Wisdom and a Few Other Things I’ve Picked Up Along the Way

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.

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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.

Reunion of Lipscomb Rifles, San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1950. My grandmother, Mary Veazey Barrow, front row left, wearing a big black hat.

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 parents, Crystal Barrow Waller and Billie Waller, in 1942.

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.

My grandfather, Frank Waller, taking a break from house painting, ca. 1952. I’m the one trying to tip the chair over.

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.

***

M. K. Waller, aka Kathy, writes short stories and has published in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 Tales of Crime on the Move, LONE STAR LAWLESS: 14 Texas Tales of Crime, and DAY OF THE DARK: Stories of Eclipse. She writes for her personal blog, Telling the Truth, Mainly, and at Austin Mystery Writers. She edits HOTSHOTS!, Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas Chapter’s newsletter/blog.

 

Sled Riding Hijinks

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This post is by Joe Stephens

 

The snow heightened in intensity as I stepped outside, almost as if it was trying to put its best foot forward for me. At one point, it was so heavy and wind-driven that I had trouble seeing my car at the end of the horseshoe. But by the time I got home, it had all but stopped. It was a squall, and a small one at that. But our first semi-snow of the season took me back to what seemed like much longer, snowier winters of my childhood. I’m sure I’m putting many winters together in my mind, but it feels like we regularly rode our sleds on the hill behind my house.

Going by there now, I’m appalled at how short and shallow that hill

mountains, peaks, summit, cliffs, landscape, nature, snow, cold, winter, blue, sky, clouds
How I picture the hill I used to sled-ride on in my mind.

seems. Back then, it seemed like a true mountain, especially when I was dragging my Flexible Flyer sled to the top for about the twentieth time that night. But I couldn’t stay on the bottom; after all, the fire and warmth were at the top.

 

I remember my cousin trying to ski down the hill once. Only problem was that he was using water skis. That lasted part of one trip down the hill. We also tried an old car hood, which wasn’t bad going down, but it was so heavy that it was used for exactly one trip. One winter, somebody (I think it was my brother Don) got the bright idea to haul gallon jugs of water up with us, not to drink but to pour down the hill to create a giant ice track. That was just plain scary. We absolutely flew–sometimes literally!winter, snow, ice, cold, people, skating, toboggan, tobogganing, trees, forest, woods, nature, outdoors, black and white

The craziest thing that ever happened though, was when my then future brother-in-law and cousin nearly blew themselves to bits trying to start the fire. I didn’t witness it first hand, but I was the nearest to the event other than the two perpetrators. I was at the foot of the hill, about to start the slow slog up to where Steve and Larry had promised to start a really warm fire, when the night turned to day for an instant. Just as my eyes turned toward the flash, the boom and concussion of the explosion knocked me off my feet. After that, all I heard was the thudding of what I would soon learn was firewood raining down all around.

fire, flames, hot, guy, man, shadow, silhouette, peopleTurns out Steve and Larry had sneaked into our garage and “borrowed” a gallon of gasoline and had poured the entire can onto the wood in order to fight against the wetness of the wood. They figured it would be a pretty good sized fire once it caught, so they were lighting wooden kitchen matches and flicking them toward the pit. What they’d failed to account for, though, was the vapors from the gas. Somewhere around the fourth or fifth flick, the match stayed lit long enough to hit the ever-growing cloud of fumes. That was when things got really bright and really loud.

When I got to the top of the hill, I found a big charred hole where the firewood had once been (it was scattered for hundreds of feet all over the hillside) and Steve and Larry, slightly singed and temporarily hard of hearing, but having a good laugh nonetheless.

Sometimes I wonder how we all survived childhood.

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey, Kisses and Lies, and the recently released In the Shadow, all of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from Createspace, Amazon, and most online booksellers. In the real world, you may purchase from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg and from the author’s trunk.

ITS Cover ArtCheck out his newest book on Amazon

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Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon 

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Christmas Memories

This post by Jennifer Flaten

 

I love classic Christmas carols. Anytime I hear ‘It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas’ I am instantly transported back to my grandparents house.

 

At Christmas time we would bake cookies and listen to Christmas records. My grandparents had a small collection of Christmas records by Perry Como, Anne Murray, and Johnny Mathis, but my all time favorite was the ONE kid’s Christmas album they had ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town by the Peppermint Kandy Kids’.

I adored this record. It wove a story, with great voice actors, between all the songs. Every year, I would put it on and listen enthralled by the story. I was absolutely convinced that the voice I heard was indeed Santa Claus and I better be good or he wouldn’t bring me any presents.

