Saturday, December 31, 2022

Breaking Up Christmas?

I find myself faced with something of an existential dilemma. For the fifty-nine years we've been married, I have adhered to my grandmother's tradition of getting the tree out of the house before the new year.  A fairly sensible tradition with a real tree that is daily getting to be more and more a fire hazard. 

But a niece of mine is in town, visiting her daughter, my great niece, and they are coming out for a visit (and some collards and black-eyed peas for luck) on New Year's Day.

'I kinda hate it they won't get to see the tree,' I told John, 'It's so pretty. And I'll have to really push to get all the ornaments put away before-'

'So leave it up. Take it down on Monday.'

I was surprised to find how very much I didn't want to break with this long-standing tradition. Did I really believe that leaving the tree up another day would bring bad luck? Or was this tradition simply a way of remembering my grandmother?

  After wrestling with this problem a bit, I decided to remove one ceremonial ornament . . .

And to cut off a token piece of the tree and take it outside.  Silly, yes, but it made me feel better. And perhaps it's a good thing not to let tradition or superstition stand in the way of common sense and hospitality.

But come Monday, out it goes! 


Friday, December 30, 2022

Josie is Building a Portfolio

She often returns to the rainbow theme.

Claui is in a car not a jar. The artist sometimes likes to play with upsetting our expectations. Claui appears to drive very fast.

Another book. . . as with many artistes, much of her work is self-referential. One thinks of Proust . . .

The vehicular/parental theme again.

This last one is reminiscent of her earlier work. Sun, sky, and various figures. The artist and Mommy are climbing a mountain while on the right, Grandma is having a picnic. An eagle (the All-Seeing Eye?) is in the sky.

This brief holiday from academia seems to have brought forth a plethora of work, much of it a departure from her earlier pieces. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Josie the Writer

Guess what! I wrote a book! It is five pages long and I wrote it all by myself with Meema helping me spell some of the hard words like unicorn and alicorn and Pegasus.

I think that I am going to be a book writer and a teacher and a mommy. And also a painter and a dancer. And a nurse. I am good at all of these things.

I did some painting on my big alicorn.  An alicorn is a unicorn with wings.

I brought up my two new dolls I got for Christmas to introduce them to Dolly and Margot. I have had Dolly and Margot since I was Very Young. They all played together nicely and took ride in their boats.

Then, after their doctor visit, I fixed mac and cheese for them. Being a Mommy is a lot of work, There were so many dishes to do. But they all had fun and want to do a sleepover next time. Meema and I said that we would see.

We also had new library books to read. My dolls wanted to hear the stories and so did Jenny and the Castle People. There is still a place for Meema to sit.  My favorite stories were Little Good Wolf and Strega Nona. You would like them too. Meema did and she read them for me twice without getting fussy.


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

New Life

A gift from Claui's folks, the amaryllis is on the verge of bloom-maybe a symbol of the coming year? As the cold spell continues, it's a pleasure to watch something green and growing.

Our Christmas was a bit muted as Ethan and Aileen stayed in Atlanta because we were afraid we might lose water/power. (As it turned out, we didn't.)

Josie had already opened presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning --but she was indefatigable, playing the role of the elf who handed out presents. And of course there were more for her. As the day wore on, she became a bit overwhelmed and abandoned her new stuff for the familiarity of the Castle People.  

We began what may be a new tradition for Christmas dinner-- jambalaya! It was delicious and festive and gorgeous--I'll make it again next month when Ethan and Aileen come up for their delayed Christmas and this time, I'll take pictures.

I also made a pecan pie, amped up by the inclusion of chocolate and rum--a definite keeper.

Getting in touch with my inner New Orleans self? (Note: My only experience of New Orleans was a half an hour in 1959 when the bus I was riding to Mexico for summer school, stopped in NOLA at daybreak and some of my friends and I RAN to the French Quarter just to say we'd been there.)


Monday, December 26, 2022

Can't Believe I Took No Pictures

 But I was too busy. . . and too much into the spirit (and spirits) of the day. And then I went to bed . . .

Saturday, December 24, 2022

In the Bleak Midwinter

On Thursday afternoon we could see it coming--the projected rain and cold front due to hit around 4 am Friday morning.

John was busy with preventive measure--heaters in green house and basement, water stored in jugs, extra hay and sweet feed for cattle, the list goes on and on. 

As of Friday morning, we still had water and power, though Justin and Claui's water had frozen.  At midday the temperature was around 9 degrees F and it's going to be colder. UPDATE: As of this morning (Saturday), it's 1 degree F. But our water is still running. And we have power.

Reluctantly, we advised Ethan and Aileen of the situation and suggested they postpone traveling to NC till later. If we lose power and/or water, it wouldn't be comfortable for them. So we'll have a second celebration with them later.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, facing the winter as Putin attempts to destroy their infrastructure. How can anyone support this evil man? The reprehensible GOP congress members who refuse to support Ukraine are, instead, choosing Putin. I simply don't understand.


