It’s That Time of Year

Well … another New Year’s has come and gone and I managed – once again – to NOT end up standing on top of the tables, waving to the crowd.

Wait a minute … that sounds much worse than the innocent scenario to which I am referring.

You see, my parents used to throw quite the New Year’s Eve shindig every December 31st, inviting everyone from church over to our house for a long night of food, fellowship and fun. And Rook. They used to love to play Rook! Does anybody even play that card game anymore? Does anyone even remember it other than me?

Anyway, with so many people coming over to our house, we used to set up long banquet tables everywhere! In the living room, in the dining room, in the garage, outside on the back patio, out front in the driveway! Everywhere!

And then – on New Year’s Day – long after everyone had left and the Rose Parade would come on TV, I would jump on top of one of those tables and my older brother would push it around like a parade float, and I would wave to my imaginary crowd!

I was the queen of the tabletop parade – if only for a few minutes – before being reprimanded for scuffing up the floors and being implored to please help clean up the 152 paper plates, 236 paper cups and too numerous to count paper streamers and popped balloons.

Every New Year’s Day I remember those times with great fondness, and  every New Year’s Day I’m tempted to jump on top of my own dining room table and have my husband push me around. But it’s just not quite as magical as it was when I was five. Or ten. Or fifteen.

So for now, I’ll just be the queen of the tabletop parade in my childhood memories … and keep the floors from being scuffed up —- and my husband’s back from being strained.

Happy New Year.

The Sweetness of Cocoa and Cole

The other day, when I was out Christmas shopping, I came across the classic, bounce-and-go, ride-on, green inchworm and I was immediately transported back in time to when I was four years old and was gifted one from Santa himself! And it got me to thinking about all my Christmases past … about all the toys I received over all those years … and I began to wonder if I had a favorite toy – and a favorite Christmas – and I wondered if they might be one in the same.

I’d be willing to bet all the money in my needlepoint stocking – that for most children – their absolute favorite Christmas present would be the bike with training wheels that they got when they were five … or the 10-speed that they got when they were nine. After all, a bike is typically loved by young and old (old meaning a whopping 9 years of age) … loved both by boys and by girls.

Oh sure, there might be some who remember their first dollhouse or first BB gun with teary eyed nostalgia. But I’d be willing to bet that bikes come up more often than not.

But then I started thinking about the year that I received my first 10-speed. I remember that it was a Schwinn and I remember that it was blue. Other than that, I don’t really remember that much from that particular Christmas. I remember loving the bike and getting A LOT of use out of it over the next few years – but the holiday itself? Not many memories.

But I do remember the year before.

The year before brought a snowstorm through the area just a couple of days before Christmas. And it snowed. And it snowed. And it snowed. It was pure magic. Snowdrifts taller than my head. Icicles twinkling in the tree branches. Enough snow to easily create an entire family of snow-people … not just a solitary snowman.

I remember playing outside till my nose was like Rudolph’s and my fingers ached from all the snowball fights. And then I would run inside for a bit to warm myself by the roaring fire while my mom would make me some hot cocoa with extra marshmallows.

I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I don’t remember at all. But I do remember falling asleep by the fire on Christmas Eve while I watched silver-dollar-sized snowflakes falling outside the window as my mother stroked my hair and Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” played softly in the background.

You hear adults often speak of how Christmas has become too commercialized – about how it has become more about the gifts under the tree than the reason for them. But yet we adults tend to still splurge (when we can) on our children (both young and old) in the hopes of seeing their faces light up because of that material thing in a box with a bow.

But if we look to our past, we’d do well to remember that it probably wasn’t a gift – wrapped pretty with a ribbon – that made our cheeks glow with happiness on Christmas. It was probably the simple things in life: the warmth of hearth and home … the love and comfort of family … the sweetness of cocoa and Cole.

And just a little bit of help from a once-in-a-decade snowstorm.

Say It Ain’t So, Charlie Brown

For the first time in over fifty Halloweens, “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will not be shown on network television. I feel like my childhood has officially ended.

Okay – to be fair – my childhood ended a long, LONG time ago but the Charlie Brown holiday specials have always been a staple in my life. Particularly the Halloween special. Ever since I dressed up as a witch at age five and scared myself so badly just looking at my unrecognizable reflection in the mirror (refusing to ever go trick-or-treating again) I have known that scary stuff just wasn’t for me. Not haunted houses, not scary costumes and not scary movies.

So you see … Charlie Brown is my jam.

It was even my children’s jam.

Okay, maybe not so much my children’s jam as they were never big fans of Charlie Brown like I was. But nothing says family tradition like forcing your children to sit through thirty minutes of the great pumpkin while their fingers addictively twitch from not being able to play video games or check texts on their phones, and while they simultaneously spit out descriptive adjectives like lame and boring and stupid.

“How can you watch this? The graphics are horrible,” they’d bemoan in stereo.

Ahhh … family traditions. Those were the good ole days.

I just read this week that Apple TV+ has acquired the rights to not only the Halloween special but the Thanksgiving and Christmas ones too. And while my family could indeed stream the specials on our iPhones and iPads during our growing disparate and scattered iLives, we won’t. It’s just not the same.

