Monday, December 23, 2013

Visiting Day

For the past few years I’ve spent a day before Christmas with my oldest friend and traveling partner visiting the final resting places of our most dearly departed.  The first year of the Annual Cemetery Visiting Day Tour was a rainy, dreary day that included wet heads, coconut soup and a Christmas Miracle.  Being the unobservant person I am known to be I would have missed the Christmas Miracle entirely had it not been for my OFTP and her very observant eyes.

What, pray tell, is the Christmas Miracle?  Well, only the most fantastic, unexplained mystery of all.  It was a large heart-shaped ring of rye grass growing across the graves of my most dearly departed parents.  It was so fantastic and mysterious we had to drive all the way back to Purvis to get a camera and then all the way again to the cemetery to take a picture of it.  After the shock and awe of the Christmas Miracle we passed another miracle of sorts, a white sasanqua that wept its soft, wet petals over the graves beneath its branches.  It was miraculous in its own right.

This year's tour wasn't quite as wet, but it was just as dreary of a day.  We added a companion to our trip, the niece of my OFTP who just happens to be a distant cousin of my own.  We drug the poor girl to the resting places of all of most dearly departed and forced her to listen to our stories of old.  These are stories we don’t have to remember because we’ll never forget.  Now, I’m sure she knows some things she wishes she could forget, like the circles we drove around old neighborhoods that were once part of a daily paths.  Bless her for not getting carsick.

This year I made sure to bring my camera along in case there were any Christmas Miracles to witness.  The first stop was my parents.  They got a sparkly tree, the same one as last year but Daddy was thrifty so I know he understands.

Next, my brother-in-law. I didn’t have anything for him, but I did a little cleaning and complimented him on a job well done.  *Wink*  He knows what I’m talking about.

Then onto my OFTP’s dad, a man I admired much.  I credit him for teaching me many things about the outdoors like how to fish and eat cold tamales out of a can.  I could always depend on him for a firm hug around my neck anytime I saw his smiling face.  He got a fancy tree from his daughter, but he already had a lovely display from his bride.

We then spent a few minutes in the area visiting with his parents and cousins, some of his favorite people.  He did love his people.

Next we visited the grave of another one I admired much.  He got a few acorns to remind him I was there.  Standing there reading the engraving on his stone my very observant OFTP brought my attention to what was happening above the stone.  Lo and Behold, another Christmas Miracle!  Who is the mysterious seed sower?  I don’t want to know.  It is better off being a Miracle.

My grandparents are in the same cemetery, so I stopped to wish them happy as well.  

This is where it usually ends, but this year I wanted to add one more stop.  Off to the city cemetery we went to visit my other grandparents.  My precious Granny lies for eternity between her gracious husband and her precious son, both whom went much too soon.  There I was able to give a family tree lesson to my distant cousin so she could connect the branches.  Little did she know she was going to visit her great, great uncle, the same one who played the baritone in the Woodsman of the World Marching band back in '27.

Next year I hope the weather will be our friend and we can add one more stop on the tour and visit my sister.  She would be so pleased to see us both, I’m sure.  

All in all it was a good day.  A day that started with Sonic ice and ended with Newk’s breadsticks.  Our heads stayed dry and because we were all together on the same journey our eyes stayed dry as well. 

Till next year, and the next Miracle, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Here's what I can do with tinsel and lights

Close up of my sons' nativity

This entry is more of a photo album rather than a typical blog.  I thought I would take pictures of my house decorated for Christmas and share them here.  I can give much better descriptions here than an album on social media.  First, let me say I am not an opulent decorator.  I have visions of thick garlands of fresh greenery draped in graceful swags down my banister and in my window sills.  I imagine the front of my house dripping in twinkle lights leading all the way up and back down our curved driveway.  The perfect d├ęcor would include wreaths with festive bows for each of the eight windows of the front of my house.  Well, the thing is decorations such as these require cash and this time of year I need that cash to flow into other more important things, like ingredients for fudge. So instead I just go with what I have.  I have a mish-mash of things collected over the years plus sentimental pieces that I want to see each year.  That being said, come on a short tour of my home and see my Christmas decorations the way they are, not the romantic way I imagine them to be.

Come on in.  First stop is the wreath on the front door; just one small wreath not eight with bows.  I wrapped the wreath with a strand of battery-operated lights that are still using the same batteries from last year.  They are dim, but I refuse to change them until they die completely. Battery money equals a bag of chocolate chips.