Friday, December 23, 2022

Josie's Early Christmas Gift

My friend Sandy (who is also my Fairy Godmother) sent me a Christmas present and Meema let me open it Early! It is a box with a bunch of unicorns and Pegasuses for me to paint--two big ones and six little ones.

There was also a pop-up card (pop-ups are my favorites) with a gnome like Grumpy makes and a mushroom house.

I started right away painting the little ones. I was very careful.

                                  This one is not finished yet.

There was also a Unicorn headband in the box!

And lots more stuff like glitter glue and tattoos that will wash off and a big pretty cloth with pictures of a castle for the unicorns to play on.


And I wrote Sandy a letter all by myself! (Meema helped with the spelling.) My teacher Ms. V has taught me how to do this.

I love my unicorns! And I love Christmas time!


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Miss Birdie's Christmas Memories--repost from 2014


Why, how proud I am to see you here on Christmas Eve! Come on in and get you a chair.

Oh, my, is this some of your cranberry bread? I’ll have it for breakfast tomorrow before Bernice’s boy comes after me – I’ll be eating Christmas dinner with them like I always do.

You like my little tree? Don’t it smell like the woods? It ain't but a little cedar that sprung up in the old pasture over yon –they ain't not good for much but they do make a nice Christmas tree. Them little bows is from ribbons I saved from Christmases back of this and I made the paper chain with color pages out of magazines. That feller at the dumpsters is good to save me magazines with lots of bright pictures.  How my Cletus used to love making them chains – one year he made one so long that we looped it round the tree and just kept going all round the room.

No, we didn’t have Christmas trees when I was growing up. My mama was a widder and she didn’t have the money nor the spirit to make anything much of Christmas time. And she had quit going to church when my daddy was kilt. So Christmas was mostly just another day – except . . .

Except this one time I remember – back when my Granny Beck had first come to live with us. I was the least un and all the others had married and moved off. So it was just the three of us, Granny Beck and Mama, and me. My granny, oh, she was the sweetest thing – she was crippled bad with arthuritis and couldn’t hardly walk but me and her was best friends. She told me stories of all kinds – Cherokee stories about the Yunwi Tsundi – that’s the Little People in the woods-

Oh, yes, Granny Beck’s mama was full blood Cherokee. And her mama’s daddy, he had told my granny all manner of Cherokee tales when she was little. She passed them on to me, alongst with Bible stories like David and Goliath and old Noah and his ark. And stories about Jack the Giant Killer and his rascally ways.  She told me about Santy Claus and his reindeer too and Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus in the stable.  Ay, law, her and me had us a time . . .

But this one Christmas Eve, she told me that iffen I was to go out to the barn at midnight, I’d find the old cow and the mule kneeling because the critters in that stable long ago had kneeled to do honor to the baby Jesus.

Why, yes, I did go and look. Me and Granny Beck shared a room and she had told me the story and promised to wake me when it was near midnight. My mama was hard asleep – she took some medicine in those days that was so strong she’d sometimes fall asleep right at the table. She didn’t hold with stories and Granny always waited till Mama was somewheres else or sound asleep one to go to story-telling.

 Law, I remember it as good as if it was yesterday –  slipping out the door and hurrying to the barn in naught but my night shift and Granny Beck’s shawl. There weren’t no snow but the ground was froze hard and my breath was like smoke wreathed around my head. They had been a hard frost and it seemed like I could hear little ringing sounds all round. And the sky, oh the sky! The sky was just as clear and the stars – law, how bright they were – like great golden lamps shining down from Heaven. You don’t see skies like that no more along of all them old security lights folks put up.

 But I was telling you about the barn. It was some warmer in there and the smell of the critters and their manure seemed to make it even warmer and homely-like. It was dark as could be but I had brought a little battery lantern we had and when I opened the stall door and mashed the button, the first thing I saw was the bright gold of the hay in the manger and for a minute . . . now you’ll laugh at me . . . for a minute I thought I saw a little hand waving and I was just as sure as anything that it was Baby Jesus.

Just like Granny Beck had said, old Poll the cow and old Nell the mule was kneeling down and I stood there all amazed, kindly like them shepherds Granny Beck had told me of, the ones the great shining angel came down and spoke to.

Of course, I was just a young un and so ready to believe . . . I almost didn’t go forward, thinking that was I to turn off the lantern and go back to the house, Baby Jesus would still be there and I could hold that memory in my heart forever, rather than finding out it was a trick of the light or some such.

But at last I had to look. I held my breath and crept forward betwixt the cow and the mule to look in the manger. . . 

