Dixie Darr

Archive for December, 2016|Monthly archive page

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty-Five

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2016 at 5:19 pm

night-visions

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Story Blanket

I have an old quilt made by my Grandma Wood. Hand-stitched, with mismatched pieces in a random pattern, it isn’t pretty, made for warmth not for show. Quilts these days are works of art, intended for display. Grandma raised nine kids during the Great Depression and made do with what she had. I loved that quilt because I recognized some of the pieces as remnants from old clothes of mine.

In Night Visions, my favorite Advent book, Jan Richardson writes of a different kind of story blanket.

She wove a story, “laid it out on a blanket of paper, stitched in between the lines, decorated it with layers and strands of blue, of green, of gold. This was how it went.”

Once upon a nighttime, on visits back to the home where I grew up, I used to steal outside with a blanket, spread it out, and watch the stars as they passed through the gates of night. An oak tree kept me company,barren save for the moon it sometimes held in its branches. Together we bore quiet witness to the stars’ journeys. The tree is gone now, but a blanket will do when one is longing for home. Spread it out and turn your gaze toward the sky. And if you haven’t enough dark to see the stars, wrap the blanket about you, close your eyes, and dream yourself home.”

Much later, she needed the story for herself. She “wrapped the blanket around my own shoulders and closed my eyes until I could see all the stars in my own sky.”

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My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty-Four

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2016 at 6:46 am


chicken-soup

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Home for Christmas

I’m probably being unfair. The woman lost her home and all her possessions, after all, but this story struck all the wrong notes with me. I’ll be Home for Christmas by Brooke Linville was included in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas books, pretty schmaltzy stuff.

She was was only a month from delivering her first child when their house and the whole neighborhood burned down. They managed to save their photos and pets and nothing else. She had imagined her new baby celebrating Christmas there and had just started making the baby’s stocking when the fire took everything.

She loved Christmas, the songs, the ornaments, even wrapping presents. Not this year. Their new house wouldn’t be finished until at least January, and while boxes of gifts and replacement ornaments continued to arrive, she couldn’t bear the thought of spending the holiday in their temporary rental home.

So she decided to cart the gifts and decorations to the unfinished new house where there was heat and there were walls but not much else. Friends and family visited and while “it wasn’t the Christmas at home I had expected . . . we were home. And there as peace and joy that Christmas day.”

What bothers me about this story is that the author reminds me of those people who need everything to be absolutely perfect or the day is ruined. Christmas-zillas. Yes, she found a way to celebrate a less-than-perfect day, although it came after pouting her way through the whole story. Would it really have been so horrible to have Christmas in a rental house?

The one thing we should learn from the Christmas story is that the location of the celebration is not what matters. Am I wrong?

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty-Three

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2016 at 6:01 pm


herod

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Thought That Counts

If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us there is a desert to travel, a star to discover, and a being within ourselves to bring to life.” – Anonymous

A few years ago, I opted out of gift giving and asked people to stop buying me gifts. I had moved from my house of almost 30 years to a one-bedroom condo and took load after load of excess stuff to charity. I no longer had the room or the desire to acquire more things.

The truth is I still have too much stuff. I haven’t yet achieved the time to travel my desert, discover my star and bring the being within me to life. But I’m trying.

Some of my family and friends still feel the need to give me gifts and tell me they like to give presents and that I should accept it graciously. If, as the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts, I would prefer that they spare me a loving thought, write me a letter, an email, or even a text to show they are thinking of me throughout the year and I will do the same. Maybe then, we can focus on the simple gifts of Christmas.

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty-Two

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2016 at 6:19 pm


wise-man

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Other Wise Man

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke ranks with The Gift of the Magi on my list of best ever Christmas stories. Arbatan was the fourth wise man who sets out to meet the other three to follow the star to Bethlehem to meet the baby king and present him with three precious jewels. Along the way he meets challenge after challenge, and each time he sacrifices his goal and his possessions to help another human being.

At Bethlehem, he misses the other wise men and the baby Jesus by a few days, but perseveres following Joseph and Mary and Jesus to Egypt. After decades of disappointment, he ends up back in Jerusalem on the day Jesus is to be crucified. He has one jewel left and determines to use it to ransom the King of the Jews.

There, too, he meets someone who desperately needs his help. He gives her the pearl, lamenting that he will not be able to save Jesus. Feeling like a failure and ready to die, he hears a voice that says, “Verily I say unto thee, inasmuch as thou has done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou has done it unto me.”

His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the king.”

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty-One

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2016 at 11:13 am

Saturday, December 17, 2016


nutcracker

The New Nutcracker Suite.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the Nutcracker ballet. My brow is low enough that I can admit my memories of Tchaikovsky’s music have more to do with Disney’s Fantasia, the gliding fairies and bobbing mushrooms. It turns out I’m not alone. Although written in 1892, when the Nutcracker debuted in Fantasia in 1940, the complete ballet had never been produced in the US. That happened in 1944 after the movie made the music widely popular.

In 1962, beloved poet Ogden Nash wrote a delightful poem interpreting the music into words in The New Nutcracker Suite and Other Innocent Verses. Here’s a taste of that confectious treat.

