Another Christmas Eve Among the Friendly Beasts

As has become our custom, our family spends the latter part of Christmas Eve afternoon at our church’s live nativity.  The day was chilly and gray, the ground muddy, as usual.  The friendly beasts were in attendance–the stocky little burro, the hump-backed ox with the coat of gray velvet, the fluffy, disheveled sheep, a variety of curious goats.  

Kiko was obstinately determined to sniff out every furry friend.

 

The sweet-tempered camel was there, of course.  A gracious celebrity, as well as a commanding and unexpected presence in the DC suburbs, he posed patiently for photos. 

He even gave out a few kisses.

Humans took turns in the roles of the Holy Family, angels, shepherds and kings.  Baby Jesus, to the disappointment of several young families, was played by a doll.  Sometimes Mary and Joseph were fourteen, sometimes forty.  Occasionally the costumes fit well, other times, not so much.  Hems tended toward the mud-stained.   Gender was fluid.  One of our shepherds, in his attempts to drum up even more attention from passers-by, appeared to be hitchhiking. 

It wasn’t a flawless performance piece, by far.  But it didn’t need to be.  Who else but ordinary, imperfect people does God use to do his extraordinary work?

The rushing Northern Virginia traffic was forced to slow down, if briefly, as it passed our live nativity.  Many people even put their Christmas Eve plans on hold, parked their cars and explored the scene first hand.  Most left with a camel selfie.  Some, we hope, caught a glimmer of a greater truth.   

He is born, the holy Child, play the oboe and bagpipes merrily! He is born, the holy Child, sing we all of the Savior mild.

Through long ages of the past, prophets have foretold His coming, through long ages of the past, now the time has come at last!

O how lovely, O how pure, is this perfect child of heaven, O how lovely, O how pure, gracious gift to human-kind!

Jesus, Lord of all the world, coming as  child among us, Jesus, Lord of all the world, grant to us thy heavenly peace.

Il est né, le divin Enfant, jouez haut-bois rèsonnez musettes! Il est né, le divin Enfant, chantons tous son avènement!

  –18th Century French carol

For previous Christmas Eve live nativity posts, see here, here, and here. 

Favorite Christmas Posts

Since I began Wild Trumpet Vine, I’ve written about forty Christmas-themed posts. Back in December of 2011, there was so much to cover, but now I run the risk of repeating myself.  And during this holiday season, time for writing will be limited.  My mother’s spinal surgery has been scheduled for early December.  Her doctors have emphasized that the recovery will likely be difficult and painful.  I’m grateful that Mama is here with us in Virginia as we face this challenge together.  I’m also very thankful I have no career or young children to neglect as I care for her. 

My mother and I certainly won’t be creating any handmade decorations this year, as we did during my childhood.  See Working Like Elves (December 8, 2011).  But I hope that as she heals, she’ll occasionally feel up to laughing about our shared adventures and misadventures of Christmases past.  Maybe we’ll revisit the question of the hideous tree we chose our first year in Atlanta (Oh, Eww, Christmas Tree, December 18, 2013). 

Around mid-month, our daughter will be home after finishing her first semester at the University of Virginia.  She’ll want my mother’s new home to be cheery for the season, so I expect we’ll unpack some of the old decorations we moved this summer from Mama’s Atlanta attic.  Maybe she’ll persuade her grandmother to reminisce about long-ago Christmases in central Kentucky.  See Unsilvered WWII-Era Ornaments on a Kentucky Cedar, and Uncle Edwin’s Silver Stocking, (December 23, 2015). 

I haven’t begun to think about Christmas gifts; I don’t know if I’ll even get around to shopping.  It’s reassuring to know that if I don’t, my family won’t hold it against me.  H and D will make sure there are presents for everyone under the tree.  Creative gifting and innovative packaging are among their talents.  See several posts on Exercises in Extreme GiftwrappingBy the time Christmas morning dawns, maybe Mama will be able to walk across the grass from her house to ours without the pain that assaults her now with each step.  That’s the only gift on my wish list this December.

From years past, a few more of my favorite Christmas posts:

We’re All Family Here (December 25, 2012)

Lighting up the Night for Christmas (December 7, 2012)

The Holiday Newsletter Quandary (December 16, 2011)

Little Old Christmas Treasures (December 23, 2011)

Cape Cod Shell Angels (December 20, 2011)

Just in Case . . . (December 4, 2016)

Thanksgiving 2017

This Thanksgiving we begin what I hope will be a new tradition:  dinner at my mother’s new house here in Virginia.  Our family’s long Atlanta chapter came to an end this summer.  Our daughter is on break from her first semester of college.  We’re all Virginia residents.  Holidays should find us together, easily, no travel required.  

