Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays Are Almost Over

Our last expected holiday guests, granddaughter Tara’s family, left us Sunday evening to go back to her Gma Shirley’s house just a couple roads away from us.  There they would celebrate Christmas with her and Tara’s uncles’ families before they piled back into their vehicle with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—for the long exhausting trip back to Texas.  We were happy for the phone call yesterday saying they were home safe and sound.  They’d visited Bryan’s northern Illinois families earlier and arrived at the farm late Saturday night. 
Gerald and I were impressed this season with how blessed we are to be experiencing life all over again with another generation.  He decided to put up outside lights for the first time in a couple of years; and in the attic over the garage where the lights were stored, he found a couple of cardboard boxes labeled:  “Little Gerry’s Trucks” and “Little Gerry’s Machinery.”  He could not resist bringing them down to the corner of the kitchen.  When we moved here, there was no one to play with them.  But I couldn’t stand to part with them despite their being all scarred and scraped from Gerry’s hard play in the dirt pile beside our house at Pondside Farm. My thought was that maybe decades from now some stranger would stumble on them in the attic and be as thrilled as I was with a dish shard that Gerald found in our garden area when we built on this spot.
But with the addition of Gerry’s three grandsons to our family, Gerald wanted to see if these boys would be interested in these ancient playthings. Oh yes, once their bellies were full of bacon and Gerald pointed out the boxes Sunday morning, they were fascinated and excited to play with these worn saved toys from two generations back.  Their family’s  plan was to go to Gma Shirley’s house that morning since that was the only time Tara’s cousin Jeremy could be there with their daughter Kinsley, who is the boys’ age and very important in their lives even though they are only able to be together a few times a year.  But they got in enough play on the kitchen floor with their grandfather’s old toys to have made it worth while for Gerald to have carried the boxes down on the fold-down ladder.
When they came back for lunch, I was delighted that Kinsley was with them as she was not content with only a couple of hours’ play.  Quickly I set another plate on the table, but when it was time to go downstairs to the family room tree and open presents, I realized she would not have anything to open.  I did not shop this year and had pretty much used up anything I had stored away in the guest room’s “gift drawers.”  But I went in to look around anyhow, and there I realized I had the perfect gift for Kinsley.  A couple weeks ago when I was taking books out of the drawer, I wondered why I still had two sets of the first two Betsy-Tacy books and wondered who I could give them to.  Quickly I stuck the two little books in a gift bag and joined the others going downstairs.
Before Tara and Bryan had to return that evening for the Johnson dinner at Gma Shirley’s before the drive back to College Station, there was plenty of time for Gerald to enjoy seeing the kids play with the new toys he had shopped and wrapped for them. Riding the farm equipment is taken for granted when the boys visit, and despite the cold, they could not resist playing in the lime pile that Gerald keeps for them under the back shed.
 It was later in the afternoon that Gerald and I were so impressed with the knowledge that family history was repeating itself for us.  One of Katherine’s aides had not shown up, and I had gone in to give meds.  But another aide came in at 4, and I was able to return before our company left.  The family room was uncannily quiet, and I asked where were the kids.  It was explained they were in the next room preparing a play.  Soon they came out in construction paper costumes thanks to a confiscated roll of scotch tape from Gerald’s office.   Ah, yes, we’ve been down this path many times. Kinsley was narrator, and while Payton was king for awhile, before it was over he too proceeded to have a sword battle with Mddux just as Aidan had done.  Madd was really good at dying, which he did more than once. This sure brought back memories of confusing but satisfying short holiday plays our grandchildren used to produce for us.
Tara’s two sisters, Erin and Geri Ann, had come in from Texas the previous Sunday and stayed through Friday morning.  We loved catching up with their lives once more and hearing about their friends as they came and went trying to see as many of their local buddies as they could.
