Found Friday #18: Bridal Brooch (…and a just for fun picture that will probably make you laugh…)

I pulled a picture from my wedding album for my last post. And then I got to thinking about something sort of random.

On my wedding day, I wore a brooch in my hair that belonged to my great grandmother. As I was flipping through pictures on Wednesday, I realized I couldn’t quite remember where I’d put it. So, a search ensued. I couldn’t get it out of my head until I found it. Nothing else mattered.

It was, of course, in the most logical but least likely place – not with my keepsakes, but with my jewelry.

It’s just a costume piece, but I love it nonetheless. And I’m glad I wore it, and carried my family with me, on such an important day.

It’s safely tucked away now.

Bonus photo! This one’s in the wedding album, too. I have no idea what’s happening or why my face looks the way it looks, but I’m pretty happy that someone captured this moment.

Found Friday #17: A Sweet Photo Album

I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I’d spent some time thinking on fond memories and my family.

I don’t have many photo albums in the house – most of those are with my parents – but I do have one, and I’d sort of forgotten about it until Wednesday.

I realize I spend a lot of time talking about my mother’s parents, but not so much about my father’s, and this album was a Mother’s Day gift from me to my paternal grandmother, Dorothy, back in 2001.

My dad’s parents both passed away much earlier in my life than my mom’s. My paternal grandfather, Porter, died when I was in the second grade. I don’t remember all that much about him, but the memories I do have are good ones.

I remember he always kept a little black comb in his shirt pocket, and he used to let me comb the whisps of hair on the sides of his head.

I remember drinking Mountain Dew floats with him in the two big recliners in their living room.

I remember his voice, barely, and that he wasn’t a tall man. Neither he nor my grandmother was particularly tall, actually. I guess that explains why I’m so short.

My paternal grandmother died when I was 21. My parents lived with her for the last years of her life, and I’m so glad now that I got to have that extra time with her, in her home, that’s now become my parents’ home.

My favorite picture in the album is this one.

That’s Grandma Dot teaching me to make biscuits. I’ve smeared flour on my cheeks to make it more “believable.” She’s trying not to laugh at me, kindly, and I’m smiling, because I think I’m very clever.

Happy moments like this one will live in my memory forever, I think. And on days like Wednesday, they keep me going.    

Found Friday #16: A Very 2020 First Snow

I don’t think anyone expected a winter storm to hit Virginia in December. It’s certainly not an impossibility in any given year, but we normally have to wait a little longer into the season to see any real wintry weather.

It’s been a year full of surprises, hasn’t it?

Wednesday started off snowy, and it was so lovely. My husband got a fire going – the first of the cold season.

It snowed until about 3:00 p.m. – big flakes and small flakes, heavy showers and light. It was beautiful. Really, really wonderful. I’d say we got about four inches.

I love snow. You know what I don’t love?

Ice.

You see it, right? See, after about 3:00 p.m., the weather turned, and my quiet, gentle snow showers turned into evil, spiky little ice crystals. And they worked fast. Like, scary ice storm kind of fast.

The thing about ice – one of many reasons that I don’t like it – is that it’s heavy. And when you live in the country, on a property with lots of trees, heavy ice can be a real danger.

Case in point: We had to call the fire department because the limbs of our birch tree were so laden with ice that they ended up resting on the power lines, and started to spark and flame up, and kept at it all night. It was terrifying, and we’re expecting a visit from the power company to do some serious trimming.

So, I spent an anxious evening and a largely sleepless night worrying about a fire near the power lines, and listening to ice ping against the windows and the metal roof.

But I have to say, it sure did look beautiful by the morning. Almost pretty enough to forget how much I hate ice.

I mean, come on, it doesn’t get more Christmas-y than red berries in the ice and snow.

And the willow looked like something out of a fairy tale.

This wasn’t the first snow I was expecting. But this is 2020, so this was the first snow that I got. We’ll see what else this winter has in store for us. I, for one, am hoping for NO MORE ICE. But always for snow.

Found Friday #15: The Perfect Present

It seems like every Christmas, my husband and I end up stressing about presents.

To be fair, the two of us approach the act of gift-giving in fundamentally different ways. Though we both love giving presents, I tend to be more impulsive. I’ll see something I think someone would like, and buy it, and then find a few other items that just seem to fit with it, and consider my job done. My husband is thoughtful and cautious, and can spend hours looking around for THE perfect present. And whatever he gets, he often feels it isn’t enough.