May you have the luxury of giving thanks for many blessings this day, surrounded by friends and family, in an atmosphere of peace and joy.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Front Yard Squash Gardens ’17

This past summer, we were treated to not just one, but two spontaneous squash gardens in our front yard.  The expected pumpkin patch popped up in the maple stump compost pile, as it has for the past two years.  (See posts from November 2016 and July 2015.)  Another, even larger, sprang up in the mulch bed nearby.  The hard-working, fast-moving vines claimed many square feet of ground, producing big fuzzy green leaves and bright yellow blossoms. 

 

Pale yellow pumpkins, elongated ovals, grew from some of the flowers.  Others produced dark green fruit of similar shape.  And still other buds grew into beautifully ornamental gourds of yellow and green, some warty, others with smoother skin.  In the photo above, a knobby-skinned gourd is partially visible just to the left of the pumpkin.  I found no discernible differences in the foliage, although two types of vines must have been present.   

Many small proto-pumpkins appeared, but most were claimed by squirrels or deer.  Our fall harvest consists of the three tall guys in front. 

The gourds were evidently much less popular with the critters.  A few succumbed to nibbles, but seven small long-necked gourds survived until fall.  

The spontaneous pumpkin patch is the lazy pseudo-gardener’s dream, as  it requires neither planning nor planting by human hands.  Simply compost pumpkins past their prime, and let nature take its course.  This year’s harvest could fill a sizeable Thanksgiving cornucopia to overflowing.  I wonder what our little patch of earth will bring forth next year?

All is safely gathered in, ‘ere the winter storms begin. 

Halloween 2017

Halloween is not Kiko’s favorite night.  While it’s nowhere near as bad as July 4th, since there are no fireworks, he does not find it pleasurable.  He senses that his pack is getting ready for something out of the ordinary, but he’s unsure as to what.  When the parade of doorbell-ringers begins, he doesn’t get it.   Who are these figures that stand at the door, but rarely come in?  He has no chance to greet and to smell them.  That is no fun at all.  In the photo above, he peers anxiously out the storm door, clearly wondering what the night will bring. 

Slim and his dogs, on the other hand, are in their element.  It’s their Big Night.  Bring it on!, they say, we’re ready for the unexpected!    

May your Halloween bring all treats and no tricks, unless you’re into that sort of thing!

And They’re Back! (Annual Visit of the Skeleton Crew)

Time to rejoice and be glad, for our old pal Slim has returned for his annual October visit.  His devoted dog posse is with him, of course:  Champ, Fluffy, Elfrida and tiny twins Ruth and Rocky, all in the highest of Halloween spirits.  The group has kept to their diets for months, and now it’s time to chow down on treats.  When Slim and friends show up, every day is a candy corn and Butterfingers kind of day. 

These beautiful late October days have been perfect for basking in the sun during breaks from Halloween prep. 

Slim shares a particularly hilarious anecdote from his days as a Princeton grad student. 

Slim and the gang love tradition.  Ever the gracious, generous hosts at our church Trunk or Treat event, they’re eager to catch up with old friends like this perky Pink Lady and currently furry Sheltie pup. 

Kiko joins the pack for their pre-Halloween joyride.     

Could Kiko be more ready for a ride?  Enough with the banter, Slim, his upright posture and forward focus declare, let’s get a move on!

And so Slim peeled out, but with expert control and discretion, and he was off to buy more goodies for the main event.  (The gang has perhaps indulged in too much snacking.)  

Halloween is here!  Be ready! 

 

For previous Skeleton Crew posts, see here, here, and here. 

Changes

Back in June, when I last wrote a post for Wild Trumpet Vine, I anticipated a summer full of major changes.  Those expectations were fulfilled.     

A bare-bones summary of key events in the life of my family since then:

Our daughter graduated from high school.  We shopped for college gear.  We enjoyed our annual Cape Cod vacation.  The sale of my childhood home in Atlanta was completed.  We moved our daughter into her first-year residence hall at the University of Virginia.  (She had made her college decision, at long last, at the end of April.)  I flew to Atlanta to deal with the final culling and packing of forty-nine years worth of accumulation, and to prepare the house for the new owners.   A dear friend drove my mother to Virginia to spare her from witnessing those last frenetic stages of the move.  At the end of that week, I walked through bare, empty rooms, turned the keys over to a new family, and flew back to Virginia. 

