Making (Musical) Christmas Memories

Hello from the other side! Of Christmas, that is. We had a wonderful holiday – busy, but so good, and I’m grateful for it. We ate lots of delicious food, spent time with my parents and a few good friends, and made so many happy memories.

And, you know me. Of course, there was music. So we made some musical memories, too.

I mentioned in a post a few months ago that Graham had really taken to the mandolin my Dad brought the last time my parents visited. This visit, we were able to actually sit down and play a couple of songs. It was so much fun, and so cool to see Graham get more comfortable. And luckily, my mom took a couple of videos. I wanted to post them here, because good memories, and especially good music, should always be shared.

This one’s an old gospel song I used to hear all the time growing up.

And here’s a new classic.

Both songs were keyed a little low for me, but it made things a little easier on Graham, so it’s all good. 😊 I hope you enjoyed listening!

And I hope you had a lovely holiday – or, just a lovely weekend – as well!

Sunday Supper #4: Counting down to Christmas!

*A quick announcement before I share some Sunday thoughts: I’ll be taking next week off as a sort of holiday break. But I’ll be back on Monday, December 27th! Expect some post-Christmas musings and the last short story of 2021.*

Oh, man. Less than a week until Christmas. How did that happen? The month’s gone by so quickly, but I’m feeling pretty prepared and excited.

I’ve bought presents for everyone on my list, but I’ve not gotten around to wrapping them yet. The good news? I actually remembered to buy wrapping paper and gift tags this year! (Seriously, I’ve forgotten in the past. I’m not proud.)

The bad news? I forgot…basically everything else. Tape, ribbons, bows… Oops. So, we’ll do what we can this evening and finish up later in the week.

And I’ve got a Christmas feast all planned! Not that I’ve actually made a grocery list or done any grocery shopping yet. But that can happen later in the week, too. I’m sure the store won’t be crowded. I’m sure everyone else is more prepared than me. Right? RIGHT?! (I’m not fooling myself, you guys. It’s going to be crazy busy. But it’ll be fine.)

So, it’s actually just general chaos here as we get ready for the holiday, but it’s good chaos. I’m excited to give some fun gifts to the people I love. I’m excited to see my family and a few good friends (all vaccinated) for a lovely Christmas Day dinner. And I’m excited to see what the new year will bring. But, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. For now, presents, groceries, laundry, and some last-minute cleaning. A busy evening ahead, I think.  

What’s for supper, in the midst of the madness? Well, with everything else going on, I don’t really feel like cooking, so leftovers it is! Good thing we planned ahead and ordered a really big lunch.

And before I go and get started on…everything, I wish you all a very happy Christmas, or whatever you may be celebrating this month. May it be joyful, peaceful, and restful, and most of all, may it be filled with love. Happy holidays from Virginia, y’all!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Santa Edition

I can’t remember the last time I had my picture taken with Santa. Well, the last time before this past Friday, anyway.

I’m so glad someone thought to capture this moment! We had a lovely evening at one of our favorite local spots singing Christmas carols and spending time with friends, and as it turned out, with Santa, too. Hopefully this becomes an annual thing, because it was so much fun. But if not, at least I’ve got the picture. And of course, the happy memory, too. 😊

Sunday Supper #3: A Long Week, a Christmas Parade, and a Sleepy Sunday

Well, y’all, it’s been a long week.

Graham and I came back from Thanksgiving very happy (and very full of both love and delicious food), but also very tired. And we haven’t really had a chance to catch up on rest this week, but hey, that’s the holidays, right?

Seriously, though, it’s been a long week, but a good one, capped off by a lovely Christmas parade and celebration in the next town over (which we pretty much consider our second hometown, at this point).

The town wisely limited parking, so the crowd wasn’t as large as it has been in the past, but there were loads of people, all happy and smiling and enjoying everything this beautiful part of Virginia has to offer. I truly love to see it. And by yesterday evening, it looked like this:

Same spot, five hours apart. Crazy.