 

Grandma would be puttering around making cookies or working on a crochet project and I would be sitting under the tree happily listening to the album and playing with the Christmas village. The village only had a few pieces, a church, two houses and the manager. It also had a few snow covered trees, a sleigh, a funny little elf and a couple other figures (along with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus).

 

I really enjoyed  moving the village figures around and acting out little scenes. I especially liked  taking the little girl doll as skating her around the village “pond”, which was actually a little mirror.

 

What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?

 

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

“Use the right word…”: Mark Twain’s Mother

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by Kathy Waller

I wrote the following for my personal blog nearly a year ago. Rereading it today, I decided it’s worth sharing again–not for my words, but for those of Jane Clemens. She must have been an exceptional woman, and she reared and exceptional son.

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Mark Twain chose his words carefully: Pa’s boot with a couple of his toes leaking out of the front end; a sow lying in the middle of the street, looking as happy as if she was on salary; and Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word,” he wrote, “is really a large matter – ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

And, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.”

In his autobiography, he tells the story of a time his mother used the right words to teach him a lesson that lasted a lifetime.

***

 

There was, however, one small incident of my boyhood days which touched this matter, and it must have meant a good deal to me or it would not have stayed in my memory, clear and sharp, vivid and shadowless, all these slow-drifting years. We had a little slave boy whom we had hired from some one, there in Hannibal. He was from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and had been brought away from his family and his friends, half way across the American continent, and sold. He was a cheery spirit, innocent and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing – it was maddening, devastating, unendurable. At last, one day, I lost all my temper, and went raging to my mother, and said Sandy had been singing for an hour without a single break, and I couldn’t stand it, and wouldn’t she please shut him up. The tears came into her eyes, and her lip trembled, and she said something like this—

“Poor thing, when he sings, it shows that he is not remembering, and that comforts me; but when he is still, I am afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again; if he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older, you would understand me; then that friendless child’s noise would make you glad.”

It was a simple speech, and made up of small words, but it went home, and Sandy’s noise was not a trouble to me any more. She never used large words, but she had a natural gift for making small ones do effective work. She lived to reach the neighborhood of ninety years, and was capable with her tongue to the last – especially when a meanness or an injustice roused her spirit.

From “Mark Twain on Slavery, How Religion Is Used to Justify Injustice, and What His Mother Taught Him About Compassion”

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MOW cover - amazon pixKathy Waller blogs at Kathy Waller–Telling the Truth, Mainly,* and at Austin Mystery Writers. Her stories have been published in Mysterical-E and in Murder on Wheels: 11 Stories of Crime on the Move (Wildside, 2015).

*(Telling the Truth, Mainly refers to a line from Huckleberry Finn. The blog was formerly named To Write Is to Write Is to Write, an allusion to a quotation from Gertrude Stein. It was a good quotation but a bland title.)

Preserving Memories, or Why I Always Loved the Cellar

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By Stephanie Stamm

On the day my parents first brought me home from the hospital—after I had spent two weeks in an incubator because I was nearly two months premature—my fifteen-year-old brother took me to the cellar. Upon discovering this, my mother, understandably concerned for her tiny youngest child, asked my brother in some alarm, “Why did you take that baby to the cellar?” He replied, quite matter-of-factly, “I thought she’d want to see it.”

Baby Steph in Basinette
This is me–a few months after the cellar incident.

I don’t know if it was because this infant visit somehow impressed upon me the centrality of the cellar to home, or if it was something else altogether, but I do know that I always loved going to the cellar. I loved its coolness in the summer heat, I loved all the varied colors in the jars of fruits and vegetables stored there—the bright red tomatoes, the green beans, the golden peaches, and the purple jams and jellies—and I loved its damp, earthy smell. Sometimes, I’d walk down the stairs, unlatch the door and step inside just to breathe the air. Similar to the aroma of freshly-turned soil after a rain or that released when wet leaves are lifted from their resting place on the cool ground beneath a shady tree, the scent of the cellar was dark and rich and fertile. To breathe it in was to take in the essence of life itself.

In our home, like those of many other people of my parents’ generation, the function of the “heart” of the home was divided between the hearth and the cellar. We didn’t have a hearth per se. We had an oil stove for heat and an electric stove for cooking—although my mother was known to heat soup on the top of the oil stove if the electric went out and to set her coffee cup on it even when the electric was on just to keep her coffee warm. Certainly, those places of fire and heat were central to our household. However, the kitchen stove alone could not provide us with nourishment. Without the cellar, it, like the oil stove in the living room, was just a source of heat. The cellar was our Aladdin’s cave, filled with the food that, through my mother’s kitchen alchemy, would be converted into our meals.

