Many of you have known me for a long time, and you know that my age is no barrier. I learn a few very new to me things each year. Earlier this year it was clogging, and now it is tap dancing. I even threw in some ballroom dance in between.
The human brain is an amazing organ that most of us take for granted; it allows us to learn, to imagine, to remember things, and to communicate. It is a complex system of billions of neurons and trillions of connections that makes us, as far as we know, the only living thing capable of conscious thought.
What’s even more remarkable is that the brain can adapt and change in quite drastic ways when required. This process, known as neuroplasticity, is what’s behind our ability to learn new things.
But there is a problem – lasting, plastic change within the brain is only possible when you add one essential ingredient. Without it, any new neural connections that are formed are likely to fade quite quickly.
This ingredient is your dedicated and focused attention on the thing you wish to learn. It is this that allows the brain to create and strengthen connections within its structure and essentially store a new skill or ability to memory.
Without this deliberate concentration, many other parts of your brain are activated to perform various tasks.
This is great, but I am learning to tap dance because it is fun. I never took the time to learn when I was young, so now’s my chance. I take 5 lessons a week right now. The new year will calm down to 4.
I started painting after I became a Grandma, and I learned to play volleyball the same year. I did that for several years and got to where I showed and sold my art. It is in collections all over the world. Then I decided to write, and I have had some success at that as well. But these things did not come easily to me. I worked and worked at all that I learned to do. I did eight years of college classes about writing before I wrote a book. I wrote a lot of short stories and even won some contests, but I waited to write my books, well, in reality, I waited to finish them. In art, I took private lessons from 3 fairly famous artists and did 100’s of videos and books. I worked hard, but it paid off.
I hope to be in some dance shows next year. That will be fun. I do find that I need to concentrate heavily on whatever I am trying to learn, so I like to do just that.
***How about you? What is your journey like? Do you like to concentrate on a new thing every year?***
Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.
If as Herod, we fill our lives with things and again things;
If we consider ourselves so important that we must fill
Every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time to make the long slow journey
Across the burning desert as did the Magi;
Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds;
Or to brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary?
For each one of us there is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves to bring to life.
~ Author Unknown
“The Road to Bethlehem” is based on the story of the Three Kings who journeyed to visit the Christ Child, and then returned home by a different route to avoid King Herod, who was bent on the Child’s destruction.
In a larger context, the poem asks us to consider how we prepare to make our own journeys, and tells us what treasure lies in store for us along the way.
~ Posted by Kathy Waller
“The Road to Bethlehem” appears on numerous websites. Most attribute the poem to Anonymous. If you know who wrote it, please share the name and, if possible, other documentation in a comment, so I can give the poet credit for his creation and can search for information about copyright. Until I know more, I will assume the poem is in the public domain.
Another Christmas behind us and as I see all the people who are out shopping for those bargains, working, etc. it seems as if it never happened. But can you imagine what it was like at the beginning? Of course, I’m sure the term Christmas didn’t exist, but a new born baby did.
Whether you believe he is God’s son or not, he was born, grew up and had a huge influence on the world. So, Christmas night was full of “labor” for Mary, and knowing babies, I’m betting the nights following had a bit of work too. Christmas lived with her.
I try to hang on to the feeling of Christmas as long as I can by leaving the decorations up for a couple weeks, (sometimes longer if too lazy to take them down), keeping the colored lights on, munching on the cookies and sweets that seem abundant this time of year, and returning the favor of having a Christmas eve Scandinavian supper at the neighbors, by having them over around New Years for the same: Lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, Rullepolse, lefse and Rommegrot. Hanging on to the spirit of Christmas all year is my goal. (With all that rich food, it does have a tendency to “hang around” quite a while).
I also made sandbakkels this year, a Norwegian cookie made by pressing a rich dough that’s almond flavored into individual cookie molds and baking. 34 molds in my set and about one recipe. Everything is time consuming. I think those old Norwegians had nowhere to go but the kitchen during the long winters.
