2012

No Dreaming: It Was a White Christmas

Christmas morning began with lightning and thunder and a much-needed rain sweeping in from the west, the noise waking me about 3 a.m. I got up for a few minutes to admire the flashes of light illuminating the trees from the second-story window, watching the sheets of rain sweep across the deck. Then I crawled back into bed to attempt to catch a few more hours of sleep. There are no longer small children in the house eager to awaken before daylight even hints at arriving on Christmas morning — just a teenager who wants to open presents, but she is willing to sleep in a bit before doing so. So I dozed...

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And Suddenly, It Is Christmas

A few Christmas stories I have told before that bear retelling, plus a new one. • My earliest memory of Christmas is from more than a half half-century ago. We always spent Christmas Eve at my maternal grandparents’ home in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. The tiny house, built by my grandfather, was filled with cousins bedded down most everywhere. I was lying in my grandparents’ bed, looking out the window, which was narrow and near the ceiling, so you could see the stars if you were on your back looking up and out. I saw Santa Claus streaking across the night sky and realized I had better...

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A Brush With Painting

For the first time in more than three decades I took on a painting job for pay, agreeing to paint kitchen cabinets for an acquaintance at an hourly rate. Freelance writing is a decidedly hit-or-miss way to make a living, and this was a solid way to pay for Christmas presents. Besides, I actually like to paint, as long as it doesn’t become a full-time, everyday job. My late dad taught me how to paint as a teen-ager. We must have painted our house on South Twelfth Street in Longview a half-dozen times, or at least it felt that way. Not because of inferior workmanship but because my mom kept...

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A Trailer Load of Decorations

This is the first Christmas that my Beautiful Mystery Companion, our daughter Abbie and I have spent under a single roof. And it is the first time my BMC has unpacked her impressive array of Christmas decorations — collected over many years in post-Christmas sales both here and abroad, primarily in Japan and England. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I cheerfully hooked up the trailer and headed to the storage unit to load up the decorations, all packed away in plastic tubs. I came back with the 5x10-foot trailer loaded, plus my small SUV filled to the roof. I had already made a trip to the Big Box Store...

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A Centenarian Columnist and Willie

Mattie Dellinger and I first met 30 years ago. I had just begun running the San Augustine Rambler newspaper, a trial-by-fire plunge into country newspapering at the callow age of 26. Mattie was a writer and columnist for the Center paper, 18 miles up the road. We printed there every Tuesday night. In 1982, Mattie was a spry 71 year-old who would quickly let you know how the cow ate the cabbage, her clear blue eyes gazing out from oversized glasses. Mattie stood about five-feet and probably didn’t weigh 100 pounds even after a fine Sunday dinner on the grounds. She clearly knew everybody in her native...

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Counting Our Blessings

Once again we gather to give thanks, another year drawing to a close. The days, weeks and months now roar by in a blur. Life reminds me of those movie scenes from the 1930s, when directors wanted to convey time passing quickly and used the device of pages flying off a calendar in rapid order. That is how time feels to me, years flying by. I look up and Kasey, my oldest daughter, who not so long ago sat in my lap reading stories, is about to be oldest enough to legally run for president. She is in her fifth year of teaching autistic children — my once-toddler who would happily wander around at parties...

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The First Fire of the Season

I lit the first fire of the season ten days before Thanksgiving. The first cold front had blown through. A light frost threatened in the morning. I have been waiting for this moment since October. Nature teased a few times. I had earlier been temped to open windows and start a fire, to let enough chill inside to fire up the hearth. We do love a fire in this family. This is our first autumn in this home, so we were itching to try out the fireplaces. Actually, my Beautiful Mystery Companion used the formal living room’s fireplace while I was out of town a few weeks back, and reported favorably....

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No More Emails From President, Beyonce

I feel a bit lonely now that the election is over. My email inbox doesn’t fill up nearly as often as it did, especially in the closing days of the campaign. Entire hours can pass without a new email. Since I spend a lot of time in front of a computer writing and editing, checking email is a regular habit — sometimes too regularly. The first email from someone with quite-the-famous name appeared in my inbox in June. Why in the world is Barack Obama emailing me, I wondered? Others soon followed, from Joe Biden, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, campaign operatives, and other famous personages...

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The Finest Season Arrives

The falling leaves drift by the window             The autumn leaves of red and gold  —“The Autumn Leaves,” by Johnny Mercer |———| Out the large windows that grace my study I can see dozens of dozens of trees — mainly red oak, but also maple and pine, pin oak and sweetgum. Larger windows, also unfettered by panes, dominate the formal living room across the hall from the study. There are no bad views from any window in this house. That was its best selling point. We feel as if are living in the midst of an urban park. I guess that makes me both the park ranger and head...

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Our Youngest Daughter Turns 15

We first met on a springtime Saturday for lunch at Pizza King in Longview, home to my favorite pie — the vegetarian with extra jalapeños. She had the cheese pizza. She wore her blonde hair in a ponytail, framing her blue eyes and flawless porcelain skin. I can’t remember what she was wearing, but I recall she was reading a Harry Potter book. It was March 2008. Abbie was 10 at the time. She is the daughter of the woman I fell in love with when I saw her crossing the alley at Green Street, heading to the now-closed coffee shop to make my acquaintance. She was wearing a red raincoat, brown...

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