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This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom, surrounded by the fruits of her labor.

From mid-spring through summer and fall, we’d plant and tend and harvest and preserve. Our garden was large and sometimes it felt to me like we’d never be finished with hoeing—the corn was the worst, with its early leaves looking so much like grass, it was difficult to tell them apart—or picking beans—the vines made my arms and legs itch—or breaking beans—for days in a row we would sit with upturned cold packer lids full of beans on our laps, breaking off the ends and snapping the beans into bite-size pieces. But for each gardening and preserving chore I didn’t like, there was another I did.

I found it somehow satisfying to dip my hands into a pot of warm, red-purple water and slip the skins off the freshly cooked beets. I begged to be allowed to plunge elbow deep into a bucket of cut tomatoes, squeezing and squishing until they were all turned into juice, ready for cooking and then canning. And nothing could be better than getting the corn ready for freezing. We’d shuck the ears and heat them until the corn was just barely tender. Then the steaming ears would be dumped into a galvanized bath tub full of cold water to cool them down enough for the kernels to be cut from the cob with a few long strokes from a very sharp knife. With a bathtub full of fresh corn-on-the-cob, how could we possibly not have taken a break now and then to eat one or two? And when we were filling the freezer bags with the kernels Mom had already released from the cobs into the enamel dishpan over which she stood, how could we resist scooping up a handful and stuffing it into our mouths? Fresh-picked and fresh-cooked, it was the best food in the world!

I’ve been thinking about all of this, because I’m working on a family project now, collecting my mother’s recipes and stories about her cooking and memories of life on or visits to the farm from my siblings and nieces and nephews. I am having a lot of fun revisiting my own memories, reading their stories, and compiling them all into one volume. I hope it will be something my family can treasure down through the generations.

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Connect with me:

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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

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I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

November by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1I love the first few days of November. The weather is cool and crisp, there are more leaves off the trees than on, and we still have a few more weeks until the bustle of the holidays gets into full swing. For me this is a time of reflection, or maybe it would be more accurate to say “nostalgia.” There is just something about autumn that takes me back to my childhood, and also into myself. The bare branches of the trees, piles of leaves on front lawns, and the smell of smoke in the air sends my mind on a journey that at times I wish the rest of me could follow.

My siblings and I would rake the leaves that had fallen from our huge maple tree and then jump into the piles. I’d walk back on our farm, toward the creekimages or pond, wading through tall, brown grass, maybe flushing out a pheasant or two along the way. There would be high school football games, and hayrides, and we always participated in autumn school and Community Theater productions. Life was good and childhood would never end.

While I still enjoy many fall activities, including hayrides and corn mazes, it isn’t the same. Leaves are to be raked and bagged, not jumped into with abandon. Walks include a fit bit or pedometer because I need to get more steps in. I enjoy the last of the flowers but then I remind myself that I need to weed and clean up the yard before too long.

So I long to go back to a simpler time of sweaters and mittens, and fun and laughter. Until I remember the whole truth. Yes, there is an innocence and joy that comes with childhood but there were also chores and responsibilities, tests and homework. And algebra. Life was never as simple or fun as it is through the lens of nostalgia.

Instead of going back, I try to look back with honesty and forgiveness – mostly forgiving myself for being such a clueless kid. But in looking back, I can see how far I’ve come, the obstacles I’940320-bigthumbnailve defeated, the ones I didn’t, and how they’ve all changed me for the better.

Still, you can’t look back too long so instead I use my foray into my memories to ground me in the present and prepare me for today, tomorrow, and whatever else is to come. I have a new, challenging job, a wonderful husband whom I married in November fourteen years ago, and a daughter who is living what will someday be her own childhood memories. I hope she has joyful events to reflect on when she is my age, like hayrides and pumpkin carving and the time we had a picnic on the porch roof, but this is in her hands, not mine.

The leaves have turned, the warm blankets are on the bed, the woodpile is stocked, and I’m ready for my memories and my future. Happy Autumn.

You can learn more about me at:

http://www.erinfarwell.com
https://www.facebook.com/erin.farwell.5
https://www.amazon.com/author/erinfarwell
http://www.goodreads.com/Erin50

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Caught in the Rain by Stephanie Stamm

Steph_2 copy (2)Here in Michigan, we’ve had quite a bit of rain lately. For the last couple of weeks, forecasts have called for storms or scattered showers most days, particularly in the mornings and evenings. And that was true for the Labor Day weekend. A friend of mine was visiting from Chicago, and it rained on us pretty much every day he was here. In fact, we got caught in the rain twice.