Rick, our Freeport son-in-law, had taken his older daughter Leslie down to Belmont on a college tour while she was in high school, and he wanted to do the same for Cecelie and her friend Ryan.  So they planned a tour of Liberty University in Virginia during their break. Elijah had gone along to help drive and to get in on the visit to Leslie and Mike in Nashville on the way back. Jeannie was staying home preparing for their family Christmas.  Elijah had texted he thought they’d be at the farm around 9 or 10 Tuesday night.  Erin and Geri Ann already had a dinner date in town that night with their Johnson cousins, but they’d be back in time for a good visit.
I invited the Mary Ellen’s family over for the frozen lasagna I planned to bake for supper thinking that way there would be some food in the house in case any of the Eilers were hungry when they arrived later.  As it turned out, the four from Freeport arrived earlier and were able to eat with us, so the local cousins gathered in.  There were 12 instead of six for supper, and that was fine because fortunately I had put two lasagnas in the oven.
When Jeannie called me about their coming through, I assured her that would be great but the kids might have to sleep on couches since Erin and Geri Ann were already settled in the two downstairs bedrooms.  At bedtime after Erin and Geri Ann had joined the others, I was silly enough to go down and lay out some sheets and blankets for the couches.  Fortunately, unlike my previous habit, I decided these young adults were old enough to make up their own couches.
There is one “new” full-size couch in the family room probably not over a decade old.  And elsewhere there are three very old couches I have hung onto for visiting grandchildren when needed. One in my office and two in the room, which some might call a junk room.  I first chose to call it the art room for the kids.  For years they would disappear together into that room to dream up all sorts of projects sitting on little plastic chairs around  the  table created by a unused door laid on a couple of stools for their art table.  When they out grew the little chairs and the short table, a discarded kitchen table was used in that room with the two old couches and a television Gerald installed. Now it became the grandkids’ den.  I say it was silly of me to gather up sheets and blankets because once again as they did the last time they had the infrequent but cherished opportunity to visit with Geri Ann, these guys pulled an all- nighter.
As it happened, Gerald had already made a Wednesday morning breakfast date with Geri Ann and Erin to go with him to the Jonesboro breakfast place where he occasionally meets up with his brothers and nephews who are habitually there. So Geri Ann had not been to bed when they left Woodsong at five for the drive to Jonesboro.  Since Erin is one of the older and more sensible grandkids, she had.  I have been told that there was a rush for her room with its two beds for an hour or so of sleep for the partiers since Rick had told everyone they were going to leave at eight the next morning. I hated to see them go but knew they had long hours of travel ahead, and I bet they slept very well on the way to Freeport. Geri Ann caught up when she got home from breakfast!
Christmas Eve was quiet at Woodsong since Erin and Geri Ann were at the Christmas celebration at Gma Shirley’s house.  The next morning was also unusually calm here as I put the ham in the oven and started noon dinner preparations.  Katherine had arranged for her usual Thursday morning aide to come in since that wonderful aide had her family celebration the Sunday before Christmas.  She had Katherine up and dressed and into her chair for David to bring out in the van, and Sam came in his car.  
I had told Mary Ellen not to bring anything since their family were leaving that very afternoon for Arizona.  I wasn’t surprised that they brought a cookie tray someone had gifted them with and Trent and Brianna’s annual peanut butter chocolate candies that they traditionally make. I was surprised that   Mary Ellen had gotten up and decided to make a huge pot of home-made chicken and dumplings for the first time in her life. (I got lazy a long time ago and make dumplings from tortillas.)  Hers were the real thing and so delicious, and the best part was she left them for us, and we have enjoyed them the entire holiday season! 
Gerald's brother Garry had driven up from his farm in the Mississippi bottoms, so we had twelve here for dinner before we went down to open presents.  I’d also given Mary Ellen orders not to do all the dish clean up she always insists on doing. But before we left the table, she had much of the clean up accomplished.  All and all although we were disappointed Gerry and Vickie could not be with us as usual, it was a very good day. We have grown used to Jeannie’s family not being able to come down at Christmas, and they had the experience of Leslie and Mike not being able to make it up to Freeport this year.  (Besides weather and travel dangers, they had their dogs, Millie and Sidney, needing to be at home and Leslie had Ragtime rehearsals.)  Yes, families grow up and move away and traditions must change, but with great grandchildren to visit, some things seem much the same.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Annual Christmas Letter