It’s just not the same as the nation sitting down together in front of their TVs, cross-legged with a bowlful of popcorn, and collectively experiencing that football being snatched away once again and being treated with a bag full of rocks.

Some traditions just shouldn’t be messed with.

Say it ain’t so, Charlie Brown. Say it ain’t so.

The Great Sock Debacle

As a little girl, I used to love knee-high socks. I used to have them in every imaginable color. Now I don’t really know why I was so obsessed with knee-highs … perhaps it was because I had cold shins. I know that sounds weird but I can’t even begin to tell you how many pictures there are of me as a little girl – in the middle of summer, wearing breezy little dresses … yet still wearing wooly knee-highs.

One glorious fall season, my grandmother made me an adorable, forest green, corduroy jumper and I have to tell you, I was so excited to wear it to church for the first time! So excited that I set my clothes out the night before – carefully laying out my forest green jumper, my cream colored button-down shirt to wear underneath, my dark brown Mary Jane shoes … and my matching, forest green knee-high socks.

Except I couldn’t find my forest green socks.

And I HAD TO HAVE those forest green socks because they were key to the whole matching ensemble.

Turns out they were dirty … tossed away at the bottom of the laundry hamper.

So I decided to dig them out and wash them. I had no idea how you washed clothes but I had watched my mother do the laundry before so I assumed you just threw your clothes into the machine, pulled the little knob on top and voila! You miraculously had clean clothes a couple of hours later.

I had no idea you needed to put detergent in the washing machine OR that you had to remove your clothes – or in my case, a pair of socks – and put them into the dryer later on. I guess I thought they just magically transitioned from one machine to the next.

Imagine my surprise come Sunday morning when I rushed into the laundry room only to find my knee-high socks still soaking wet! And not exactly smelling that good either as I hadn’t put any detergent into the load.

But I HAD TO WEAR those forest green, knee-high socks!! I HAD TO!! They were key to the whole matching ensemble!!

So I decided to wear them anyway. And I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you that those Mary Jane shoes I had planned to wear … well, um … they were SUEDE.

And as I stretched those wet, forest green, knee-high socks on and sank my squishy feet into my brown suede, Mary Jane shoes only to immediately witness the darkening wet circle start to spread through both pairs … I briefly thought for a moment … “Maybe nobody will notice?”

But they did.

Everybody noticed.

Everybody in Bible Class kept asking me why my shoes and socks were so wet.

“Did you step in a big puddle?” they all questioned.

“Um, yes… yes I did,” I replied as I went squish-squish-squish down the church corridor, leaving little damp footprints in the hall.

It hadn’t rained in weeks.

Squish, squish, squish. Puddle, puddle, puddle.

Many decades later, I was visiting relatives in Tennessee when I ran into a woman that used to attend the same church where my father had once preached. I asked her if she remembered me. She paused for a moment, searching through her internal memory bank then suddenly declared, “Why yes! You’re the preacher’s daughter with the wet suede shoes!”


That was me.

Did I also mention that particular Sunday was the day they were taking pictures for the church directory?

Yep. Me and my wet socks and suede shoes. Forever captured on film.

Squish. Squish. Squish.

The Looking Glass

Have you ever held an antique camera in your hand and thought about all the places that camera has been? Thought about all the pictures that camera has taken? What about a vintage book? Have you ever thumbed through its yellowed, dog-eared pages and thought about all the souls its passages have stirred?

I wonder. Antiques always make me wonder.

I have a vanity sitting beside my bed that I use as a nightstand. It was originally purchased by my paternal great-great grandmother as a gift to her daughter (my great-grandmother) when she got married. Then my great-grandmother handed it down to her daughter – my grandmother. Then my grandmother handed it down to her daughter – who is my aunt.

I  am named after my aunt and so now it resides beside my bed. I am the fifth generation to gaze into its mirror.

I know. That’s a lot of hand-me-downs. Bottom line: it is really REALLY OLD.

And I wonder. That antique mirror and vanity always makes me wonder.

I wonder what my paternal great-great grandmother was feeling the day she purchased it for her daughter who was about to get married. Was she joyful or was she anxious? And did my great-grandmother squeal with delight over the gift or did she reach for her handkerchief as she teared up?

And I wonder about my paternal grandmother after it was handed down to her. How many times she must have gazed into that mirror while my grandfather was storming the beaches of France during World War II, worried about his safety. Would he come back?

He did come back. Wounded. And he would never be the same.

And I wonder about my aunt, after whom I am named. Did she ever gaze into that mirror and wish for a daughter? Has she ever been disappointed in me – her namesake?

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. And it is such an other-worldly experience to gaze in to a mirror and know that your ancestors sat on that exact bench and stared into that exact mirror and that the reflection currently staring back at you used to be theirs. As I gaze at my own face, stare curiously into my own eyes, I imagine looking deeper … looking beyond … seeing into a past now forgotten … gazing into THEIR eyes and into THEIR souls.

And I swear … sometimes I catch a wink and a smile that does not come from me.

But then again, I am a Southerner.

And we Southerners are known to exaggerate.