I’ve been unplugged for eight days. It’s the longest time in years that I’ve been without a keyboard at my fingertips and though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been busy.
Arlington National Cemetery, December 17, 2016.
During last Saturday’s ice storm in Washington, DC, Tim and I joined 40,000 other volunteers at Arlington National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America, honoring and remembering those who served our country. It was an amazing, heartfelt effort. Along with others in our group, we met and shared stories with people from across the country—young and old, spry and infirm—savoring unity in a time of division.
A high school group from New Jersey on an icy morning at Wreaths Across America.
We also visited the welcoming home of our older son, relishing a few happy days with him, our daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren, enjoying good meals and good times—reading books, driving through the surrounding countryside, and seeing a new movie. Surprisingly, the best moments with the little ones were enjoyed at the kitchen sink, where we took turns washing dishes. But that’s the way it is, isn’t it? The most mundane things can be, and often are, the ones that provide the most pleasure.
In the right company, even washing dishes is fun.
After seeing Tim off but before pointing the car towards home, I also visited my step-father and extended family in the southern-most part of the state. There, we kept Christmas by placing red roses at my mother’s resting place, marking her first birthday since she passed away in May. And we looked to the future, with cheers for an engagement that promises a joyful gathering in October 2017.
My recent return to South Carolina included the happy surprise of paperwhite bulbs blooming in the kitchen window, plus handfuls of holiday cards which arrived while I was away. One, from a sweet gardening friend, included a copy of the poem at the end of this note. It’s a lovely, sentimental complement to the season.
Today’s newspaper column about our native red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), the traditional Christmas tree of years past, features a family photo taken on Christmas morning in 1966. I don’t remember the exact moment the picture was made by my father, or even what I found under the tree, but I can tell you with certainty what happened next. With presents unwrapped and breakfast tucked away, my two sisters and I were made presentable for a visit to our grandparent’s farm, where we reveled in food and fun with an untold number of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Family photo, Christmas 1966. (That’s me on the left, with gorgeous bed hair.)
It’s been nearly 50 years since that morning, but it doesn’t seem so long ago. Memories, I’ve discovered, whether newly-made or long-cherished, are the consummate reward for the meaningful times we spend together.
And today, finally, I turn on the computer to find my blogging friends sharing holiday greetings with one and all, along with entertaining stories and best recipes. It’s the perfect gift—another full and jubilant refrain added to the song of life.
This Christmas, I hope you, too, are making new memories, and I send my very best wishes for all good things in the year ahead.
Happy Christmas 2016!
What is the thing inside
that follows the earthy smell of morning
out into the day, carries me down the road
in my car to the fabric store, to hover
over remnant tables, finger folds
of blue and green calico—little Dutch
girls and shamrocks, linger over cards
of brightly colored bias tape and silvery
snaps? The thing inside that pulls
me further down the road to wander
through nurseries, yearning
for yardfuls of lilac and peony bushes,
tugs me toward antique stores,
something about a pitcher, clear
glass, and milk so cold it hurts?
The thing inside brings me home,
knows what it is
I am trying to remember.
At home, my girls are needful, weary,
too much wear and tear
in their days. I spoon mellow,
peppery chicken pie into creamy dishes set
on October-blue mats, watch them lift the crust
with their forks to see what’s inside, suspecting
vegetables in there with the chicken. “You know
what my Mamaw used to say
to me?” I tell them, “Eat every carrot
and pea on your plate.”
I tell them about a salt-and-pepper
woman, round faced like me,
in a hairnet and blue cotton duster,
her yard full of cousins, hiding
in flowering bushes
and twilight from parents
already in their cars.
Oh I yearn to live
for the things I love, for the thing I put
inside the food and girls
who eat, for the road
and the thing inside the road that follows
after me and calls me back, to the pitcher
Mamaw trusted me to lift from the refrigerator
and pour, not because I was big enough,
but because I was
so in love with the pitcher
and with her.
by By Diane Gilliam Fisher