Woodsong Christmas 2014
Dear Friends and Relatives,

I debated not doing a Christmas letter this year since age is definitely limiting what I get done.  However, at our sister-in-law Ginger’s funeral , a young adult told me that she read every letter I wrote, and that inspired me to continue the tradition at least for this year.  Gerald has not slowed down as much as I have, but he is inside a bit more, and I am glad since he helps me.  However, he just finished cleaning a fence row so the trees wouldn’t shade son-in-law Brian’s crop next year, so he is still outside a lot.  Always has a project!

There have been many changes this year. We spent spring  watching the University of Georgia softball team on Game Tracker on Gerald’s computer followed by watching USSSA Pride, which Gerry coached last summer.  It was exciting to see UGA win their first conference championship with Gerry and his daughter Tara assisting Coach Lu Harris-Champer and granddaughter Geri Ann pitching or playing first base. DuWayne, our nephew, was a great help in driving when we went to Athens once and over to University of Missouri to see the team play in person.  Mary Ellen went along to Missouri. Spring 2015 will be different, and we will need to be watching two games at once.

Gerry and Vickie moved to College Station at the end of the summer, and Gerry became associate head coach at Texas A&M.  Tara and husband Bryan Archibald and our three precious great grandsons--Aidan, Maddux, and Payton--also moved to College Station. Tara took a job as manager of a sports complex that Ty and Keesha Warren are building.  Bryan simply kept his job in Chicago area and continues to work out of their home as he did in Georgia.  They are renting a house just a short distance a way from Gerry and Vickie.

After teaching junior high math at Corsicana last year and coaching in the junior and senior high schools, Erin was back in College Station (her old stomping ground)  looking for houses and paving the way for her families’ move there.  This year she is living with Gerry and Vickie and teaching sixth grade English at Rockdale and loving it just as she did teaching math. She’s also coaching. Naturally she delights in being able to share her nephews’ lives and for the first time in seven years was able to be with her family on her birthday!  She and her parents came to see us in October when her high school softball uniform (Number 12) was retired at the Johnston City Homecoming.

The only one missing in College Station except on holidays is Geri Ann. She is living in        Oregon as a junior at the University of Oregon.  She will be playing softball with the Ducks this year. We are excited and eager to see her in green and yellow this spring!

We only have two  grandchildren still in high school.  Jeannie and Rick’s Cecelie is a sophomore at Freeport, and she’s keeping up her siblings’ theater and speech contest  traditions.  Rick and Jeannie still teach math and art. A wonderful treat for us was seeing Cecelie in Grease last month.  We went up with Leslie, who came up from Nashville, and then piced up Elijah, a senior at Illinois State, at Normal. Elijah did an internship in Chicago last summer, worked at Indiana School for the Blind and Seeing Impaired this fall and is finishing up the semester driving to Springfield to work with students at four schools there. This spring he will be student teaching in Chicago for his last semester.

Last spring I was able to catch a ride with Jeannie when she came through to see Leslie in the Narrator role she had always aspired to in Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  So  I got to see her and Mike’s home and Sidney and Millie, their two dogs.  She is now rehearsing for Ragtime in the evenings, and continues working at Word Music Publishing. Mike is a personal trainer, and he and Leslie are all doing extremely well competing in Strongman competitions in Tennessee.

Brian and Mary Ellen continue to live nearby on their farm up on Route 13.  They had great crops this year and continued their over-busy lives with Brian working in his office at home and making trips to St. Louis and other places when necessary. Mary Ellen is selling real estate with Century 21 House of Realty. Trent, our computer whiz,  is making the honor roll at John A. Logan College and is on the CyberSecurity team there. We all enjoyed hearing about his summer trip to New York City to visit his friend Rachel.  Brianna continues doing extremely well at Murray State, but she is making an exciting transition to work as an intern at Disney World during spring quarter. We will want to hear all about that too.

Sam Cedar, Katherine and David’s son,  is a grave old senior at Marion High School. In addition to filling out college applications,  his life also is over-busy with honors classes, leading the marching band as drum major,  developing a great reputation as trombonist--once again making the state band, playing basketball in the church league, and on and on.  Somehow he always finds time to study with Anna.

Despite all the blessings and good things we have to report, our hearts break every day as we have watched Katherine’s health decline with multiple sclerosis. We are grateful for aides and friends who help her, and we pray for miracles.