People are iffy on Lutefisk if they didn’t grow up on it. I personally love it. My girlfriend who also ate lutefisk as a kid said I’m the only person she knows who can say lutefisk and yummy in the same sentence! (I know more.) It’s a luted codfish, soaked in lye to preserve it. It’s eaten boiled with salt and melted butter on it.
Rullepolse is made by pounding the devil out of flanksteak, rubbing with a ginger and pepper mixture, layering sirloin steak, pork sirloin, and a pepper and ginger mixture of hamburger and sausage on top, rolling it up, tying with string, wrapping with cheesecloth, covering with water and boiling 3 hours. You slice it and eat it cold. It is wonderful between homemade buns. And the water it boiled in is the best tasting broth for vegetable beef soup.
Rommegrot is a pudding you eat with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon on. It is made of cream, flour and milk. Also laborious as you boil the cream, add flour a little at a time, stir until butter melts out of it, add hot milk, beat until smooth, and wipe your red face with a cool cloth.
The reason for Christmas is not lost to me with all the preparation. But all the good food and smiles on other shoppers as well as family gathering, enhances the joy. And when we have sorrow too, we can remember the real reason there is a Christmas, and let joy elbow some of our sorrow to the side perhaps. For Christmas is about hope and love and lutefisk.
Yesterday a Facebook friend, the kind I’ve known all my life, posted about bits of wisdom she’s picked up over the years from ministers, school administrators, her parents, and others, such as to watch out for “clever devils,” not to buy cheap foreign goods that will “crack up” when you get them home, and “not to embarrass the family.” That started me thinking about bits of wisdom I’ve picked up over several decades, and I’m going to share some of them.
My mother didn’t say not to embarrass the family but I knew that’s what she meant from Day One, and I went ahead and embarrassed them anyway. She did say a lot of other things, though. I wrote a whole blog post about them and submitted it to Listen to Your Mother. I was called to audition but wasn’t chosen, which is a shame, because the audience, which includes viewers of archived videos on Youtube, would have gotten a lot out of it.
At my high school baccalaureate service, Dr. McIntosh, a professor from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said we are told to feed His sheep, but we have to do it wisely, because if we pick up a lamb with a broken leg or a dependency complex and press it to our bosoms, we can do a lot of damage.
My grandmother Barrow said knowing how to spell privy two ways–privy and privie–is very good, but, of course, not the nicest thing a little girl could know how to spell… I was seven and should have known better than to go around spelling words not approved by Texas State Board of Education. The other grandchildren were socially acceptable, and privy/privie probably fell under the heading of embarrassing the family, although my mother thought it was funny and laughed about it after my grandmother went home.
My father said to carry plenty of cash. I was the only 11-year-old who paid for the Saturday movie with a five dollar bill and returned the change, even though he said I didn’t have to return it (and sometimes I wished I hadn’t).
He also said to keep plenty of gas in the car, so the day we ran out on the way home from Seguin, about two miles short of our destination, and were stranded with nothing but a two-lane road, a river bridge, and about fifty acres of cotton between us and the nearest gas pump, I felt justified in smiling a sweet I-told-you-so smile, because I had asked if we shouldn’t fill up before we left Seguin and he’d said no, we could make it home and fill up there.
My grandfather Waller said to go pour the warm beer down the sink and throw away the can, and I did, but before I did, I stuck my finger in the beer and tasted it, and then and there vowed never to drink beer, and I haven’t, because it tastes nasty and smells worse.
He also said that when he was a boy, he knew a man who had seen General Robert E. Lee sitting astride Traveler, and I knew from his tone of voice that he felt honored just to know that man, and I also knew he felt honored because the man saw Traveler, not because he saw General Lee. Horses were important.
I don’t think he ever gave me any advice. The Waller tribe seemed to assume I wasn’t planning to embarrass the family, and that I ate with a fork instead of with my toes, and they didn’t ask me to say Good morning to anyone, and they didn’t tell everyone I refused to say Good morning because I was shy, when it was really because I thought Good morning was a sissy thing to say, and that Hi was good enough.
