Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas in the Mountains

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose..."

So often I think of this song when I think of Christmas in the mountains.
Not in a isolated shack on the side of a mountain surrounded by trees.
But on a short dirt road at the mouth of Ethel Hollow.

A four room house situated on concrete blocks (you could actually crawl under it if your brave).
A chimney at the center of it's four corners.
A black potbelly stove in the kitchen.

A skeleton key for the front door.
A back door key I never saw.
It didn't matter though.
A closed house door was as close to locked as it got in Ethel.

"Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos..."

On Christmas Eve, my father sang Nat King Cole's version of this song to us as we pulled silver tree branches from cardboard tubes.  The rest of us sang Christmas carols we'd learned at church and school.  But mostly, we laughed and talked until the aluminum Christmas tree was standing in the corner of the living room, complete with ornaments, awaiting the final touch...a rotating color wheel that bathed it in yellow, red, blue and green light.

The sweetness of cakes and pies filled our home.  

Holiday treats sat on the living room table.   Mother's prized Lazy Susan was filled with an assortment of Christmas candy.  My favorites were the Ribbons.  They were sweet and colorful.  Some were fruity while others were pepperminty.  All nearly too big to fit into our little mouths, but that never stopped us from trying...and drooling.

Small wicker baskets held Almonds, Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, Walnuts, and Pecans.  A pair of pliers (the mountain version of a nut cracker) lay nearby.  My father taught us the art of cracking walnuts without pliers though.  He'd hold two walnuts in one hand, close his fist, and squeeze.  Only one could survive that pressure, leaving the other, cracked open with all the wonderful nutmeat exposed.  We'd peel off the bitter inner layer and eat the good parts.  

A fruit bowl held red delicious apples and fragrant Florida oranges.  We'd squeeze an orange and roll it around on the table until soft.  Then we'd unwrap a candy cane and plunge it inside to make minty orange juice.  We'd eat as much of an apple as we could but they were almost always too big for little tummies.

We'd wake before dawn on Christmas morning to the aroma of turkey and dressing combined with cloves on a country ham.  Jumping out of bed, we rush into the living the Christmas the toys we'd waited for weeks to play with.

Christmas was a lesson in patience and anticipation.  
We waited all year for the season.  

Only at that time of year would we sing, in ernest, of baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph. Of the three wise men and the star that lead them to Bethlehem.  

Only at that time of year would we get to choose our three "most-wished-for" toys from the, thick and heavy, Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Only at that time of year would we get large oranges and red delicious apples that were both sweet and juicy.

Only at that time of year would we lay awake in our beds, long after our parents had turned off the lights, whispering and hopeful that the night-noises we heard were from Santa on the roof, beside the chimney that lead to the fire place in our room. 

We understood that it happened once a year. 
So, we appreciated it more. 
We learned the best things were worth waiting for.

Merry Christmas!
May this be your season to make happy and lasting memories!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mother!
Remember your mother today.
Cook dinner for her.
Take her to the movies.
Send her flowers.
Cut her lawn.
Take her to church.
Sit with her at the beach.
Join her in the kitchen.
Sing her a song.
Bring the grandchildren to see her.
Sweep her porch.
Wash her car.
Brush her hair.
Paint her nails.
Take her for a ride and open the sunroof.
Play Skipbo with her.

But whatever you do, 

Don't forget her today.

Your life is never that busy.
Your day never that full.
Your time never too important.

Hug your Mom and wish her Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Voter #243

Gray clouds, thick with rain, hover above the school where I work.   A young man, who has just voted in today's election, hauls my griddle and the remnants of our Cinco de mayo celebration to my car and set them inside.  He asks me about our school before adding that his son will attend here in the fall.

Rain drizzles lightly onto my scalp as I close the car door and stand there listening.  He apologizes before admitting his ultimate plan to enroll the boy at the prestigious private school a few miles up the road.  Pulling out his phone, he shows me a picture of the smiling four year old.  Finally, he asks my name and introduces himself.  We shake hands and part before rushing to seek shelter inside our cars.  Turning the key I sit, momentarily appreciative of the warmth and dryness of my little car.