On Saturday, we went for a walk at the local nature center. We said hello to the red-tailed hawk and horned owl that were healing in cages and then wandered along the trails. Other than trees and flowers, we mostly saw squirrels, but we did watch a hawk fly out of the woods and swoop over a meadow. At first we thought he was hunting for prey, but he never dove into the grass to grab a snack. He just swept over the field and into some more trees. At the homestead farm, a couple of miles from the interpretive center where we had parked, we visited with an alpaca, a pig, and some goats. We had just returned to the trail to head back toward the interpretive center when the sky opened.

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It was actually kind of fun getting soaked. The only problem was that I had trouble seeing, because, well, my glasses don’t have windshield wipers. Plus, the rain kept dripping from my forehead into my eyes, bringing the sunscreen I’d put on with it, and that made my eyes burn. I resorted to using the back of my friend’s shirt to wipe my forehead and eyes. I asked permission first; he didn’t mind. Anyway, there were few dry places on us by the time we made it back to the car, laughing about our soggy adventure.

Then, on Monday, we walked from my neighborhood to the downtown area. It was cloudy and we knew it might rain on us again, but we decided to take our chances. We made it to the shops we’d been interested in poking around. They were closed, but the owners of one were inside waiting for a repairman, and they let us in when they saw us checking out their window displays. From there, we walked a few more blocks to a coffee shop. We were safely inside sharing a bagel and drinking iced lattes, when the rain hit. We sat the shower out and then started home. We were four or five blocks from my house when the rain came again, not too bad at first. When we were about a block away, it turned into a downpour. I laughed. Seriously? We were so close.

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When did playing in the rain stop being fun? As adults, we put on our rain coats and put up our umbrellas, trying to protect ourselves from the water falling from the sky. As a kid, I begged my mother to play in the rain. Well, okay, I didn’t usually have to beg. As long as it was warm enough, my mother had no problem with me running barefoot through the yard, laughing and getting drenched. My dad used to call us outside to watch thunderstorms. And when it was too cold to play in the rain, I spent hours sitting on our front porch, wrapped in a quilt, watching and listening to the water fall. I wish I had a porch so I could still do that.

I’m glad my friend and I got caught in the rain. I needed to be reminded of how much joy can be found in surrendering to the elements. The next time I’m home during a summer rainstorm, maybe I’ll run outside and do circles in the back yard.

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All rain .gifs from www.lovethispic.com

 

Connect with Stephanie Stamm:

http://www.stephanieastamm.com

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Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings(The sequel, A Gift of Shadows, will be released late 2014.)

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She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

Merry Christmas 2013

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s here.  Christmas Day, the day we have been planning for all year.  Gifts are open and it’s nearly time for Christmas Dinner.  Can’t you smell the spicy aroma of ham cooking in the oven with pineapples pierced with cloves and basted with brown sugar and pineapple syrup?file0001795692878  Don’t you just love the sounds of the children oohing and aahing over their gifts?  Can’t you feel the love that abounds this time of the year with family and friends?

You sit in the midst of a floor strewn with wrapping paper and a jumble of toys, sweaters, and other things you handpicked for everyone.  You think about Christmases past, when it wasn’t all about the latest toy or hippest clothes everyone let you know they wanted for Christmas.  You allow your mind to drift (just for a moment) back to the Christmases of your childhood and realize they weren’t quite the same.

We always had soup on Christmas Eve.  Then Dad called Santa on the santatelephone to ask him if he could please come early to the Flory house.  We traditionally opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because my Father worked for the Michigan State Highway Department and was called out almost every year to plow snow.  Then we children went to a bedroom upstairs.  There were four of us and I read the Christmas Story from the Bible while we kept an eye out the window just in case we could see the lights from Santa’s sleigh as it landed on our rooftop.

All of a sudden a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” would boom up the stairs and we’d hear my Mother’s voice say “Santa Claus was here, you can come down now.”

We scampered down the winding staircase to see our Christmas tree all aglow and presents spread around it.  There weren’t a lot of presents, just enough.  Dad was the person who handed out gifts one by one.  We each watched the other open a gift and waited until my Father put the wrapping in a bag.  What fun we had.  My Mother had spent months crocheting special scarves, mittens and doll clothes.  She made pretty new dresses for us three girls and a cowboy shirt and pants for my brother.

