Monday, January 06, 2014

From After Glow to New Beginnings

When middle daughter Jeannie wrote, “For grownups, I think that Dec. 26 must be the best day of the year. Ahhhhhhh,” I had to laugh.   I have always loved that warm after glow that let me look back on memories of Christmas Day with no more gifts to wrap nor special goodies to prepare.   Not that I did not enjoy the fun, the busyness, and gatherings before Christmas, but the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was always a relaxing and special time to enjoy the lighted tree and holiday visitors, re-read the cards, and cook less with ham and left-over food stuff availble for light meals.   This year was typical except we had only local families here on Christmas Day.  With fewer aides than we needed during the holidays, I spent more time at Katherine’s house than usual, but I was grateful she was able to be with us on the Day, and I enjoyed their trees and decorations each time I visited there.

Thanks to modern technology, we were able to enjoy Christmas photos of the Georgia families and the Freeport family. Granddaughter Leslie entertained us with Facebook comments and photos as she and Mike and their dogs Millie and Sydney traveled from Freeport onto his parents’ home in Ohio and back to Nashville.  We were thrilled when Vickie and Erin came up from Georgia after Christmas to visit the Johnson family.  Erin spent a night at the farm and was able to collect our presents for those families, and Gma Shirley invited us for a delicious Sunday dinner with them and Vickie’s brothers and families. And, of course, she sent Katherine a plate when we left there.

As they often have done, the Taylors took off the day after Christmas for a visit and vacation with Brian’s mother and other family members. This used to be in northern Illinois, where Brian grew up, and then in Florida for a few years.  His mother has now moved to Arizona to be near Brian’s sister and families, so Brian, Mary Ellen, and Brianna went to sunny Arizona but had to hurry back a couple of days early to beat the snow and ice and get the farm machinery bedded safely down.  Since grandson Trenton elected not to go this year, he was our only visitor besides Erin who came one afternoon between the holidays. 

We seldom go out on New Year’s Eve, and I did not even watch the ball come down this year.  I was home from Katherine’s getting ready for bed when I heard fireworks somewhere in our neighborhood and knew the new year had arrived. Often I take down decorations on New Year’s Day, but I deliberately made it a lazy day this year. Not really lazy as it was Senior Day at Kroger, and I had suddenly realized that the first Friday in January was in two days—when Women’s Club meets.  I don’t usually get to attend but I did make the delayed Christmas luncheon at Jaclyn Hancock’s after the scheduled one was snowed-out.  And it was announced that a friend and I were to do the refreshments in January.  Well, it was time to think about that!

So I got out my recipe books and ancient recipe collection in two big file boxes—one box dates back to when it was a debate file box in college.  Those recipes—some in my mother’s hand writing and some in Katherine’s when she could still write—have many memories. I don’t do much cooking anymore, but I enjoyed the musing and decided on Laura’s Chocolate Cake. (Mother’s neighbor Laura in Goreville had brought it probably when my father died in1983.  We had all liked it, and Laura shared the recipe, which is much like Texas Cake and fills a cookie sheet. I picked up ingredients for a cheese ball and some extra goodies at Kroger before I had a chance to contact my friend.  She brought some more dips and chips, and another club member unexpectedly decided to bring a delicious plate of Christmas cookies, mixed nuts, and no-sugar peanut brittle, so we had a table full to delay everyone’s diet plans.   I was so glad I attended because the program was excellent.   The therapist for a non-profit group dedicated to wounded veterans and often also suffering with PTSD presented along with a veteran and his dog.  I wish I had taken notes because their successful work, which brought tears to our eyes, was worthy of a separate blog.

Yesterday I was carrying the meeting stuff in from the car and realized the first Senior shopping day and club meeting are already over for this year, and the time of new beginnings is well underway.

It was raining when I left Katherine’s long after midnight last night, and the temperature was still hovering above freezing when we woke this morning. Roads were wet but fine. Although the pastor mentioned the snow was already coming down in St. Louis and headed our way, Gerald took us into town for lunch since we have gift cards at local restaurants from Gerry and Vickie. We called the Taylors to see if they could meet us, but when Mary Ellen did not answer, we figured they were resting up from the long drive home and all of yesterday’s work once they got home.  Before we arrived in town, the temperature had dropped and we knew the rain on the roads would soon freeze.  As we were finishing our meal, I looked up to see Brianna and then her parents.  They had been in another part of the dining room and had just finished a meal with their gift card.  They joined us at our table and we had a fun visit while we all nervously watched the windows seeing the heavy snow now coming down.  We drove cautiously home, and are warm and grateful to be here on the Eve of Old Christmas.  I lit the lights on the upstairs tree one more time since I haven’t begun to undress it yet.

Tomorrow will be the Epiphany (celebrated on other dates in some places) or the twelfth day of Christmas in honor of the visit by the three wise men to the infant Jesus. Jesse Stuart wrote of Old Christmas on this day, based on the Julian calendar, which the Kentucky settlers brought with them from England.  Some used this date for the holiday well into the last century.  I like thinking of these early folks’ satisfaction of cutting a cedar from their farm to fill their cabin with pleasing aroma and their thrill at receiving an apple or orange and perhaps hard candy in their stockings.  I once had an older student write how their family went into the woods each fall and gathered silk pods and other of nature’s ornaments to decorate their tree.  It is good to look back as we also look forward to what the year ahead may offer us.

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