And it’s kind of crazy to think that we’ve only got twenty days until Christmas. But it’s exciting, and we know there are even busier days ahead. So we’ve taken this cloudy Sunday to rest, nap, relax, and generally do a whole lot of nothing. It’s been downright luxurious.

And for supper? Something decadent, I think. Pasta with a creamy, cheesy garlic sauce, bacon, and peas. Yes, perfect.  

The Last Glenmoor Christmas

Glenmoor Farm glowed in the dark. At least, at Christmas it did. The farmhouse rose from the snow-covered ground into the night sky illuminated in twinkle lights. Inside, each sitting room overflowed with greenery and tinsel. The fir tree in the family parlor stood tall and proud and covered in red garlands and silver bows, surrounded by boxes of every size wrapped in delicate gold and white paper.

“I wonder what it’ll be like next year.”

“Smaller.”

Tara and Sammy sat scrunched together on the couch in the family room, sipping store-bought eggnog out of matching crystal goblets. The twins had spent every Christmas of their entire lives in this house, unwrapping gifts and smiling for pictures in this room.

“Is it our fault?” Sammy stared straight ahead.

“Every kid goes to college,” Tara answered.

“Yeah, but they never mentioned selling this place until we left,” Sammy replied.

“They probably didn’t want to worry us,” Tara reasoned.

“200 years. Our family’s owned this house for 200 years.”

“Minus two,” Tara said. “Remember they sold it and bought it back after the Civil War.”

“The shame of it!” Sammy giggled. They’d both heard the story growing up, of how their great-something grandfather had gambled away the farm and how his son had fought tooth and nail and pocket book to get it back. Now the fight was over, forever. “You really don’t think it’s because of us?”

“I don’t think it matters why.”

“I guess you’re right,” Sammy said, and shook her head. “I just can’t believe it.”

“I kind of feel like that’s adulthood.”

Tara and Sammy had gone away to college in late August, and they’d returned for their first break in October to the news of an imminent sale to one of the area’s major housing developers.

“It feels empty without you two,” their mother had told them.

“This was always our retirement plan,” their father had added.

Talking about it that October night, the twins knew they should have expected the news.

“There’re developers everywhere,” Tara had said. “They’ve been breathing down our necks for years to get at this land.”

“Suburbia calls,” Sammy had replied. “And we must answer.”

Now, home for their winter break, the twins had made plans to pack up their room starting tomorrow, the day after Christmas. They’d set the table knowing it would be the last time. They’d cooked oatmeal for breakfast in the brick kitchen fireplace knowing that they’d never see it again after this last holiday. And now, outside, they could hear family arriving on Glenmoor’s circular cobblestone driveway, the last any of them would pull up to the old big house with car loads of gifts and casserole dishes.

“Samantha,” their mother called from the foyer. “Sammy! I need you to park Art’s car.”

“Can’t park his own car,” Tara whispered, as they made their way to the front room. “Runs a bank, and can’t park his own car.”

“Everyone’s got their own talents,” Sammy said. “I am excellent behind the wheel.”

“You are not,” Tara said. “She just doesn’t want you near the custard.”

“Mean,” Sammy whined. And then smiled at her sister. “See you on the other side.”

**********

“Well, this will be a memorable Christmas.” Sammy leaned on her cheek on her sister’s shoulder.

“If you mean because I curdled the custard, I will thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.” Tara gave the top of her sister’s head a playful smack.

“You did, though.”

“Yeah, and you dented Uncle Art’s car.”

“Well, nobody’s perfect.”

The remains of Christmas dinner lay in shambles on the dining room table, surrounded by dirty china and half-finished glasses of wine and water. From their hiding place at the top of the chestnut wood staircase, Tara and Sammy could hear the muffled, jumbled conversation of their family.

“Do you think the developer will keep the house?” Sammy sat up.

“It’s historic, right?”

“Do you think that’ll matter, though?”

“I don’t know,” Tara answered. “I don’t know what any of this will look like a year from now.”