There has been a great deal of sorrow in our community this year.  There is much sorrow and injustice in our nation and around the world. I will grieve always for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Cairo’s straight A student Myron Jordan, who did not have the opportunity to grow up to see what they could achieve in life. Those of us who believe in right to life know that all lives matter. Here is a comforting scripture verse gift for you from Revelation 21:4  “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither pain:  for the former things are passed away.”  Hallelujah!

Love and Merry Christmas,


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Growing Closer to Christmas

Long ago my friend Jo Barger said something to the effect that she loved the rush and over-crowded December days with the pre-Christmas lists and all the busy activities that we try to cram into our lives during this season. So one of the ways I would comfort myself when I was feeling pushed was to remember that busyness was part of the pleasure of the season.  Age has greatly reduced my Yule time observations—no baking, fewer decorations, fewer living friends to correspond with, fewer expectations by others.  But unfortunately, even with these lessening activities, I am much slower, and also have responsibilities that I did not have when younger, so I am still often behind schedule.  So I have again used Jo’s wisdom to whisper to myself a few times this year.  And I remind myself that the one we are honoring was born in a humble place and not with elaborate celebrations—until the angels burst forth in song, that is. So whatever my circumstances, my participation in the season is appropriate whether simple or painstakingly complex.
We have had many concerns. My brother came through with his newest heart stint and is back home in Mattoon with the help of his visiting son Robert.  Just as we were breathing a sigh of relief, Gerald’s youngest brother Keith was taken to the hospital at Cape Girardeau and found out he had had a light heart attack a week or so before.  He came home with a monitor until he was scheduled for a defibrillator.  But before that happened, after a peaceful Sunday morning, he almost left us. Keith and Barbara have a daughter-in-law and granddaughter who are both RNs at the Cape hospital, and they were rapidly on hand to assist Barbara until the ambulance arrived to take him to the Anna hospital to stabilize him.  He was ready to go on to Cape by the time we arrived.  The monitor kept shocking him and slowing his heart down as family cars followed his ambulance to Cape. We were told the next 24 hours were critical, and his sons and wives stayed with him through the night.  On Thursday he had the defibrillator implanted, and now he at home for Christmas with everyone telling him to take it easy.
Despite all these scares and other time-consuming problems, there is a tree downstairs in the family room and another upstairs in the living room.  I have never seen an ugly Christmas tree, so I have thoroughly enjoyed them.  I mailed the last of the Christmas cards this morning, whereas in past years, I have often mailed the last ones way after Christmas.  I shopped for groceries to be able to fix easy meals while loved ones are here, and I have wrapped most of the token gifts, which is all I am giving to loved ones this year.
Two Texas granddaughters are driving up tomorrow after they celebrated their family Christmas tonight in College Station.  Their sister’s family will stop by sometime when they return from Chicago on their way back to Texas after Christmas. We had been expecting their parents for Christmas too, but that is not to be.  And although I am disappointed, I have to smile at the reason why.  When Erin was a graduating high school senior, if I am remembering this right, she bought or perhaps given by a boyfriend, a tiny white dog she named Chloe.   Chloe was such a sweet little dog, but with dorm life ahead for Erin, you know who ended up with little Chloe.  Vickie is good with babies, children, and dogs.  She graciously took on raising Chloe just as she had Tara’s big white dog when Tara and husband moved to Chicago area. (It had some sort of health problem and died, however.)  But gentle Chloe has been  part of every family celebration.