I liked the Waller family, although I could have done without all the built-in supervision, because my parents got a report on every nickel I spent on ice cream when I was downtown by myself–downtown was one block long, with a filling station, a grocery store, an ice cream parlor, another grocery store, and a Masonic lodge on one side of the street, and a skating rink, a post office, a cotton gin, and a doctor’s office on the other, and my uncle was the post master and had a picture window so he could see the ice cream parlor and practically everything else, and my father’s cousin and his wife owned and operated the grocery store and had even bigger windows, and my grandfather frequently sat with the other old men on one of the benches outside the post office–and, anyway, what else did they think a 6-year-old who likes chocolate was going do with a nickel?
My grandfather did one time tell my father not to smoke behind the barn but to come on up to the house, which is why my father quit smoking at the age of ten.
My high school English teacher told me to start with a topic sentence and give plenty of examples, and to read The Red Badge of Courage, but I abandoned it about a quarter of the way through, and I’m sorry that yesterday, fifty years after the fact, I felt the need to confess, but I’m not sorry I abandoned it, because it is the most boring book ever written, lacking dialogue as it does, but I did finish The Scarlet Letter, another novel that has little dialogue and that would have more boring than the other one if I hadn’t been in a sweat to know what happened to Hester Prynne, although I thought she ought to give little Pearl a swat on the bottom and tell her not to embarrass the family.
My first-grade teacher said that when I wanted to get a drink of water or visit the restroom, I should stand beside the door and look around the room to see if all the other students were there, and if someone was out of the room, to wait for him or her to return before I went out. I thought, and still think, that is one of the finest compliments I ever received, because it meant my teacher knew I, and all the other students, were mature enough to think and act independently, and to behave properly without constant supervision, and not to run away even though school was the last place I wanted to be, every day from the first day of first grade to the night of high school graduation.
I’ll stop now because I’ve run on long enough, but I’ve benefited from writing this post because when I began, I thought I remembered only a couple of bits of wisdom, but while writing, I remembered much more, and that proves that Writing Is Thinking, a bit of wisdom I picked up in the late ’70s from Professor Lamberg in the Texas Hill Country Writing Project at the University of Texas-Austin, which I participated in because my high school English teacher told me to, so I would be a better English teacher and not tell students to write the outline before writing the essay, the way English teachers have been (incorrectly) doing since the beginning of time.
If I kept on writing, I would think of more bits of wisdom, but, as I said, I’ve run on long enough.
And if you abandoned this post a quarter of the way through, that’s perfectly okay.
Note: The Red Badge isn’t the absolutely most boring book ever written. It’s tied with The Old Man and the Sea. I’ve written about that, too.
My high school English teacher is Patsy Munk Kimball. She’s the owner of River Bluff Cabin, on the San Marcos River above Fentress, Texas. It’s in a pecan bottom at the end of the road, peaceful and quiet, and only a mile or two to a convenience store that makes good hamburgers and real pizza, not the cardboard kind. Or they did the last time I stayed there. And the cabin is lovely. So anyone in need of a weekend retreat in that area might check it out.
The foregoing blurb was my idea, nobody else’s, and does not reflect the views of Writing Wranglers and Warriors, but I’m sure it would if the other writers had ever visited there.
I am in the process of writing my “opus” entitled: “HE WHO BROKE THE CLOUDS.” I have been waiting years to write this story and I’m so excited, but it is one of the most difficult stories to write in many ways. The story takes place in 1917, at the very beginning of mental health psychology. It is a story of a wealthy young man, Randolph Fitzroy, who suffers from severe depression. His psychologist, Dr. Jacob Snow, is a Native American who has seen more than his fair share of prejudice during WWI and the depression of other soldiers. When Dr. Snow decides to return to his Iroquois village to establish an educational reservation, he takes the young man with him. Throughout the story, young Rand tries to get Dr. Snow to understand just what depression is and how it feels. It isn’t a choice. But, Dr. Snow comes from a world where life is precious and nature cures all. He struggles to understand Randolph, and shares ancient Native American wisdom and teachings to help break through the clouds within the young man’s mind. The two develop friendship and understanding that changes both of their lives.
