- Under the Spell of Christmastime -
She cleared the sideboard across the room,
tucked its treasures in her dresser drawers,
unwrapped each beloved character
of a most delicate pale porcelain blue,
and set each one carefully beneath
the hung garlands of emerald green.
On each side of the manager display
old royal blue glass ornaments hung
swaying so gently back and forth
as heat arose up from the vent below.
Then she added delicate rose bells
that were orphaned with nowhere to go.
She wasn't intensely religious,
she thought Santa a necessity,
but as she glanced across that table
in the soft light of her late dinner,
all troubles seemed inconsequential
as Christmas drew near this wistful year.
There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas. -Mark Twain
If you listened above the din of the talking you could hear the wind in the chimney turn into music. Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart...filled it, too, with melody that would last forever. Even though you grew up and found you could never quite bring back the magic feeling of this night, the melody would stay in your heart always - a song for all the years. -Bess Streeter Aldrich
There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child. Not to feel the cold on your bare feet as you rush to the Christmas tree in the living room. Not to have your eyes sparkle at the wonderment of discovery. Not to rip the ribbons off the shiny boxes with such abandon. -Erma Bombeck
The test of all happiness is gratitude...Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth? -Gilbert K. Chesterton
The old man became silent; the children were silent too, and the room was so still they could hear the ticking of the clock in the corner. It was one of these moments of solemn stillness, when it is said an angel flies through the room. They felt the good angel hovering near. With lips slightly parted in a smile and a beaming star over her brow, she blessed them and said, -"Be calm, be hopeful; more beautiful than ever before shall be this Christmas Eve." -C.C. Shackford
"The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; the secret anniversaries of the heart." -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons. -Ruth Ann Schabacker
May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions. -Arnold Glasow
Charlotte and Austin
A Little Stray and Her True Story
She heard her person's voice quietly call her name, but laid still in the darkness beneath the old porch steps that offered her no warmth with their thin coating of shimmering ice flakes. She snuggled tighter into the rotting chair cushion that had been tucked under there last year and forgotten. She knew she had been sleeping and awakened by a faint memory of her young past.
Out of the shadow of night he passed by her side and huddled down beside her. His jaws relaxed and a stale piece of pastry from the neighbor's trash can dropped to the ground and laid there. She nuzzled it and took a small bite. They had shared their life from the beginning, and had remained intertwined throughout their abandonment and the daily struggles that followed to stay alive. Their sorrows had toughened them as they grew wild.
It was Christmastime. She knew nothing of its existence. It was a day like all the others of empty coldness and a hungry stomach. She longed for the warmth of the earlier year, but it never came back. She had no way of knowing if this would end or continue on for the rest of her life. She just was. She stood on the steps in the warmth of the morning sunlight amid all that cold. He joined her as they surveyed the neighbors wild yard. The feeder had been filled and the doves were flying in to gather on the ground. If she was cunning enough, they would have full stomachs before the evening began to freeze.
A hand pulled aside the holly branch as her little ones hissed at the intruder and backed into her side for protection. She cowered beneath the bush and waited. Her sibling had vanished into the shadows of the neighborhood when their rotting cushion was removed and the leaves raked out. She was homeless and this wild yard offered her some hope of shelter. Thunder rumbled above, the hand disappeared, and she felt her fur becoming wet as the cold drops of rain trickled through the leaves and pooled on the ground around her.
Carefully she crept out from under the bush and ran along the edge of the house until she found an opening and dryness inside. She returned to the bush four times until only the cold mud was left. She lost the first kitten she carried over the fence earlier that afternoon. The little one was left on the stone pathway, crying, while she returned to fetch the others, and it was gone when she returned. She would never know what happened to it, and life would go on as it must. The night brought a chill, and the folded up tarp offered some comfort. When all were cleaned and fed, she curled up with them and laid her head down to rest. She was exhausted.
The hunt for mice, squirrels, and birds became her life when she wasn't lying with her children in the cardboard box with the soft towel. She was content to exist and be left alone until the day the box was taken away. She investigated its replacement and discovered the magic of warmth that was always there, day and night. She began to relax, and at mealtimes let the slender hand that fed her gently stroke her head. The kittens sniffling eased up, the garage floor turned into their toilet, the insulated duct-work became their scratching post, and their learning was underway. She felt that maybe this could be home.
