and Sarah brought the grandchildren in the afternoon. Those moments were bright spots. Our family would be gathering on Friday, so Thursday just felt hollow and so lacking. I suppose a parade could have passed by, and wouldn’t have altered our state of mind. Mama and I went to bed early.
Friday was better. It was a mild day and just right for our outside gathering. There were all sorts of tasks and that helped too. I stirred the caramel sauce and Mama decorated the garage. A turkey was roasting and Brant and Tres were frying another one. Sydney came in with a huge pan of macaroni and cheese, that took the place of the turkey, the minute it came out. Jenny had a corn pudding, my sister, Delores came in with a ham and a casserole. Delores began organizing the food and Ryan sought out little sticks and rocks, Brynn stuck close to her Mama, as she is shy. Often she will cover her face,if she is given too much attention. Lyla and Christian took a walk . .and so how soothing the hustle and bustle was. We wore masks, when we weren’t eating and took extra precautions to be safe. Those practices are habits now, for us.
Tres is out of school now and so he is at the rabbitpatch! Christian and I are thrilled. The boys have cut wood, fixed the dryer and Tres fixed two doorknobs that have not worked for a year. We have deep conversations- real content, that provokes thought. We have tackled science, government and religion, already. We have discussed documentaries and of course, what to have for supper. Conversations with Tres, always inspire me to “do better ” .
Will and Jenny moved this weekend! Wills’ mom had a home just a few miles away, in the same vicinity. It is a smaller home and so, they “downsized” before me! The new location will not hinder my walks by the”laughing river”. It is also closer to “Aunt J”, which thrills all of us. I cried with happiness when Jenny spent the first night. How good it felt to know that she was safely tucked in -as if she were six all over again. The heart of a mother does snot recognize the difference time oughtto make. This was a “milestone” to celebrate. I hope to visit in the next few weeks . By then there will be a wreath on the door!
Ryan is cutting a tooth and every little consequence of that has worried Brant, terribly. He even fed him chicken broth, one night! Sydney, is concerned, of course, but oh, how calm she remains for Ryan AND Brant!
Now, it is Monday, and with my lessons posted , my sisters and I are meeting at Mamas’ to decorate for Christmas. There is a chilly rain falling in silver drops that beckon to you to make a fire-and to serve a hearty supper.
Delores had arrived the night before. She was hanging a bow on the mailbox, as I drove up. What a sweet sight! Connie and my niece, Hayley, were right behind me. With everyone gathered and Bing Crosby singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, a sense of celebration filled the house.
Hayley had a surprise for us, right off. She had pillows for each of us, made from Daddys’ shirts. Of course we all cried, for we are missing Daddy and most especially during the holidays-but at least some of our tears were for the beauty of this gift. I was deeply moved by Hayleys’ thoughtfulness. Moments later, Connie and Delores were unpacking the Christmas china, while Dana and I gathered up the many cardinal ornaments , we would use . Mama had decided on that theme, for this particular year. We had a light lunch, and celebrated Delores’ and Hayleys’ approaching birthdays.
Everyone worked again after lunch. It got about cold and so we hurried along on the outside garland and lights. Both of my sisters are quite handy at the things that I am not, so there is never a quarrel about who does what. By the time that the world dimmed, the house was aglow with Christmas lights and Delores had put bows on most any thing that did not move. I glanced back, as I drove away and thought, what a good day.
On Friday. Mama and I will leave for Raleigh. We are doing Christmas a different way this year, due to the virus that is raging through our “neck of the woods”. We will have several small visits, with family, instead of the usual large gathering.
Being so very sentimental, I really love tradition . . .and so I am already missing the way things were. Hayley and I did not linger in a bookstore this year, while the others shopped. . .nor eat fine chocolate, because “they were taking too long”. The grandchildren will not gather to visit with Santa and Mama will not need to supplement seating in her house, on Christmas night. With the violin program, closed at school this year, I have not heard “Jingle Bells played a thousand times . . .well, on and on I could go proclaiming the woes of this creature of habit, for life has changed in general.
It makes me feel quite shallow to whine about it, when I consider that my grandparents had a Christmas meal, on ration cards. I think of the many folks, who lost their livelihoods this year and the many “empty chairs” across the entire world, this particular year.
I have come to realize a few things. Fortitude is quite under estimated and we ought to cultivate it in ourselves-and in our children, with great zeal. You can bet your life, it will be needed as surely as water. Likewise, gratitude. We must learn to recognize our blessings. We get so very used to them, that we treat them like an old beside lamp. But oh! how we like that light on a long winter night. Really, gratitude sparks joy, which is another element, we will need . . again like water. Current conditions implore us to look deeply and to see clearly, what does really matter. We all have the chance, to define our truth with precision.
I can not afford to miss this opportunity, for it is like a “baptism” . . and I so hope “this one takes” . . . “for wild and sweet, the words repeat . . . Peace on Earth, Good will to men.”