Category Archives: Seasonal

Christmas past lives on in the present

Christmas is here again. A blend of old memories from Christmases past and new ones being made.

It took a long time for me to feel at peace with the Christmas celebration changes of the last few years as our lives changed. Suddenly, the steady Christmases of my childhood and youth were gone. My parents sold the Upstate New York country home I grew up in and moved south.  I no longer could “go home” for Christmas and see all my childhood friends. I got married and moved away. We had a child.  New people were in my life now. And things kept changing. Christmas left me with an uncomfortable feeling then, one of constant change and uncertainty. It made me sad. I wanted to skip over it.

The old Westerlo, NY Homestead

For a long time the loss of my childhood Christmases hung heavy on me. My mother once said she didn’t have Christmases growing up during the Depression. I do believe she made up for that later in life by lovingly decorating and entertaining with grace and warmth. And I had always envisioned bringing my husband and son “home” to that warmth for Christmas. But that would never be. Especially since my mother died.

But then I discovered this past year, as my son turns 9, that I finally accept the change because it won’t go away. Change goes on and on. And as I embrace my memories now, I realize no one can take them away. Now is the time to look forward and enjoy creating those special Christmas memories for my son. He is the next generation and I am the past. What he remembers now will be part of him forever. Just as I remember.

I’m taking my son to Upstate New York the week after Christmas to visit friends. On our way home we’ll wind up the Helderberg Mountains to drive by my old homestead. I know from a recent visit the once showcase home now stands worn, overgrown, and abandoned-looking by homeowners without a care.

But that’s not what I see.

I see glittery, snow covered fields as I climb the last hill home. Lights burn soft, falling on snow from the farmhouse windows. Smoke curls from the chimney as I pull into the stone driveway and park in the barn. I pass holly and bows strung on the lamp posts welcoming me home. And as I knock the snow from my boots upon entering, the smell of mincemeat pie, rib roast, and Yorkshire pudding float around my head in a delicious wreath.  I see my mother in an apron ready with a big hug, a glass of wine, and a loud “Hello!” I see the tree with decorations of decades twinkle a soft sentimental greeting. The fire pops while candles flicker a peaceful glow.

And there out the bay window over the pond, I see the North Star rise in greeting over the hills spread out before us. The hills I once sled down on Christmas Eves gone by. I can still breath in the crisp stillness that lay over the fields under the moon in a humble sleep. I watch the flip of a beaver tail as he swims under the frozen-over creek on the way to his dam. I see fireplaces blazing at each end of the house and a table filled high with food as laughs and hugs abound. I see folks gather round the center hall piano to sing lively tunes with eggnog in hand.

I see it all.

And always remember those so-trendy Christmas outfits!

Memories of Christmases past live on in me. Christmas is now about creating memories for my son. My memories will always shine inside me. And now my son’s memories will live on through me.

What sort of Christmas memories live on in you?
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Pumpkin pie forever

This was the first autumn in
years I didn’t cook my pumpkins. And without pumpkins there’s no fresh pumpkin pie.

But this year there would be no orange pulp to cook, puree, and squeeze through cheese cloth. No dough rolled out from my mother’s worn, wooden rolling pin. No flour dotted pages to turn on the warped old cook book (the one I didn’t need anymore as I knew the recipe by heart). It was the first cook book I ever had. The one given to me from my mother to make my first kitchen complete. The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cook Book.

This year the book would sit on a shelf. There would be no home made whip cream laced with nutmeg and vanilla to grace that gooey pumpkin custard. No flaky crust to hang down from the over sized pie dish with flowers on the bottom. My mother gave me that too.

I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened. Too busy. On vacation. For the first time it just didn’t feel important. I had proven to my mother once that I made a better pumpkin pie than her. She said so. And the truth was in her saying.

It was even good the year she pulled my pie from the oven and with one slip of her hands she flipped it over upside down on the oven door. We looked at each other and laughed. And as the guests waited in the candle-lit dining room with the cornucopia on the table, we quickly scooped up the mush and arranged it perfectly back in the crust. No one knew.

That was before the cancer came. Her body was strong and vibrant then, like her.

I think I’ve gotten my mother’s gravy down. The jury is still out. And my mother will never be able to tell me so. But I’ll know. Then there’s her southern biscuits to be made with sorghum, lemon meringue pie, and mincemeat pie.

There’s no rush. I have time ahead of me. Lots of time. And her notes in the margin to help. That swirly, on-the-go, right-slanted script I know by heart. It was shaky at the end. Unsteady and weak. But not this handwriting. The one in my cook book is dynamic and purposeful.

Like my mother. Like me.

I don’t have to prove my pumpkin pie to
anyone anymore, least of all my mother. She’s been gone these last two Thanksgivings, but I know she’ll be part of my pumpkin pie forever.

Even if I don’t make it.

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What’s your scariest story?

Since it’s almost Halloween let’s talk about scary stories – I want to hear yours.
What’s been one of the scariest (in a terrifying or humorous sense) thing you’ve ever experienced?

Okay, I’ll go first.

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, really – it was. I was 12 and at a week long overnight christian camp at Camp Thacher in Voorheesville, NY. We were spending the night away from our cabins at an open lean to in the woods. We trudged far through the darkness with our counselors and flashlights. It seemed far in my 12-year old memory anyways.

We sang around the campfire and cooked hotdogs under the stars, huddling in the cool August night on the mountain. The moon hid behind black clouds that blew over. Thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning flashed far off. The wind whipped our hair in a wild dance. It was spooky and dark and fun.

Then suddenly, one of the counselors from back at camp ran in to our circle yelling at us all to get back to the cabins. A convict had escaped from the local prison and was armed and dangerous – and last seen heading our way.

We scrambled up to gather our belongings. Fear gripped all of us naive adolescents. I darted my eyes around, seeking the mad man who would surely kill us if he came upon us. My heart pounded so hard, it hurt.

Then a chainsaw roar filled the air as a masked man flew into our fire lit circle. He held that chainsaw over his head and laughed an evil laugh. He was a crazed hooligan ready to kill. We fled, screaming into the darkness beyond. Branches scratched my face as I plunged into the woods, dragging my crying friend behind. Burrs stuck to us. Owls hooted, calling out our fear.

Then laughter rang out, as the masked man put his chainsaw down. He pulled off his mask. A jolly face lit up with a grin from ear to ear. It was Cowboy Bob, the camp’s pastor. It was all a joke. Slowly, we made our way back to the campfire. My heart finally stopped racing.

But I’ll never forget how a man of God scared the adolescence out me one night around a campfire.

So now I want to hear about your scary moments! Think of it as telling ghost stories around the campfire!

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