And don’t even get me started on wrapping gifts. I’m really, really bad at it. I suspect it’s genetic.

(Okay, that was a joke. Sort of. I am terrible at wrapping gifts, but the beautiful, handmade blanket wrapped up in that picture was absolutely too large and unwieldy for any kind of real wrapping paper, so my parents improvised. Necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention.)

Here’s the truth: presents are my least favorite part of Christmas.

There, I said it.

I love making people happy – love, love, love the way a friend’s face lights up when I’ve given them something they truly need or want – but I think at Christmas, the best way to be happy is just to be in the moment. The holiday season gives us all a chance to slow down and enjoy decorations, music (my actual favorite part of Christmas), good food, and time with the people we care about (my other actual favorite part of Christmas). I hate getting lost in the anxiety of buying stuff.

So, I suppose this post is more about something I haven’t found than something I have, but I’m genuinely curious: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? And if it’s gift-giving, please tell me your secret! How do you do it? I have to know!

Found Friday #14: My Grandmother’s Christmas Heirlooms

I know y’all are probably tired of hearing about my Christmas decorations, and, honestly, I don’t blame you. But, ‘tis the season! So, one more post about them, and then I promise I’ll be done.

I wrote a post back in January about my grandmother. She died at the beginning of the year, and I had a hard time processing it. (I had no idea how much harder the year would get.)

After the funeral and once everyone had some time to grieve, her children – my mother and aunts and uncles – set about going through her things, passing them down and making sure everyone got a memory or two. I didn’t ask for much. I’m an admitted packrat, and I catch myself all the time attaching sentimental value to things other people would probably consider clutter, but I felt like there was no one item that could really help me mourn her and remember her. So, I didn’t ask for…anything, actually, and until last week, didn’t get anything.

Boy, did that change. When my parents came to visit for Thanksgiving (after we’d taken some major precautions), my mom brought a packing tub full of dishware, a few very old baking dishes, and, in the kind of perfect timing only a super-mom can pull off, a large collection of Christmas decorations and ornaments.

I quite like this little boot. You’re supposed to fill it with candy canes or other goodies, but there’s a pandemic, and I haven’t been to the store in…a while.

In 2002, I sang in a national choir in San Antonio. We bought my grandmother a little souvenir while we were there. My mom and I couldn’t tell if it had ever been taken out of its packaging, but now, it’s hanging on my tree.

My grandmother also had quite a few Normal Rockwell-themed bobbles. I’m not sure how old they are, and like the Texas souvenir, I can’t tell that she ever even took them out of their boxes.

And, to go with my snowflakes, I now have some lovely, handmade, crocheted bells in both red and white. The red stands out so well against evergreen branches.

So, my tree has a few new pretty decorations, and I’ve got some physical reminders of my grandmother. I didn’t think I needed them, but I confess, I’m glad to have them. Grief’s a funny thing, isn’t it?

Found Friday #13: Christmas Treasures

I mentioned in Wednesday’s post that I’ve already decorated for Christmas.

Normally, I’d wait until after Thanksgiving, but the holidays just feel different this year, and I figure in 2020, we need all the joy we can get.

So, I’m cheating a little bit this week and writing about the things I “find” every year when we unpack the Christmas boxes and haul out the holly. I love decorating for Christmas, and so I always like to take a little extra time to look through my collection of Christmas-y things and appreciate them.

The first items I always unpack? My Christmas bears.

I’m not really sure where they came from, but I’ve had them forever. My mom says she thinks she bought them for me, but let’s face it, 1987 was a long time ago.

Not so long ago, when I moved into my first place, my mom gave me some of the ornaments she’d collected for me over the years. I have lots of favorites, but I particularly love this one.

It’s my first Christmas ornament.

I’ve also got a number of handmade snowflakes that she and my grandmother crocheted over the years.

And a few that I made for her when I was in primary school. This one?

Not sure when I made it, or how old that candy cane is…

Even the garland peeking out here and there in these pictures is an heirloom. My mom made it for me the first year I put up my own Christmas tree.

When my husband and I got married, I felt so honored and happy to be able to include his special ornaments. I love this one, which looks like his first dog, a little Sheltie called Daisy.