Now, I wasn’t around in 1917, although I feel 100 years old at times. I need to search for every detail of hair styles, clothing, police techniques, plays in NYC, automobiles (the use of the term “car” wasn’t done until the 40s), the fears of the times, the language, the slang, the names of various places in existence in 1917, government programs of the time, governmental treatment of Native Americans during WWI, the sports teams, etc.
I need to research Native American philosophies, dress, herbal cures, customs, etc. The Iroquois nation consists of six different tribes that merged their customs with each other. Tons of research continues in what custom belonged to what tribe and how the tribes are united.
Researching treatment for depression in 1917 is a nightmare. Tons of info can be found from the 1950s and up. Lots of information of medication can be found, but that medication wasn’t created until much later. In 1917, little was known of depression and how it affects an individual. It was considered as a “melancholy problem” that was either viewed as pure selfishness/laziness or as a mental condition. Treatment was in transition from severe methods of water boarding, shock therapy, and lobotomies, to simply ignoring or locking the victims up. In 1917, the world was changing.
I know that when this book is complete, it will be a work that I will consider my finest. (Although my book, Moshe’s War, will be hard to beat.) I have been interviewing doctors, Native American historians, and I have gleaned a pound of knowledge for every line I’ll actually write from the net and several books. All the research I am investing for this book will make me proud someday. Most of all, as one who suffers from clinical depression, it will allow me to share myself with readers. I hope there will be plenty of them. “He Who Breaks The Clouds” will be a work-in-process for quite some time. I can’t wait to announce to you when it is complete. I’ve toyed with a book cover, just for fun. What do you think?
I love Boxing Day almost as much as I love Christmas. The day after Christmas is a chance to relax, visit with more relatives, catch up on things around the house, or (for me) taking advantage of the holiday to get to work on the writing. The lead up to Christmas usually means I don’t get a lot of writing done. But Boxing Day is a chance to catch up a little. With the day off from the day job, I have nowhere to go except my office.
This year I’ll be working on revisions of The Princess Prophecy. I’m starting the New Year off right by getting the novella to an editor (finally). To take a break from the revisions I’ll be plotting the first book in my angel series. I have the covers for all four and I can’t wait to get this series written and start telling people about them. The covers are AWESOME.
If there’s time today after the revising and the plotting I’ll also be working on the business plan. I usually start it much sooner than this but the month has been quite busy and I haven’t had time to even think about the plan for next year yet in much detail. I have figured out a release schedule that I would like to stick to. And I have started putting information into a tracking software I also use at the day job so I figured it might help with the writing. The actual business plan will take a different form this year than it did last year. The plan I’ve been using was not created with the writing industry in mind so a lot of sections in it did not apply to me. I’ve since found a few more examples of business plans that I will merge together to come up with something that works for me.
What are you doing on this day after Christmas? Is it a holiday for you too?
In a couple of minutes, George will learn that without him, Mary, aka Donna Reed, not only never marries, but wears granny glasses, a frumpy hat, and a bun, and is a librarian. A fate worse than death.
It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t my favorite Christmas movie. I prefer Miracle on 34th Street, in which Edmund Gwenn is declared to be the real Santa Claus. No librarians were defamed in the making of that show.
But that doesn’t matter. When half the town crowds into the Bailey living room and piles money onto the table, I start crying. I cry through the credits and the next three commercials. Year after year after year.
I’m not good at selecting favorites. I don’t have a favorite novel or song or color. Or teacher, actor, or pet. Those retrieve-your-password questions–“What is your favorite television show?”–are impossible. I can never remember whether I said Andy Griffith or Law and Orderor I’ll Fly Away.
I do have a favorite Christmas carol, though. The melody is lovely and singable–singable is important to me–but it’s the words that move me. They speak of peace and quiet and rest for the weary, of heavenly song floating above earthly babble. They speak of ancient tidings of peace to one small group of men, and of the promise of a world in harmony.
But they also speak of the present, of stopping, and looking up, and seeing angels. They’re there now, and they’re singing.
