Sunday, December 31, 2017

The clock chimes

The clock chimes and suddenly it is 2018. 2018! Two years away from 2020! The clock chimes.

Many of us are struggling with health issues and losses in our families. We want to leave difficult times behind and step into something all brand new. But the chime of the clock means nothing more than stepping from one day to the next. I vote that we make that step worth something.

On Neff Road, I learned to always think of others. I sit here writing feeling as ill as the rest of my family. (Sweet Emma gave us all something for Christmas.) As I sit here trying to recover, I think of all the times my parents struggled going into a new year. Yet, they had hope. A new year brought a miracle drug to my sister with rheumatic fever. New years brought grandbabies into the family. New years were a time of hope for better crops. There was much to leave behind. Hope was that none of it would flow past that chime of the clock. Yet sometimes it did.

A clock chimes and in New York's Time Square a ball drops. In neighborhoods, fireworks are shot off and pans banged. Often there is a kiss for the new year and a bottle of champagne. But we only go from one day to the next. What differences will there be in that step into the new year?

Well, we are the difference. In our families, in our neighborhoods, in our world. To me, the clock chimes a call for all of us to do what we can to make the new year different and better. A time to leave your mark be it ever so small or ever so large. Indeed it is a call for action.

2018 is upon us. I sit here feeling lousy and not at all excited about banging a pan. In fact, I would really prefer no one bang a pan. I write this on Sunday, New Year's Eve. Right now I pray for a stuffless nose and a new box of kleenex. However, this time of isolation has opened my mind to new ideas and new hopes for this upcoming year. You are my hope for the future. Happy New Year, dear friends. Happy new adventures. The clock chimes.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

We are the New Year

Santa's suit is at the cleaners and the elves are taking a very long nap. The reindeer lost a bit of weight on that nightly trek and children are coming off a present high and sugar overload. The recycle bin is a little fuller this week. All of that time spent shopping and wrapping is over in less than a couple of hours. That stack of gifts looks much smaller once they are opened. The bows are piled high and boxes collapsed. All of that wonderful food was either eaten or became cherished leftovers. Sales in stores are starting. Stores hoping to recuperate their losses. Yes, that one time of the year has come and gone. What now? Diet? Self improvement? Organized? Fuller life? Financial success? Travel? Health?

What will the new year hold for me? What about you? Never have I made a resolution. With all the surprises life brings, it seems nonsensical to make changes by mere resolution. Those pounds I put on over the holidays will be great if a famine strikes. I work on improving myself every day so with that in place, I can just move on doing the same. Also, I could promise to live life to the fullest, but, again, I feel that I do that with great gusto. I would like to be healthier this year. Last year was a little frayed around the edges. Some like to get more organized in the coming year, but I find comfort in chaos. Maybe I should work on improving my financial status. Perhaps I will play the lottery. I would like to travel more. Going back to Neff Road seems to be a pretty good resolution. I think I can keep that one.

We go through a great deal of activity over Christmas and New Years. Laughter seems to be more plentiful, and, by the same token, with little, overzealous ones, the tempers can be tried. We leave the old enjoying the new. Those dreams of sugarplums turn into hope for a peaceful future. For a couple of days, we embrace one another and enjoy blessings we are given. Then a few days later we are wondering what 2018 has in store.

On Neff Road, we played in the snow oblivious to the year ahead. The crops depended on good weather and the market. The year of planting, hoeing, reaping would tell if a few more presents would be beneath the tree in December. The days in the tobacco shed were over and thoughts turned to seedlings and the big steam engine that would rumble down Neff Road when the weather warmed. Crops would own our lives when spring came, so for awhile, we hibernated and enjoyed the winter.

Yes, we have ended the festivities of Christmas but hold the memories of moments near and dear. That is what the new year is all about, resolving to love more deeply, to be kinder, to keep hope alive and to embrace those who need our help. We are the new year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Turn on the Love

Today I am sharing my post on A Grandparent's Voice. Please read my Christmas message at www.agrandparentsvoice.com.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pac Man Christmas

It was a craft packet of eighty ornaments that seemed to call my name after the holidays lastyear...and it was half price. Last year's adventure wi th handing out ornaments may not seem quite as exciting this year. The twins were only four. What would this look like at five? So I asked. Emma asked if we could go to the place where 'that lady was'.  I knew exactly where she meant. Last year, if you remember, Emma gave a handmade ornament to a lady sitting alone on a bench at the mall. We had continued through the mall when this same woman caught up with us. She told us that she had been looking for us to thank us. With tears streaming down her face, she told us that she had been feeling lonely. She had no one and felt no joy in her life. Emma gave more than a gift to a stranger. She gave little girl eyes looking into a hurting heart. She gave love.