The twins looked out of the showcase window in front of the stairs, out onto the meadows and pastures, and the barns and sheds that dotted the rolling property. They thought of the ponds and the corn fields, and the little forest of sycamores and ash trees they’d played hide and seek in as children.

“I guess they’ll definitely chop down the woods,” Tara said.

“I was thinking about that, too,” said Sammy. “And how they’ll flatten everything.”

The opening chords of “Oh, Christmas Tree” drifted up the stairs. The twins heard singing, mostly off key, and their father laughing, probably at their mother trying to plunk something recognizable out on the keys of the old church upright piano they’d inherited from some spinster great aunt who never left Glenmoor.

“Now we don’t have a choice,” said Sammy.

“Were you thinking of Aunt Alice?”

“Of course I was.”

“I was, too. How many greats is she?”

“I don’t know,” Sammy said. “Lots.”

“We should go down,” Tara said, and stood. “They’ll be opening presents soon.” She reached out a hand to her sister, and pulled Sammy up.

Sammy sighed. “Another teddy bear from Aunt Virginia.”

“We have an enviable collection,” Tara said.

“Lead on, MacDuff,” said Sammy.

“You know that’s a misquote, right?” Tara straightened her rumpled sweater as they both descended the stairs.

As the night wore on, the twins opened presents, sang carols, gave hugs, and benefitted from their cousin Leo’s sneaky plan to spike the cranberry punch. After everyone had gone and the house lay silent and dark, they crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling, trying not to think of what came next. Neither of them slept, and at just after 4:00 a.m., Tara broke the silence.

“Most people can park a car,” she said.

“Mom always told me I’m the special one,” Sammy replied.

“You’re certainly special, all right.”

“Glenmoor is special,” Sammy said. “Glenmoor’s probably more special than all of us.”

“Now why’d you have to go and bring it up,” Tara replied. “I was just about asleep.”

“I don’t know,” Sammy answered. “I just can’t get it out of my head. It’ll all be gone this time next year.”

Tara sat up against her headboard and pushed the covers off her pajama-clad legs. “Well, now I’m awake.”

“Sorry,” Sammy said. “I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.”

“It’s almost morning, anyway. Let’s go out for a walk,” Tara suggested.

“In the dark?”

“It’s not like we’re going to get lost.”

“Good point,” Sammy said. “Okay, I’m in.”

Both girls jumped out of bed, and bundled up in winter coats and gloves and waterproof boots. Out the door and straight ahead, they walked. They walked the whole property before the sun came up, and they met the dawn sitting in the garden, huddled together on a cold, black wrought iron bench.

Glenmoor Farm came alive with the light. Morning sunshine gleamed off the handmade single-pane windows, and bright red cardinals darted in and out of the scrubby, fallow bushes and brush. The snow in the fields and on the trees glistened, pink and golden, an expanse of glittering, white magic on the quiet landscape.

The twins looked ahead, each lost in the same thought.

“I wonder what it will be like next year,” Tara said.

“Different,” said Sammy. “Just, different.”

Merry Christmas! (But It’s 2020…)

Well.

Hmmm.

I honestly don’t know where to start.

To say that this Christmas has not gone according to plan is an understatement. We aren’t where we thought we’d be. We aren’t spending time with the people we thought we’d be seeing. And I’m not making a lovely dinner for my husband’s wonderful parents.

Yeah, 2020 threw us yet another curveball.

But, you know, it’s fine.

We’re home, and we’re safe and healthy. It snowed a bit this morning. The Christmas tree is all illuminated and there’s a fire in our fireplace. The cat’s napping and the dog’s being cuddly, and we’ve got vanilla crème brûlée in the oven and a roast in the Crockpot.

I’m thankful for all of it. My heart goes out this year to everyone who isn’t so fortunate. This is a Christmas we’ll all remember, I think, and not for the best reasons. But I hope we’re all the happier for it next year, when we can hopefully celebrate with family and friends. And without worry.

From my home and my heart to yours, merry Christmas! I wish all of you joy, love, warmth, comfort, and very good wine (or the tasty beverage of your choice).

And I promise to have my short story up next week.

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!*