Three days later, the huge Atlas moving van arrived at my mother’s new house, conveniently located next door to ours.  Unpacking has been a slow process, hampered and overshadowed by the cloud of my mother’s ongoing back pain and the rounds of doctor visits it requires.  She’d been in worsening pain in the weeks leading up to her departure from Atlanta.  Now we know the cause, but treatment is challenging.  Mama, who has been for most of her life a whirling dervish of industrious creativity, is now largely confined to sofa-sitting.   

If this account sounds dry and devoid of emotion, it’s because I’ve had little time for reflection.  I’ve been packing my thoughts away, much as I packed up the Atlanta house.   Like the boxes still stored in my mother’s basement and garage, I’ll get to them one day before long and sort them out.  Until then, I’ll ease back into Wild Trumpet Vine.  I’m not yet up to the task of writing about the big things, so I’ll focus on little ones.  I foresee quietly scintillating commentaries on the colors of the season, the many charms of my silent, sleeping dog, that sort of thing.  Whether they’re read by others or not, I will write for my own mental health.  I hope a few of you will stick with me as WTV awakens from dormancy. 

 

 

Father’s Day Thoughts, 2017

Daddy’s final church directory photo

My father never made a big deal about days like today.  He wholeheartedly appreciated any modest gifts I might give him–a tie, cufflinks, a gift card to Long Horn Steakhouse–but he didn’t expect them, and he never considered them to be his due.  What he loved best were probably the photos I sent, especially the photo books I made for him.  He wasn’t enamored of stuff.  Daddy was, or at least seemed to be, to an almost extraordinary degree, perfectly content with his life in terms of the material and the intangible.

While Daddy wasn’t one for long telephone conversations, he valued a quick call on Father’s Day or his birthday.  I’d say I loved him, he’d say he loved me.  These weren’t just words, although we said them often.  In recent years, upon hearing my voice on the line, he usually said, “You sound like my little girl.”  Those words were a comfort.  I could hear the laughter in his voice, see the smile in his eyes.  They affirmed that I would always be his little girl.  And I could always be certain of my father’s love. 

My ears won’t hear Daddy say those familiar words today.  But they echo in my mind, and I will treasure them in my heart, forever.  How blessed I am to be my father’s girl. 

Daddy & me, in the back yard of what was then our new home in Atlanta, 1968.

For other posts on my father, who died on July 22, 2016, see here, here, here, and here.

Final Last Day of School

This year, my daughter’s last day of school took me somewhat by surprise.  She’s been finished with all work and even finals for a while now.  On days of exams from which she was exempt, she didn’t need to show up on school grounds.  Or did she?  Would her absence be excused?  Did I need to call the school or send a note, and what should I say?  Would she be penalized if I told the truth?  Would that even matter?  We’ve debated these questions for four years, and the answers remain up in the air.  My daughter has grown from young teen to young adult in this span, but some things we never managed to learn.  Only this much was certain:  if she showed up to class, there would be no assignments to complete.  She had finished them all, and successfully, more than satisfactorily.  But there would be parties and goodbye opportunities not to be missed. 

Tradition is important to my daughter.  On Monday she wore her “Lazt Day of School” earrings.  She made these in sixth grade, and she has worn them every last day since.  She used the alphabet beads she got for Christmas when she was three.  No more s’s remained in the set; hence the z in “last.”  Monday was apparently  the official last day of classes for seniors.  But many special activities continued this week: Convocation, Senior Picnic, Senior Breakfast, graduation rehearsal, the Senior trip to Kings’ Dominion.  Today there is yet another graduation rehearsal.  

The actual graduation ceremony is tomorrow.  In the wake of so many to-dos surrounding the close of senior year, the reality of my daughter’s  graduation has escaped me.  I started to write “endless to-dos” above.  But they’re not endless.  In fact, they are ending.  Really and truly.  They end today.  The thought lands with a thud.  I haven’t had a chance to consider the true finality of it all.  The finality that this “commencement” entails. 

I’ve been a bit cavalier about these end times.  Our daughter is rarely at home; she merely stops by briefly.  When she leaves for college, it won’t be that different, will it?  For now, I’m going to keep telling myself that’s the case.  

I have the summer to come to terms with her departure.  To face the new beginning that follows this ending. 

 

A blog about motherhood, marriage and life: the joys and frustrations, beauty and absurdity, blessings and pain. It's about looking back, looking ahead, and walking the dog.