Stretched out on the sunlit deck, she watched butterflies float in the cloudless sky. She closed her eyes and dreamed of chirping sparrows and sad goodbyes of old acquaintances. Her life was a gamble and she had lost two more children who were stuffed into a carrier and taken away. She waited, but only the carrier returned, and no matter how many nights she waited, it was always empty the next morning. She wondered if life was just about loss; that it would always go on as it must until there were none of them left.
The three of them ate that morning by the sliding glass door, and she wondered what lie behind them that always called her person back into its space. The door slid open and she felt the familiar hand stroke her gently, then levitate her into the air and cram her into that carrier to make her disappear for evermore. She spit, hissed, and clawed in panic at the four walls, until all she had left was to sit in silence and await her sad fate.
Remembering little of those three days she lost, she did return altered, and life went on. She gathered her two in the soft moonlight; taught them to jump on the trash can and over the backyard fence to explore their neighborhood in the darkness of night, drink from the birdbath and hunt wild squirrel, play with the feather her person carried around, and dig endless toilet holes in the raised vegetable beds.
Resting in the cool shade of the wood deck, as her children played in the green gardens; she heard cat feet come up the steps and opened an eye. Her brother curled up beside her, purred that deep purr, and licked her soft cheek. She stretched out and rolled over onto her back. He was home, she was content, and all was as it always should be. She learned early in her life that all good things will come to an end, and this time she mourned the loss of her two last children. Scooped up and placed into the familiar carrier, they had been taken away and never returned. She thought of them often, wondering if all her choices had been the best ones. She knew life would go on as it must, and the memories of all that she had loved and lost would grow dim with the passage of time. The day came when she and her sibling were unwillingly transplanted from the deck to the carriers, and introduced to the space behind the sliding glass door. They lived in a room off the side of the kitchen, and waited by the window each morning for the doves to fly in and gather on the ground. Their curiosity grew each time they crouched in silence with their noses sniffing the bottom of the shut door and listened to growls and hisses of those on the other side. The time arrived when they were no longer complacent walled off from the rest of the house.
It was Christmastime. She still knew nothing of its existence, but she did know garlands were draped across the walls and many shiny glass ornaments hung from them all. She laid on the couch curled up with her brother as the furnace kept the room nice and warm. A terrier sat by the fireplace, and a kitten the age of her own hide in the tall cat tree; while the not so nice one laid on her persons lap and the last one was under a bed.
She and her brother had learned their new names, and the visions of their past was becoming a vague dream. They learned to let soft music sooth them asleep, and enjoy being petted into sublime ecstasy. She sometimes thought of the wild outdoors, but she was growing accustomed to never looking over her shoulder as her life moved on.
She never knew how important her person was in her survival that past year; she never would. She never knew the kittens had all been found homes and the one in the cat tree was the first she had carried over the fence that hopeless cold day. She only knew now. She knew her name was Charlotte, and her brother was called Austin, and as they laid together on that Christmas Eve, she closed her eyes and fell asleep. They were home at last.
The gardens in December
Shrubby St. Johnswort
Virginia Sweetspire 'Saturnalia'
There's a time in life when important things in youth seem inconsequential in older age. Striving for perfection is one of them. Sometimes I go through too many dress rehearsals finding words to pen to paper, and inspiration has a way of taking a nap when I want it to rise and shine. So be it. Imperfection isn't always the bad guy in the room. As this winter finds us approaching the holiday season, it helps me to remember the simple things in my life that create the magic that makes it all worthwhile. Those thoughts that begin to fill my mind as I sit in the evening darkness with a cup of steaming hot Lady Grey Tea and let the music of 'Land of Forever' softly fill the room with hushed tranquility.
Extra seed in the feeder when nights
dip below freezing,
Enjoying mornings by the window
as birds fly in
Biting into the spicy goodness
of a warm gingerbread cookie
Fat, fluffy snowflakes
touching my face
Sniffing orange clove scent
from an empty packet
of Constant Comment Tea
A calico curled up beside me
under my blanket
on a cold winter night
Evenings of soft music,
and warm slippers
Savoring the aroma of
peeling fresh tangerines
Remembering the bouquet
vanilla pipe tobacco
drifting through a room
Enjoying warm apple pie
nestled in a dish of rich cream
Peace of a quiet room
with a sleepy terrier by my feet
Christmas decorations left to enjoy
until my birthday in March
Never feeling alone,
even when I am alone
Wishing you a December filled with the magic that makes this holiday season rock; and may you think back on all that has been good in your year, whether perfect or imperfect, and enjoy.
From the gang in the little yellow house
Towne Village Road