We each got one toy and it was usually the thing we coveted most or something close to it.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year my Dad gave my Mom a box of potatoes.  She opened it and beamed at Dad.   “How did you know just what I wanted?” she asked as she set it aside.  With a big smile on his face Dad said, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Maybe you’d better look a little farther.”  Mom took the potatoes out one by one and at the bottom of the box was a brand new pair of Gingher Shears (most coveted by seamstresses) for her sewing room.  I still remember the tears of joy in her eyes.

We headed to the mantle for our Christmas stockings.  We each got a Naval orange, a Macintosh apple a banana and a scarf and mittens.

Next Dad pulled out a five-pound box of chocolates and a bowl of nuts to crack.  Bing Crosby played on the stereo; we sampled the chocolates, cracked nuts, and sat on the floor feeling the warmth of our close-knit family.

Christmas Day was the one day of the year my parents slept in due to Dad’s working until the wee hours of the morning clearing the state highways of snow so travelers could get to see their loved ones for Christmas dinner.

We had our own Christmas Dinner around two o’clock in the afternoon.   It was always the same, the glazed ham with mashed potatoes, a special fruit salad that I still make for Christmas every year, yeast rolls and pie for dessert.

My memories are intertwined with church services, prayer as we sat down to churcheat our dinner, the Christmas story told over and over (at church and at home), the nativity scenes and Christmas tree which stood in all it’s beauty while the star twinkled on top.  We knew it was all about Christ’s birthday, a little baby born in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole.  We accepted all these things as truth because Mom said so.  She also made sure we gave some of the money we had been given as allowance or worked for to the Salvation Army or a homeless shelter so that others could have Christmas too.  She told us “You reap what you sow.”

So, as you sit and watch the children play while you sip hot cider and visit with Aunt Minnie take time out to remember “the reason for the season.”  Praise God in all his glory that he sent his own Son to earth to take on the burdens of the world.  Thank Him for allowing us to give the magic of Santa Claus to our children, even while we teach them the true meaning of Christmas.merry

I’d like to take this time to wish each one of my Writing Wranglers and Warriors and their families a very Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year.  I cherish each and every one of you and enjoy the blessings we all give each other as we seek to promote each other’s work.  Have a blessed Christmas Day wherever you are!

In closing I leave you a link to a Christmas song by Joey and Rory, a duo my husband and I love to listen to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgg4AMLkTv4

Books by L.Leander:

I REMEMBER WHEN . . . By Sherry Hartzler

Tori on the Beach

I have a question. What is your first memory? This is a question that I’ve found often brings a smile to a person’s face. Various articles say that first memories occur somewhere around the age of two. Of course, and this comes as no surprise, girls are usually the first to retain a memory. Also, as a whole, researchers believe that children are not capable of memory until they have developed language skills to give words to their memories.

As a writer, we use all kinds of techniques to kick-start our imaginations. Asking a person about a first memory has given me some of the best conversations ever. When asked, people usually get this funny little smile on their faces. These recalled memories might be nothing more than feeling the warmth of a mother’s hug, tripping on a crack in the sidewalk and falling down, or even staring up from the surrounding rails of a crib.018

One interesting note found on webmd.com is that in a study between American children and Chinese children, American children usually develop memories a year sooner than Chinese children. One thought is that Chinese children are taught not to talk about themselves, but instead think of themselves as more of a group, On the other hand, American children are taught to be more individual in their thinking. Pictures #1 279

Surprisingly, researchers have found that there is a very small percent of adults who remember something traumatic in early lives, such as a hospital emergency, etc. Most early memories project a snippet of an event, no more than a feeling or a flash of a vision.

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Below, I’ve taken a few examples of memories found on http://www.exploratorium.edu/memory/earlymemory/memoryform.html

Age two, naps in my dark blue crib; spinning the light pink and green balls built into three rungs at the footboard end.

standing outside in the sunlight with my family after planting three pine trees, one for each of us children. i was 2

Putting toys under my baby brother’s high chair while my mother fed him. He was very young and he died soon after that.

this one time, my sister danielle squeezed my head and it hurt really really bad. ow, it hurt.

I was at the hospital and they put the iv in wrong and my blood squirted out. I was 1. Right now I’m 13.

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Oh, yes, you want to know my earliest memory? Here goes: I am sitting in a high chair, eating. I remember the baby dish with dividers for the food and the bottom of the dish was clear and had little animals floating around in warm water that could be added to the bottom portion of the dish. Funny thing is, as an adult, while rooting around in my mother’s attic, I came across this baby dish. I can’t tell you what a deja’ vu moment that was.

So, tell me about your earliest memory?

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