One of my favorite memories was when Tara and Bryan’s first born—Aidan—was a tiny toddler and we all sat around at Gerry and Vickie’s house admiring Aidan and watching his every move—just as we had done back when Tara was a baby.   Chloe was right there in the mix with Aidan; and all of a sudden, Aidan wordlessly widened his eyes with the realization that Chloe was just the right size for him to straddle as a horse. We all saw and knew instantly what he was thinking, so that misadventure was avoided, but we knew Aidan would have been safe with Chloe whether she was with Aidan or not.
Well, last year as a college sophomore living off campus in a house with others, guess who felt she had to have a dog.  And before too long because of some sort of illness or problem, this little black dog of Geri Ann’s was often at Gerry and Vickie’s house with Chloe. It was cute to see them together, and when Geri Ann went off to school in Oregon this fall, of course the little black dog stayed behind at Gerry and Vickie’s.
Chloe is nine years old, and had never had puppies.  But nature prevailed, and an unplanned surprise pregnancy resulted. Now with the help of a vet, tiny Chloe is the very proud mother of three adorable little black dogs—just in time for what was planned to be Christmas travel time.  When they realized that a caesarian birth was going to be necessary and saw on the Internet that these sometimes cost $2000, they were surely alarmed.  Fortunately, Gerry has many dog friends (no I mean friends with many dogs) among his hunting buddies, and one steered him to a kind and excellent vet with a doable fee.  They wondered how Chloe would cope as an inexperienced mother and the doctor assured them Chloe would do fine.  Gerry and Vickie are thrilled with how devoted Chloe is to her babies.  She can’t crawl under the covers of the end of their bed anymore to sleep because she has to take care of her little ones.  And being the devoted mother that Vickie is, she is unable to upset the new little dog family with such a long trip home to Southern Illinois.
Our son-in-law Rick, Cecelie, and her friend Ryan are coming through Tuesday night from a college visit In Virginia and then a Nashville stop on their way back home to northern Illinois.  The Taylor family is heading to Arizona to Brian’s family sometime, but the last I talked to Mary Ellen she still was not sure whether they would leave before or after Christmas.  Katherine has made arrangements with an aide to help her get ready and in her chair for a van ride to the farm if someone can drive her out.  Gerald’s brother Garry is invited up  There is a huge ham waiting in the garage fridge, a new box of instant potatoes, plenty of okra in the freezer from Gerald’s garden, and pies in there left from Mary Ellen’s Thanksgiving baking. 
Tonight Gerald and I hopped in his pickup after supper and drove over to this fantastic decorated house in the middle of the country not too far from us.  We’d tried to see this coming home from the Taylors the other night, but the lights are off before l0, so we needed to go earlier. I see the amazing bright lights in the distance if I go by in the evening to Katherine’s.  I discovered this remarkable lighted scene a few years ago but somehow missed going down the lane to see it last year.  I wish I knew who these people are who go all out with their house and the area around it containing more items than your eyes can take in.  If you live locally, don’t miss seeing this if you can at all.  Take the Old Creal Springs Road from Marion and turn right onto Cherry Valley Lane.  Or go down 166 to New Dennison and from West Ellis, go north onto the Old Creal Springs Road and turn left onto Cherry Valley Lane.  The lights will guide you long before you reach the house.  It has to be a time-consuming task to create such an elaborate scene.  I hope they and all the other folks whose homes we drove around viewing tonight enjoy the hard work and the busy rush it took to create such colorful beauty for others to enjoy.   I hope viewing lifts the sad spirits of those in grief or with severe problems during this season of joy and celebration.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"A Lot Like Christmas"