We have only to be still and listen.
It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold: “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King.” The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled, and still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world; above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing, and ever o’er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled Two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not The love-song which they bring; O hush the noise, ye men of strife, And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!
For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old, when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.
Hey, it’s only four days until Christmas. I’ve a gift for the readers and bloggers of Writing Wranglers & Warriors — a Christmas short story. I’m calling it The Tree Lighting.
# # #
“Hey, Dad, are you going to the tree lighting tonight?” Roger Latham asked his nervous-Nelly father.
Jack Latham perched on a footstool before the All-Wave 23 console radio listening to ‘The Falcon.’ He’d been home from the war for only a few months. He’d twitched at the sound of his seven-year-old son’s brash voice near his ear. Loud unexpected sounds often jolted him – reminders of Wehrmacht artillery fire.
“Tree lighting?” Jack said, pondering as if this was the first time he’d heard about the ceremony. Of course, he’d heard nothing but how wonderful the tree lighting would be when the Christmas lights on town square’s blue spruce illuminated. He just enjoyed teasing his son.
“The whole town will be there,” Roger gushed, lowering his voice. “And there will be hot chocolate and hot cider – and Christmas cookies. You’ll love it, Dad.”
His mom had warned Roger to keep his voice down when he talked to his dad, but the boy sometimes forgot her words. At seven, the boy’s life was a smorgasbord of squeals, screams and whistles. Nonetheless, Roger hated it when one of his squeals made his dad jump – like a minute ago when he’d asked about the tree lighting. The war must have been horrible.
Roger’s negative thoughts disappeared as he dropped to the rug and listened to the radio drama. His dad mussed the boy’s hair. “I know I’ll love it,” Jack informed the boy. “I’ve been to a few myself – before the war. You don’t remember because you were too young.”
“Gosh! You’re right. I don’t remember. The blue spruce must have been lots smaller back then.” Roger jiggled his hair after his dad stopped mussing the strands.
Jack laughed, something he seldom did since returning from the war in Europe. He’d served as a captain in Patton’s Third Army, seen action in the Battle of the Bulge helping to relieve Bastogne. “Tree’s about the same size. I’m just glad to see Sharon Center all lit up again. In your mom’s letter, she’d talk about the blackout. Hitler’s dead, the Japs are beaten down, and America’s village, towns and cities are lit up again. Peace, son, we have peace.”
Rose Latham, Roger’s mom, ambled into the living room, his five-year-old sister Belle trailing in her wake. “Did Roger tell you about the tree lighting, Daddy?” Belle jabbered. “It’s going to be grand.”
“Grand? Where did you learn that word,” Jack asked his daughter.
“From Momma. Come on, Daddy. Get up! I want to see the Christmas tree all light up!”
Jack stiffy stood. The German bullet that had ripped meat from his thigh left him with a limp he now displayed as he shuffled to the radio and turned it off. “Let’s get our coats. We’ve a tree lighting to go to tonight.”
The coats hung in the closet next to the front door. Once snuggled inside the coats, their noggins nestled inside winter caps, the Latham family crossed the porch, stepped down the stoop, and made their way along the footpath to the driveway. “The car, dear?” Rose asked as light snow swirled, dusting the driveway.
“No, Rose. Let’s walk. It’s a short one.” Jack took her hands ensconced in warm mittens.
“But your leg, Jack?” Concerned etched lines into Rose’s face.
“When asleep in more than one frozen foxhole, I dreamed of walking from this house down to the square. Don’t worry about me. I survived the war, I’ll survive this outing.” Jack didn’t smile, although his words should have prompted one.
Their 1920s house lay across from the brick elementary school. When someone called for directions, Rose would always say: “When you see the school, we’re across the street.”
Although nippy out, the walk along Ridge Road down to the square turned out to be pleasant, although Jack’s limp became worse as they neared town limits. Others made the same walk, and soon families were walking together, sharing news and gossip. Bill Turner, a Navy veteran who served aboard the battleship ‘North Carolina’ in the Pacific, hollered out to Jack, “Have you heard? They’re going to bring Freddy Quimby’s body back to Sharon from one of the cemeteries in France.”