It is 5pm on election day.  I have a 40 minute drive home and I still have to vote.
Today's election is not presidential but it's important.   I'm afraid the number of voters might be low. This damp and drizzly weather may be regarded as another reason to stay home and leave the voting to others.  I must admit, all I can think, as I inch my way north through heavy traffic is,  I just want to get home, change into my favorite pajamas, aka leisure wear, and chill.  But, of course, voting is non negotiable.  No rest for the weary (me) until it's done.

So, I stop for coffee, and then continue north.  I wrestle with the idea that I'll have to wait in a long line of voters because the issue of today's election is a hot item.  I dread the thought of entering my neighborhood school, only to be slowed down and assigned a spot in the slow march toward the library to be greeted by pole workers, tired from the throngs of voters through out the day.

Perhaps I'll see neighbors or long lost aquaintences from the subdivision and strike up conversations. Maybe, just maybe, I'll run into one of my children's former elementary school teachers who happen to be working late.  I wonder if they'll remember my children, or me, considering the fact that my youngest just graduated from college last Saturday...probably not.

As I suspected, the streets leading to the school have absolutely no traffic.  Turning onto the drive that leads to the school, I note the nearly empty parking lot.  I pull into a space directly across from the entrance and park.  Two women, wearing "I voted" stickers rush to their cars.

Now fortified with coffee, I step out of my car and head toward the school.  Once inside, I walk the empty hallway to the library.  There is one man in line. The worker at the desk asks me to fill out the necessary form.  I do and hand it to her, along with my license.  From there, I am directed around the corner and handed a ballot inside of a large folder.

The voting booths stand silent.  There is no line.  I walk inside one and open the ballot.  Reading and rereading the proposal, I am more sure than ever that my original voting plan is correct.  So, I mark the ballot, remaining true to my original decision.

It is close to 6pm as I feed my ballot into the voting machine and hand the folder to another worker.  I smile at her and ask, "What number am I?"

"243.  There are stickers over there if you want one."  she says before returning to her book.

I spot the "I Voted" stickers sitting on a table and stuck to the back of a chair.  I pull one from the chair and stick it onto my jacket.

#243.  Really?  

What a small turnout!  I can only hope there will be a large number of "after six" voters who will descend upon this school, filling the parking lot and the halls inside.  That the workers behind the counter will have to set their romance novels back inside their purses to accommodate the flow.  But I know this is wishful thinking.

"How's your mom doing?" a worker asks as I head toward the exit door.

"She's fine," I say and smile.

"Tell her I said hello" she calls before waiting on the next voter.

I exit the school looking forward to the comfort and warmth of my home.  Voters entering the building exchange smiles and greetings as we pass.  I am thankful for the few who have come to exercise their right to vote.

Unlocking my car, I open the door to escape the drizzle once again.  For just a moment, I take in the, mostly empty, parking lot and wonder which of my friends and coworkers will complain to me about the election's outcome, even though they did not bother to vote.

I'm getting too old for this.

My patience is short for those who choose to allow something as simple and easy as casting a ballot become too much of a burden.

I start the engine and pull out of the lot, knowing that I have done all I can to change this situation.  I can only hope that it is enough.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just Get Up!

Waking up is a sign of life, 
proof that you're still in the land of the living
...that your time isn't up.

As long as you wake up, 
there is hope for anything you choose.

However, we often begrudge the act of "getting up".  

We tap the snooze over and over, 
happily sliding back into warm blankets for ten more minutes of
...interrupted sleep?

We lay there, vacillating between sleep and awareness, 
too tired to get up,
too awake for peaceful rest.  
But mostly, we worry that we will oversleep. 

The hardest thing to do is actually the best cure.  
Get up!  
Turn off the snooze.  
Start your day.  

And it can only help
to wrap your hands around a fantastic cup of coffee.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Joke's on Me!

This morning I ground fresh beans,
made a great cup of coffee,
brought it upstairs
and sat down to write.

Thirty minutes later I remembered and took my first sip.