We enjoyed having son Gerry with us briefly at the end of last week as he and his dad traveled north on a quest for bird dogs to take to a friend in Texas. So Gerald was able to spend much more time with him than I did, but we are looking forward to visits from their family during the upcoming holiday season.
It is beginning to feel as well as look a lot like Christmas. Mary Ellen had given me a poinsettia that the Crab Orchard cheerleaders were selling, and I placed it in the middle of the dining room table and have added the early arriving Christmas cards around it.  But now the guest bedroom is so crowded there is  little room to walk because of the big cardboard boxes, which Gerald helped me get down, and  that did or still hold seasonal decorations. I hope to get complete the emptying and then get the boxes back in the closet, so the room can be ready for the coming visitors.
I haven’t yet found the manager scene that has been in our home every Christmas of our marriage.  When I find it, it will go on the floor by the piano to encourage Gerry’s grandsons to play with it as Gerry once did.  I placed the breakable nativity scene Mary Ellen gave me a few years ago in a prominent but safe place on emptied shelf.  Other tiny items were put on the edge of the books in the full bookcase, so we can see them as we go downstairs.  Many of these bits and pieces were gifts in years past, and I enjoy remembering the ones who gave them to me. While I worked, I played Christmas carols this afternoon.
I have one tree up in the living room.   It is the white one, and again this year, its limbs on the sunny window side are slightly yellowed.  But at night with the tiny lights on it, it looks white.  I have yet to put the ornaments on, but they are laid in the chair beside it, and that should happen tomorrow. It is already pretty to me, but the blue and silver glass balls and the blue, aqua, and red artificial roses stuck among the limbs will make it even prettier.
Last night sort of officially opened the season for me as Mary Ellen had asked us over for supper.  I had seen her bare tree during Thanksgiving weekend when I stopped by for something or other, but I knew it was decorated now, and I was looking forward to it.
So when I got home from an afternoon visit with Katherine, I got out the black sweat shirt Mary Ellen  had made me long ago when she was still an unmarried magazine editor in Nashville.  She had painstakingly glued  tiny multi-colored sequins to form a large Christmas ornament on the front.  She laughed when she saw it last night that there was no way in her life today would she have time to glue on  that many sequins. I remember wearing it to the Carbondale mall. (Going to the mall was something I could do and enjoy back in those more active days.)  The shiny bright colors caught the attention of passers-by, and I received many compliments from strangers. I always wear it once or twice a season; and though it has shed occasional sequins, somehow their loss doesn’t show up in the abundance.
Before we even arrived at the Taylors, we were excited to see the beautiful star shining brightly once again on their barn.  They inherited the star with the farm, and people have been pleased to once again see the long-enjoyed icon as they travel Route 13.  Brian had updated all the burned out bulbs and repaired the hook that had gotten awry when they had the barn repainted.
Wreathes outside and inside the entry porch room greeted us as we went in and stepped on into the kitchen to find the table beautifully set with her Christmas china that I had never seen when they lived away. We had a delicious home-cooked meal, and then Mary Ellen and I had a great visit in the living room by the tree while the men talked farm business at the kitchen table before they joined us.  Before we left, Trent came in from a friend’s house and was all smiles since yesterday  had been his last class of the semester.  We enjoyed his hugs and were definitely in a festive mood when we came back to Woodsong.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Late Fall and Early Winter Holidays Consolidate