This time Jack didn’t flinch at the sound of a booming voice. “Just heard it yesterday, Bill. His family really wanted him home so they could put flowers on his grave. Sad… he barely got off the landing craft before the Krauts cut him down.”
“Bill wouldn’t want us talking like this at Christmastime,” Rose inserted. “He’d want the kids to have wonderful memories of the first tree lighting since the war’s end. We can be sad another time.”
Jack nodded. “I agree. No sadness tonight. Right, Roger and Belle?”
“Just fun.” Roger licked snowflakes off the upper portion of his chin.
“Fun, fun, fun,” Belle echoed.
“The snow makes the tree lighting perfect.” Roger kicked at the accumulation that had fallen since they left the house ten minutes earlier.
“Looks like the big snowfall’s happening,” Rose observed. “The Medina Gazette said we could get 6 inches overnight. It’s a perfect December 11, just two weeks before your dad has his first Christmas with us since 1941.”
Once in the square, Roger went running off with Patrick O’Dell and Tyler Snyder. They beelined to the War Memorial honoring Civil War and the Great War dead. There the three rascals bedeviled Sharon Thomas and Donna Lincoln. The girls tried to ignore them… an impossible task.
“You three are the worst boys in school,” Sharon complained. “See the hot chocolate in my hand. If one of you pulls my hair, I’ll toss it in your face.”
Patrick faked a bull-rush toward Sharon. She jumped back and some of the hot chocolate spilled. “Darn it, Patrick!” she groused.
“I didn’t pull your hair!” Patrick shot back.
“That’s the only reason you don’t have hot chocolate in your face, buddy boy.” She took a sip of what remained of her chocolate.
“You’re lucky Patrick, that you don’t have hot chocolate dripping down your coat,” Donna spoke up.
“Donna’s right,” Roger told the other two boys.
Donna lived next to Roger. They often played together after school and during the summer. A tomboy, she loved tossing a football or donning a baseball mit and throwing a baseball. Once in a while he’d walk outside and see her drawing hopscotch squares. Soon they’d be hopping from square to square. He’d even jumped rope with her when her cousin Delores came visiting.
“Thank you, Roger,” Donna said smugly. “You guys should really go into the fire department for some cookies and hot chocolate. Good stuff.”
That’s what the three boys did, wandering past the firetrucks and into the meeting room where the wives of the firemen had cookies displayed on a tabletop alongside hot chocolate and cider urns. On the way out, loaded down with cookies and hot chocolate, the boys could hear chatter behind the door leading to the dispatch room. Roger could make out only one sentence, “It fits!”
“What fits?” Roger said to the other boys.
“Got me. Could be anything,” Patrick replied indifferently.
Once outside in the falling snow, Roger looked across the road into the square and saw his mom and sister, but not his dad. He scanned the square, eyeing the other adults, hoping to see his dad chitchatting with other men. “I don’t see my dad,” he said to Tyler and Patrick, concern in his voice. “Gosh! I hope his leg didn’t start bothering him and someone had to drive him home.”
“I hope so too,” Patrick responded. “I know how much you looked forward to having your dad here for the tree lighting.”
“He probably went to the bathroom,” Tyler said, hope in his voice.
“Probably,” Roger conceded.
Tyler and Patrick headed toward the girls, but Roger begged off and went to his mom and sister. “Where’s dad?” Roger inquired when he reached them.
His mom looked around. “That’s odd. He was here a minute ago. I don’t see him, but I’m sure he’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Roger scrutinized his sister. “You know anything, Belle?”
“Nope. Nothing.” She smiled sweetly, a dead giveaway she did.
“Mom, something’s going on.” He scowled.
“I don’t think so,” she replied innocently.
Just then sirens sounded. Fire trucks – a pumper, ladder truck and the chief’s pickup truck – emerged from the firehouse and wheeled around the circle. Santa sat at the back of the ladder truck waving at everyone standing in the square.