And we’ve also started our own collection. We get a new ornament engraved every year. This is the one we got in 2016, our first Christmas in the new old house.

It felt appropriate.

I love that every year at Christmas, I get the opportunity to showcase all of these little treasures. The memories they carry are precious.

*A quick note – I’ll be taking a break next week for the holiday. Check back on Monday, November 30th, for this month’s short story. In the meantime, I wish each of my readers a lovely weekend and week, and, to my American crew, a wonderful (and safe) Thanksgiving!*

Found Friday #12: The Last of the Fall Colors

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but it’s looking sort of wintry outside.

It’s still not too cold, but the branches are pretty empty, and there are only a few pops of fall color left.

Our honey locust had a rough summer, but it’s putting on quite a show right now.

The reds and golds have been particularly bright this year.

I’ve always loved every season, and usually, by the time one comes to an end, I’m ready for the next. I’m looking forward to the cold, and maybe, hopefully, the snow. But for now, I’ll enjoy these last days of autumn.

Found Friday #11: Positive Vibes

Still waiting, still watching. Still so tired.

I’ve been glued to news coverage since Tuesday. It’s hard to see a light at the end of this really long, dark tunnel. But I think we’re getting there.

I snapped this picture at around this time last week, while I was having a cider with my husband and a good friend at one of our favorite places. We spent the afternoon and evening discussing what might happen this week, and how maybe, just maybe, the world would look a little brighter very soon.

I’m holding on to those happy thoughts today.

Well, the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blowin’
But you’re stuck out in the same ol’ storm again
You hold tight to your umbrella, well, darlin’ I’m just tryin’ to tell ya
That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head
–Kacey Musgraves, “Rainbow”

Found Friday #10: The most haunted house in Loudoun County?

*If you haven’t read last week’s Found Friday post, this one won’t make a lot of sense. So, you know, mosey on over and do that real quick.*

If you look to your right heading west on John Mosby Highway, just past Gilbert’s Corner, you’ll see a house. Or, it used to be a house. It’s only a ruin now.

It has been for a long time. I’ve heard it called the most haunted house in Loudoun. And I’m pretty sure Frank Raflo wrote about it.

I can’t be certain, but the details line up pretty well. And I confess, the first time I read the story of the day he explored an abandoned, crumbling ruin of a reportedly very haunted house near Gilbert’s Corner, I didn’t know the area like I do now, and I didn’t really put the pieces together. I got it this time.

Mr. Raflo didn’t sense any otherworldly goings-on during his brief visit – in fact, he says he felt quite comfortable and at peace – and wasn’t able to confirm any of the stories he’d been told. And now that the house is basically only an empty shell, I wonder if we’ll ever really know whether it’s haunted or not.

At least we have the stories. And judging by the condition of the place, soon enough, they’ll be all that’s left of it.

P.S. – If you happen to live in or close to Loudoun County and you like exploring abandoned places, a brief disclaimer: This house is on private property, and there are no trespassing signs posted, so please don’t go poking around where you’re not welcome. It’s easy enough to take a picture from the road.

P.P.S. – I know I promised that my short story for October would be posted on Wednesday. My apologies! It took a bit longer than I anticipated for all the pieces to fit into the puzzle just right. It’ll be up tomorrow, just in time for Halloween.

Found Friday #9: The Gift of Ghost Stories

Back in 2016, my friend Liz gave me this book as a housewarming gift.

To be fair, I don’t know that it was meant to be a housewarming gift, as both Liz and I love a good ghost story and she just thought I’d enjoy it, but the timing worked out. And it’s more special than a “just because” present. It’s signed by Frank Raflo, the author.

He passed away in 2009.

I felt like it was time to revisit this book today. After I read it the first time, I tucked it away on my bookshelf and didn’t really think much about it. But stories are the gifts that keep on giving, and I thought it would be fun to re-read these, since it’s spooky season. There are lots of good stories in this book, but, as it turns out and after reading it today, there’s one in particular that I just can’t get out of my head.

And next week, I’ll tell you why. 😉

*In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about some of the ghost stories I grew up with living in Virginia, I recommend the Ghosts of Virginia books by L.B. Taylor, Jr. I devoured them when I was younger, and I come back to them often.*