Three of the Freeport gang arrived Wednesday night in Elijah’s car, but Elijah and Cecelie were dropped off at the Taylors to join Brianna and Trent while Rick came onto Woodsong.  Later they arrived here and Sam came out from town to join them.  Looking out the next morning at the grandkids’ parked cars, my heart was warmed  realizing anew how grown up they’d become.  Even our youngest, Cecelie, is now taking drivers instructions and will soon reach that milestone of being a 16-year-old driver.
We had ourl three daughters and all their children with us except for Leslie and Mike, who were in Ohio with Mike’s parents. Our son and his children were in Texas except for Geri Ann, who was in Oregon.  Despite enormous cooperative efforts and holding noon meal-time until 2:30, we did not succeed in having Katherine at the table.  Just when we thought we had conquered our quest to bring her to the farm, Rick and Gerald discovered the van had a dead battery probably because of the cold weather since nothing had been left on to run the battery down. The battery charger could not be found in her garage, and so it was necessary to go back to the farm and come in after the meal to get her van charged. With Mary Ellen left with the clean up, we returned to town. The van was charged, another round of meds given,  and Katherine did spend the early evening with us. 
Not only clean up, but Mary Ellen did the majority of the meal preparation this year.  She and Brianna had a mother-daughter day making pies on Wednesday as well as many delicious side dishes. Gerald and I did do the turkey, and I did the dressing and sweet potatoes.  Gerald helped me lift the heavy frozen bird into the fridge to thaw and then five days later on Wednesday night to get it out  for pan preparation.  He did the hated job of getting that awful plastic (better than the wire that used to be used) unstuck from the back cavity. As strong as he is, it was difficult even for him to remove.  Remembering all the times I had fought that at 4 a.m. in times past, I was grateful.  The turkey was all prepped and panned before I went to bed.  All I had to do when I got up at 6 the next morning was move it a couple feet from the fridge to the oven.  Mary Ellen, who had already gone into Katherine’s at 4 a.m. to adjust her after receiving a text that alarmed her, arrived early and did the major work all day in the kitchen.
I had planned to fry the okra as I promised Brianna, and the pan was laid out with olive oil and the okra thawed and covered with corn meal.  However, I was late coming back  with those of us who had gone for Katherine. Jeannie, who was busy in Freeport helping her church up there on Wednesday, drove down by herself Thursday morning with Lucky and Leah and more food for our feast.  Since she had arrived by time for the okra to be fried, she was drafted and did a beautiful job with the okra. The grandkids explained to her that she needed to burn it a bit to be like Grandma’s, so she cooked it a little longer. (That explains well my cooking, but fortunately the grandkids are sentimental anyhow about my okra!)
The five grandchildren here were in top form enjoying each others’ company and exchanging college and high school experiences talking late  into the night. Hearing about a proposed tennis shoe painting project left parents fearful they would be ruining tennis shoes, but the kids’ colorful unique designs were actually very  attractive.  Parents already  burdened with college tuition and housing costs breathed a sigh of relief as well as appreciation for their art work.
The kids were talking about progressive Thanksgiving dinners, and Mary Ellen thought I might think they meant the old-fashioned progressive dinner where each course was served at a different house.  But I knew what they meant, and I thought Gerald and my combined efforts on the turkey qualified us to be called progressive. They thought we still had a way to go, so to be truly progressive, we may have to turn the cooking over to them next year!
If not progressive, we are good at keeping family traditions.  Despite getting to bed late Thursday night, Gerald dragged Rick out of bed to go down to Union County to have breakfast at Jonesboro with his brothers and nephews. A new tradition may have been born Friday afternoon when Elijah took a educational movie in to watch in her bedroom with his Aunt Katherine, who remains extremely interested in inner-city education even though she can no longer teach.
Since I had not been on the computer for a couple of days, I was catching up very late on Friday  night after I came home from Katherine’s.  (Actually it was morning since it was long after midnight.)  I heard our herd of young adults upstairs in the kitchen cooking, and I did not dare go there, but slipped on quietly to bed. They were using their kindergarten “inside voices” and quiet giggles trying not to be a problem to the adult population, but I wondered what the kitchen would look like when people arose the next morning.  I warned Gerald before he left our bedroom that I had cleaned the kitchen the night before, but not to be shocked if things were in disarray. However, although  there were some left-out objects and dirty dishes in the sink,  over-all the kitchen showed their maturity.  Best of all, the left-over turkey  among other things was devoured, and they had once again created memories without any help from us older folks.
One holiday highlight for me was going to Carbondale on Saturday afternoon to see The Theory of Everything with my grandson Trent. Sam had left to work on an English project with his friend Anna. Elijah and Brianna, who also really wanted to go to the movie, used the discipline that has made them good students and elected to stay home and study to be prepared for classes this week.  The Eilers had to return to Freeport on Saturday, but Elijah stayed on and the kids ended up at the Taylor house that night.
Sunday was made special by having Elijah, Sam, and Bri join me at worship at our village church before I scurried in to Katherine’s house.  Gerald picked me up there to go to the funeral of our dear long-time neighbor Mildred Stapleton.  She had lost Russell just a few months ago. This couple had gone through World War II with Russell fighting overseas and through the Viet Nam War with their son Steve fighting there. Then in recent years they had suffered the death of  the two older sons. Mildred was 92 and deserved to go to a better place.   But her loss was great to her grandchildren and their younger children, Mike and Debby, who were neighborhood friends to our kids. Gerald took me afterwards for a bite of lunch and I went back to Katherine’s for the rest of the day.
The autumnal decorations are now put away, and I must face the two over-full closets with boxed Christmas trees—one downstairs and one upstairs. Because I like to leave our trees up at least until New Year’s Day, I haven’t started Christmas celebrating yet except vicariously on the drive to town or  enjoying photographs of lovely lighted trees on Facebook.
Despite a desire by many to have the main holidays of the fall and winter separate, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become one long season in America—just as towns and cities and villages have run into each other and been consolidated into metro regions, where you have to be a local resident to even know when one location ends and the other begins.
Putting the tree up on Christmas Eve was abandoned by most families long ago when electric lights replaced dangerous candle-lit trees.  And now with artificial trees so prevalent, we can put up trees early with less fear of dangerous drying out and annoying shedding needles.  Busy lives have also caused many to use the Thanksgiving time off to put up trees.   Outdoor decorations are assembled  to avoid colder weather later. Consequently we are already into the Christmas season with its beautiful decorations and lights often before we have finished our Thanksgiving grace. Even though I am behind all those who have already decorated, I am going to try and be progressive and enjoy this early beginning of the best season of the year!