“Wave,” Rose urged her children.
Belle waved like crazy. Roger waved noncommittally, all the while studying Santa. Beneath his whiskers, under the Klaus hat, Santa looked familiar. “It can’t be,” Roger muttered.
“Can’t be what?” Rose asked, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
Santa’s eyes fixed on Roger. “Hey, Roger, merry Christmas,” Santa shouted, then added, “Merry Christmas, Belle, and Rose, the most lovely woman in the square.”
“Know that voice, Belle?” Rose inquired, her voice neutral.
“It sounds like daddy.” Belle stepped closer to the ladder truck for a better look. “Daddy?” the girl squealed.
“Yes, it’s dad, Stupid Head,” Roger said derisively.
“You’re the stupid head,” Belle retorted. “Stupid head, stupid head, stupid head.”
“Stop it kids!” Rose scolded, laughing. “Yes, it’s your daddy, Belle. He’s Santa for tonight.”
The ladder truck stopped next to the curb behind a 1940 Packard 180, Mr. Rising’s automobile… he owned the salt company factory between Sharon Center and Wadsworth. Jack climbed from the firetruck, careful not to aggravate his bad leg. The fire chief stopped his pickup farther up the road, and soon firemen were setting a Santa workshop on snowy ground beneath a skeletal elm. The firemen placed a comfy throne-like chair inside the shop.
Before Jack could settle onto the throne’s cushion, he had one final task to complete. “Come close and listen, children,” he shouted out, then waited until they were gathered around him near the Santa workshop. “Let’s go light up the tree. It’ll be so bright moon men will see its glow.”
A little girl said fretfully, “Santa, the clouds are hiding the moon.”
Santa loosed a belly laugh. “You’re right. But I’ve a secret to share with all you kids. The moon men can see through clouds. They have high beams for eyes.” Santa led them to the end of an outdoor electrical cord. He picked it up and winked, “Ready? Ten…nine…eight…seven… six… five… four… three… two… one… abracadabra!” He plugged the pins into a receptacle mounted on a pole and protected from the elements.
The blue spruce bloomed with color – red, blue, green, purple and yellow. So many lights moon men might be able to see the Christmas tree even with the snowy overcast, Roger thought.
“What a surprise, eh?” Rose said to Roger and Belle. “You’d no idea what your dad was up to, right?”
“Caught me unawares,” Roger admitted, grinning. “Here I thought I’d have to talk him into going to the tree lighting. Boy did he surprise me!”
Another year has obviously passed and instead of getting older, we are all just getting closer to home! Sometimes I forget it’s not the time to feel rushed or tense with a to-do list, but it’s time to fill ourselves with anticipation and excitement over the coming birthday we are about to celebrate–for a man who never became a great author, politician or movie star. Yet his name has been on more lips than any other, sometimes in a not so reverent way. But we all know that on December 25th, we can shout, “Happy Birthday Jesus!”
(And our family can also shout “Happy Birthday Luke” to our grandson who was born on that date.)
This is the beginning of my Christmas letter this year, I have sent out almost 90 and did not see that the “r” was missing from “forget” until I copied it into my word program now. I designed the letter, which I printed in the form of a brochure in Printmaster. Oh, those blasted typos!
The rest of my letter contained a few pictures of places we’ve been and a summary of the ups and downs we experienced. “Character building” opportunities the Bible says. And we are becoming some characters!
From the auction off of 70 years of family treasures to being on the receiving end of so many generous friends and family who came to help us retrieve those treasures from dusty, moldy corners of an old farmhouse, wash and transport them, pull up yard fence, get old machinery running, take and transport a dozen doors from the home for auction, pull old chicken nests off the coop wall, and a hundred other heavy, non-glamorous chores, our emotions were on a roller coaster much of the summer. We’ve lost friends to death, gained new friends, and experienced love, grief, anger, and humility, as each person reading this has perhaps.
In other words, our year was full of life. And we are older, smarter, more grateful, more experienced, and hopefully more giving and forgiving because of it.
I can’t wait for what the New Year is going to teach us!