The past few years I've put out two small lighted trees on each side of the door but they always blow over in the wind.  This year I opted for something a little different.  An umbrella holder with twigs, red tinsel garland and pink lights take the places of the little trees.  I like it.  It reminds me of embers in a fireplace.

I put my main Christmas tree in my foyer.  I like the way it looks at night when I'm outside looking in.  I always judge Christmas decorations on how they look from the outside.  There is nothing sentimental about this tree.  I just like the colors so I load them on.

Too many glass ornaments?  Baskets can be good, especially one that looks like a golden reindeer.

I never have a consistent theme to my decorating.  My artist cousin would not be pleased.  The theme of inconsistency goes back again to cash flow.  Keep this in mind as you look at how I decorated the top of my piano.  All that really matters to me are the lights, even that lone pink one.  I made the ceramic nativity the center because my niece gave it to me because she knew I wanted it.  That's the best kind of present, having someone pay attention.  The forest is for my cat.  She likes to sleep in it.

Here's a view of the whole room from the other angle.

I've collected a lot of little things over the years.  This seemed to be the best place to display some of them.  This is also the home of my internet connection, so just pretend the blue and green blinking lights are there on purpose.

Looking into the dining room, my favorite room in my house.

It is in here I display my children's nativity set.  Their Aunt R started it for them when my oldest was born.  This is twenty years worth of pieces.  I was going to put it on the piano this year but my cat gave me an ugly look when she tried to snuggle in it.  She missed her trees.  So I moved it back to the top of my china cabinet; it's really the ideal place.  I know there wasn't gold star-studded garland and twinkle lights in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, but it does exist in 2013 and I have proof of it.  Lots of proof.

How about this glass bottle full of lights?  Good idea, yes?  It's plugged into the other lights on top of the cabinet so one switch is all I need to flip for glowing goodness.

My latest happy is color changing lights.  I love the way they turn from green to red to pink to gold to blue, and on and on.  The star in this frame is the star my parents had on their tree every year.  It was a wedding present, I think.  I remember when I was little I couldn't wait for Daddy to set it on top of the tree. He made it feel so important.

During the wintertime my dining room light fixture becomes a crystal chandelier.  I'll take them down before Easter.
Another relic from my childhood Christmas is this nativity set.  It always sat under our Christmas tree with a light bulb stuck through the back to light it.  It is getting so fragile now I am afraid to move it too many times. 

My mother gave me the snow-globe nativity many years ago.  I never pack it away, but during Christmas I bring it out front and center.  It's one of my favorite pieces.

Here are some angels because what is Christmas without angels?

Moving into the kitchen now, but first a quick stop in the butler's pantry.  We don't have a butler, but if we did we would keep him in here and he would keep all his butler stuff in the cabinetry.  But since we don't have a butler I change out the trinkets on the counter top to reflect the season.  It's also a good place to stuff junk when I'm trying to clean up.  I cleared it of junk in the spirit of the season and made it look like something a butler would enjoy.

Now for the kitchen.  A few years ago I decided to start a tree in here.  This year I got a white tree and wondered why I've never had a white tree before now.  It is truly glorious.  It is the sentimental tree of the house.  It is loaded with the ornaments I've given my children each year.  My oldest has 20 on it and my youngest has 16.  It also has some of the ones they made in elementary school and ones given to them by others.  I added extra things to make it look full and more colorful.  I am very happy with it.

My kitchen windowsill is another place to display those little things I've collected over the years and given to me as happys.  The Santa candleholders were in a box of miscellaneous junk I won at an auction.  They were the best treasure in the box.  Let's not talk about how much they ended up costing.  Auctions are dangerous places.  Fevers spread at them, or so I've heard.

I got the little guy on the end this year.  He said, "buy me."  I swear.  He guards the money my mother leaves me.  The same artist designed the box with the wise men.  No, they don't come out of the box (they got no legs, shhh).

This is one of my favorites, a gift from my father-in-law and his wife.  There are six of them and a golden egg.  Get it?