Let me wipe off my glasses on my apron – they’ve got fogged up somehow. . . 
You get to be my age, honey, and so much that you loved is gone . . . but for the memories. I picture it like walking down a long hallway and they's doors on both sides. I can go down a ways and find Cletus, cutting a shine over some new playtoy, or I can go back a mite farther and find Luther and me on a certain snowy night  . . .

Course, there's some doors I don't never open -- those lead to the bad memories -- but this one about my Christmas with Granny Beck is mostly all good. 

So this was the way of it. I tiptoed up to the manger and shone my battery lantern on the hay, dreading to find that what I’d thought was Baby Jesus a-waving at me was a possum or some other varmint. And lo and behold, when I got close enough to see right into the hay, I like to fell down on that hard clay floor.

There, laying in the hay, just like Baby Jesus, was a baby doll with one arm raised up. I just stood there staring, my mouth hanging open and the tears starting to come.

You see, I hadn’t never had a real doll – it was hard times, like I said, and there weren’t no money for play toys. I had made dollies out of old corn cobs that I wrapped in leaves for blankets but oh! how I had always wished I could have a real doll. And here one was, just a-waving at me.

Well, honey, I snatched that thing up and took off running for the house to show Granny Beck. I was so stirred up that I forgot to be quiet but it didn’t matter – Mama was in her bed and snoring like one thing. In the little back room, Granny Beck was setting up against her pillow, just waiting for me.

 I went straight to her. ‘Granny Beck,’ I whispered, ‘Poll and Nell was kneeling down, just like you said.’

‘I knowed they would be,’ she whispered back at me. ‘Crawl in under the covers with me, honey; you must be most froze to death.’

I crawled in beside her and showed her the baby doll.

‘And looky what was in the manger – the prettiest baby doll you ever did see – just like the ones in the wish book. Do you reckon Santy Claus could of left it for me? He ain’t never come here afore . . .’

Granny Beck put her arm around me and hugged me close. ‘Why, child,’ says she, ‘I’m as sure of it as anything . . .’

Now as I grew older, I begun to wonder how that baby doll got there. I knowed for certain it weren’t my mama’s doing and, even if somehow she had made out to order that doll, Granny Beck weren’t able to walk as far as the barn. I asked her about it a few years later -- not long before she passed away but she just said she didn’t know a thing about it. And I reckon it suits me to leave it at that.

No, I don’t have that doll anymore. I kept it hidden for a time but one day Mama found it when she was rummaging around after some old clothes. She took on something awful, saying I must have stole it. . . .  I tried to tell her how I found it but she called me a liar and a thief and threw my baby doll in the fire. I cried to see it swivel up and turn to ash. . .

Oh, honey, now don’t you cry too. I shouldn’t of told you that last part. But what you got to see is that I still have what matters . . .

I still have the memory of that night – the way the stars hung so low, the sparkle of the frost on the dead grass and the bare tree limbs, the smell of that barn stall, the sound of the critters breathing, and the wonder and the magic of it all. 

And I can still feel Granny Beck’s arm around me and how nice it felt to lay there warm beside her with my baby doll from Santa . . . ain’t no one can take that from me.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Welcome Solstice!



So the shortest day came, and the year died,

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive,

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us—Listen!!

All the long echoes sing the same delight,

This shortest day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!



Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Ice, Ice, Baby

 With more coming. Temperatures are forecast to plunge over the weekend. Brrr.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Fire on the Mountain?

Fortunately, the fire is rather distant-almost 93 million miles. But my first glimpse had me worried.

The sun is rising farther and farther to the south. It barely tops the ridge, but skulks along like an uneasy intruder.

A few more days and things will change as it begins its journey back to the northern end of our horizon. And none too soon, I say!


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Day of Rest


Saturday, December 17, 2022



The news that there is to be a Barbie movie meant nothing to me. I've always disliked Barbie, who came into being a few years after I'd quit playing with dolls. I never could understand the appeal of a doll that looks like a hooker, having always played with baby dolls or little girl dolls like Josie's Margot and Dolly. I would have loved the American Girl dolls if they'd been around. But that's just me. I know many women who retain fond memories of their Barbies. Josie has some Barbies (not from me) and loves playing with them.

But, when a trusted friend sent me a link to the trailer for the Barbie movie, I took a look. You should too.  It's HERE.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Reverse Sunset

After a dreary day, the clouds lifted enough to give us a reverse sunset. We never see a sunset due to the mountain at our back but the reflected glory in the east is pretty nice too

It's been a busy day, making and addressing cards, wrapping presents, and doing a little cleaning and organizing--all the while listening to Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. The reader is perfect, and the story has me hanging on every word. If it were a regular book, I'd be skimming to get to the end--so many unresolved questions-- but the audio is forcing me to hear it all, thank goodness. Beautiful prose and in a way, I wish that it would go on and on. It's 23 some hours--a real bargain for the price.