So this year Loren joined us in creating a basket full of new ornaments. Emma went for quantity, slapping sticky pieces onto the foam ornaments. Nolan loved the little ornament toppers that resembled Pac Man ghosts. The receiver will have no idea what they are, but Nolan set loose his own creativity, and it was just right. Our first stop was one of the fire houses we plan to visit on our Christmas giveaway this year. Instead of giving only one to a fireman, the kids each handed out one, thus they were disappearing two at a time.  But as Nolan informed me, we can always make more. Instead of the timidity they experienced last year, they were all about the task at hand. As always, the firemen made them feel important profusely thanking them for their efforts (probably chuckling at the little Pac Man ghosts on their trees).

We didn't have much back that lane on Neff Road, but I don't think we realized it when Christmas came around. Our house was always open to the alone and lonely, travelers and visitors, old friends and new friends. They gave the gift of love to everyone they met. It was part of who they were.  Sometimes we missed not having the holiday for just our family, but in retrospect, I understand the gift Ruth and Willard gave to their children. They gave us open arms to show love, respect, warmth and most of all acceptance to everyone we met. They definitely had trouble receiving, knowing only how to give. We knew that when we came home, we would be blessed by seeing the faces that knew us as children. Welcoming arms embraced us every time the back door opened.

There is no money needed to give warmth to a cold heart, to dry tears and bring joy. As Emma found, we are paid back in full by the bits of love we can hand to a stranger, a friend, a fireman, a loved one. We are the gifts of the holiday season. Gifts we can give freely. Our little decorations might not seem like much, but they touch the hearts of those who receive them and teach two small children the joy of giving. Be a blessing to someone this holiday season, a gift to both the giver and receiver.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

That paisley time of year

There was a mystical room in our house back that lane on Neff Road. June and I often talk about it. At the top of the stairway was a very small room. In it Dad had configured pipes to create a rack on which to hang clothing. Across from the rack was a large bin containing one small section and one that was larger. Dress up clothing was in the small part and blankets were in the larger one. Our shoes were placed in a row on the top of the bins. Next to that was a wardrobe containing hats on the top shelf. Sheets on the middle shelf. Gloves and all sorts of odds and ends were on the bottom shelf. Dad and Mom's shoes filled the bottom of the wardrobe. It was a room that reflected days of poverty and those years that were more prosperous. The clothing grew in size along with the girls who wore it. So why was this room so special?

My mother loved paisley. Almost every blouse she owned was of a paisley designed fabric.When  Mom and Aunt Welma Johnson were wallpapering barren wall, they tackled the closet. On the last day I walked through that precious house, I stood in that closet of red paisley wallpaper and thought of the memories stored there. One reason this closet was so special was the big box hidden beneath the clothing in the back corner of that closet. Sometimes I would crawl back there just to make sure that big box was still in place.

It was this time of the year when Dad carried that huge box downstairs. It was a box of Christmas miracles. Each piece would be lifted from the box and placed where we could see it. Bubble lights, glass balls, an angel with spun glass hair, small figures that would dance on a mirror and memories galore. It was always so wonderful to find familiar items that took us all back in time. They were like old friends come home again.

Another item in that paisley room was a full-length mirror. I watched my older sisters apply make up in that mirror before leaving the house. Brenda and I paraded our dress-up clothes in front of that mirror. And, later I would stand before it checking out my own make up and take a last look at my wedding dress.

I never walked into that room that I was not surrounded by the presence of Mom and Dad. Dad stood at that mirror to tie his ties. Mom hounded her daughters to get ready for church. And on special days, Mom would get down the hats from the top shelf for her girls to wear or a furry muff for her youngests hands. It was a closet that held the essence of my family. A little paisley room.

When I step back through that mirror, I am surrounded by holiday laughter. Dad carrying that box in the corner, while Mom pounded out carols on the piano. The Loxley family paraded across that mirror and sealed their essence there forever. As I open my own box of Christmas delights, I am once again standing in that little room, watching Dad lift that box once more. It is that paisley time of year.