I found this chair in my Daddy's childhood home.  It's handmade and rickety.  I brought it home and put it in my son's nursery when he was a baby.  It sat under a limb covered with twinkle lights.  I told him it was Grandpa's chair and he could come and sit in it and watch over him.  He was just a baby, he wasn't scared.  Now Grandpa's chair is in my kitchen so he always has a special place to sit, that is if he can get the cat to move.  Santa, a gift from my oldest friend and traveling partner is sitting on it now.  Instead of twinkle lights on a limb I have twinkle lights in a glass bottle.  I'm telling you, put some lights in a bottle and you will be happy for days.

When my children were little my mother-in-law gave me this cookie jar with a book about this particular Santa.  It's great, and he comes out every year.  I don't know where the book is, but hopefully it is safe on my son's bookshelf.  I'm afraid to look, so I'm going to say, yes, it is.

Last but not nearly least are our stockings; one for each of us.  My sister, the middle child, made one for my husband and me for our wedding.  Then she made one for each child when they were born.  She's made them for all of the nieces and nephews and now her newborn grandson has one too.  She's just good like that.  I don't have a fireplace so I have to hang them off of the stairs.  Notice the garland on the banister?  Right, there is none.  Instead I put a cool stand of lights and shiny things in the corner.  Lights, lights, and more lights.  They make me happy.

Well, that's all there is this year.  I had dreams of wrapping trees out back with lights so I could see them from my kitchen, but that didn't happen.  Even though my decorations are a jumbled patchwork goulash (Thesaurus words) I like it.  My house feels homey and warm, a place to welcome friends and family.  I hope you've enjoyed it, too.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A little flicker of light can heat like a bonfire

This morning was one of those days I just couldn’t get started.  My son had to use my shower because of a problem with his which put me behind in my own schedule.  Instead of doing something useful I used that time lying in bed for a few extra minutes which made me even groggier.  After that I had a hard time kicking it in gear.  Since I was running late anyway I decided I would stop by Hattiesburg Clinic on my way to work and get my quarterly blood test I have been putting off for two months (read: lost the order and finally found it last night).  

As I was getting out of my car at the clinic one of those ill feelings came over me.  The kind of feeling that convinces you that you are coming down with a dreaded illness.  My joints ached, my head hurt, and I felt generally exhausted.  Sitting in the waiting room I tried to convince myself to just go home and go back to bed; forget work.  I delved into a game crushing candy and didn’t pay attention to anyone around me until  I heard a lab tech call a name.  It wasn’t my name but I looked up anyway just in time to see a woman who had been sitting right next to me in an electric wheelchair whirl the chair around and follow the tech to the back.  A few seconds later another tech called my name.  When I walked into the lab the woman in the wheelchair looked up at me and smiled and waved.  I turned to look behind me to see who she was waving at because surely it was not me.  Well, I guess it was me.

I watched her interact with her tech and wondered why she was in a wheelchair.  She seemed around my age or a little younger and other than being in the chair she looked healthy.  It was when she spoke I guessed maybe she had had a stroke.  Her voice was clear and succinct, but she halted between each word as if she had to think about every syllable and inflection before she could speak the word.

She praised the tech for doing a good job taking her blood.  She joked about all the blood she has had to have drawn, and she caught my eye as she laughed it off.  I smiled and shook my head in agreement because I didn’t know anything to say.  What a contrast we were to each other.  There I sat having a routine procedure for wellness screening and feeling sorry for myself because I was sleepy and achy.  There she sat in a wheelchair with who knows what kind of serious health problems, spreading cheer and joy with every deliberate, thought-filled word she uttered.  There was something about her smile that was infectious.  A person could not help but feel special in her presence.

We left the lab at the same time and even in the hallway she continued to praise the techs’ good work.  I turned and said, “They really do (a good job)”.  She said, “Yes, they do.”   Again, I didn’t know of anything else to say.  She went one way and I went another and I was so overcome with emotion from the warmth of her inner light that I teared up at the thought of it.  By the time I reached my car I was almost sobbing.

We never know what the strangers around us are going through, nor do they know our fears and pains.  For that matter none of us really know what’s going on deep inside the ones sitting next to us all day or living under our same roof.  But if we could emanate just a fraction of the kindness and pleasure for life that debilitated woman showed then just think of how much better off we could make the world for each other.  If we could shift the focus off of our own aches and pains for just awhile each day and focus on something positive…ah, but there I go again, drinking lemonade.

I have bad days, I truly do.  This morning was the beginning of one of those days.  My mood was cut short and redirected by the kindness of a perfect stranger.  My day got better.  I went to work after all, and I felt just fine.