The Flutes

How happy are the fruity flutes,

Blowing cadenzas through their snoots.

Once they really start to tootle,

Trying to silence them is futile.

Ten professors in cahoots couldn’t count the total toots.

Since, it’s probably been a while since you’ve seen it, here’s the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8At8zfh_o3E

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Twenty

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2016 at 5:52 pm


28_jane_austen_0

Friday, December 16, 2016

Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, so a story written in her style and even featuring the inimitable lady herself seems appropriate. Written by Jo Beverly, Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss features some very familiar themes.

A widow loses her home and livelihood when her husband dies without a son and heir. The impoverished Elinor and her three daughters move to a cottage on the estate of the handsome Sir Nicholas, a distant coverage of her late husband. The lovely Amy, her eldest daughter, seems to have set her sights on Sir Nicholas, and while Elinor thinks such a match is far-fetched, she comes to believe that maybe, just maybe a miracle could happen.

The ladies set out to find some mistletoe and meet Jane Austen on the road. She encourages the mission and reminds Elinor that she believes in magical romance. Elinor most assuredly does not. Instead, she thinks,Reality was foolish husbands, inadequate jointures, and daughters with a bleak future.”

In the orchard, they are surprised by Sir Nicholas himself and his younger brother, Captain Danvers.

I’ll let you guess the ending or find the story at http://www.jobev.com/tc1816.html and read it for yourself.

Christmas is the time for miracles. Happy birthday, Jane.

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Nineteen

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Thursday, December 15, 2016

everything-christmas

A Tiny Miracle

“The Year of the Big Nothing” is what Bonnie Compton Hanson called the Christmas she turned thirteen. Things were hard on the farm and while they did have a tree, it was covered with homemade decorations and popcorn garland. The children wrapped their drawings to put underneath for each other. They had no money for anything else. Christmas dinner would be pinto bean soup and cornbread with home-canned pickles. In “The Tiniest Miracle,” Bonnie writes that she prayed for a miracle.

“Please, dear God, I know it’s probably impossible, but could you please bring us some Christmas gifts this year? Or at least something wonderful to eat—You know, like in the old times before we got so poor?”

She was surprised the next morning to find a pile of packages beneath the tree. Her mother had sewn new dresses for the girls, shirts and pajamas for the boys and a cuddly rag doll for little Paula. Her dad made a toy truck out of lumber scraps for the youngest boy. Even the stockings were stuffed full of the nuts and apples the children themselves had collected in the fall.

Later in the day her uncles arrived with a trunk full of food, candy and shiny new toys for the little ones. The older girls received clothes and costume jewelry, hand-me-downs but new to them.

The dinner table boasted fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-canned corn and pickles, lemon meringue pie, plus bean soup and cornbread and coleslaw.

No, the presents weren’t the ones they had dreamed of, but they were enough.

Sometimes all it takes to see a miracle is a tiny shift in perspective.

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Eighteen

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2016 at 3:45 pm


sherlock

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Sherlockian Christmas

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a Christmas story. The Adventure of the Blue Carbunkle has a goose, a gemstone, and a mystery, as well as Holmes’s unerring skills of deduction and Dr. Watson’s bumbling befuddlement. What else would you need for Christmas?

We have a theft, an innocent man arrested, and a case of mistaken (goose) identity. When Holmes cracks the case, he decides to show mercy because it is the season of forgiveness. Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Holmes.

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Seventeen

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


dogs

Dog is my Co-Pilot

Most of you know that I’m a cat person. I adore cats and plan to come back as one in my next life. I teeter on the brink of becoming a crazy cat lady. Nevertheless, today’s reading is about dogs.

The title actually says it all. It’s a children’s book by Ray Bradbury called, Dogs Think That Every Day is Christmas.

“They lap it with their necktie tongues,

Devour it with wide, bright eyes that say, “Look at that weather! Try it on! Just my size.”

They lean out car windows like drunks at bars, snuffing gin, while drivers in the same cars, running, lose, they win!

They mark each tree in passing just to let the world know “I was here. Do you see? I was here!”

From the start of the glorious season

To the end of a marvelous year.

All smiles, with a guidon-staff tail wag

They silently shout, “Gee whiz!”

Because dogs wake each day to Christmas.

And, matter of fact, I’ll be damned,

It is!”

So hug your dogs tonight and wish them a Merry Christmas. Listen closely to what they have to say.

My Literary Advent Calendar, Day Sixteen

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2016 at 3:06 pm

yesvirginia

Monday, December 12, 2016

Yes, Virginia

In 1897 an eight year old girl wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus. The response became history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”

Yes, Santa embodies some of the magic of Christmas, but there comes a time in every child’s life when Santa is exposed. One Mom described a way to turn the child him or herself into Santa.

The writer takes the little one out for “coffee” and tells them, “You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too.” After pointing out two or three examples of the child’s recent good deeds, the “truth” is revealed:

Your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus. You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.”

Mom then gives the child a task—to choose someone and secretly find out something that person needs, provide it, wrap and deliver it and never reveal where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.”

What a wonderful way to keep Santa alive.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa. You.