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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I have thought over my resolutions with great care, and after hours of meditation, life analysis and the mirror, I've decided on the following:

10.  I will not eat chicken wings, spare ribs, pizza or anything red while watching Bones

  9.  I will eat more fresh foods and get off this fast food kick. Is Panera really fast food?

  8.  I will walk an extra mile every day

  7.  I will start walking every day

  6.  I will start walking

  5.  I will not eat chicken wings, spare ribs, pizza or anything red while watching Bones

  4.  I will get my hair trimmed more often

  3.  I will work diligently to maintain my present weight

  2.  I will not beat myself up so much during life analysis

  1.  I will not eat chicken wings, spare ribs, pizza or anything red while watching Bones

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Last Snowfall

I awoke early, as was my habit on Christmas Day.  There was a lot to do to make sure that this Christmas, like those preceding it, would be special to all involved.  There was coffee to make, breakfast to prepare, the opening of gifts and the pillaging of Christmas stockings awaiting us before preparations for the evening’s open house could begin.

I tiptoed downstairs and then stopped.   The aroma of fresh coffee drifted up the stairs, tempting me to proceed.  Of course, I thought to myself, Jo-Ann is here and has already begun the day.  I gratefully completed my decent of the stairs, following my nose as it were, walked to the breakfast counter and poured myself a cup of fragrant coffee.  

Jo-Ann had been blessing our house with her presence during Christmas for five years.  An only child, she was bereft of relatives, and had nowhere to go on this special day.  We were her family now, and welcomed her every holiday.

I met Jo-Ann when I bought the end unit of a four-condominium building.  Mine was the last to sell and I felt lucky in finding the 90-year-old solid brick dwelling.  Jo-Ann owned the other end unit and we became fast friends.  She became my mentor, my friend, the big sister I never had.  I soon began to realize that my luck did not lay in just mortar and brick, but in the 5’8” lanky body of an eccentric, colorful, loving person by the name of Jo-Ann.  She was always on my side, even when I was wrong.  Believe me, when I was wrong, she let me know, but she was on my side, and that is what counted.

Our friendship became very important to me and I came to love her as if she were my own, true sister.  I enjoyed living close to her for eight years until, in 1987, she preceded me down the isle as my Matron of Honor.

Enjoying my memories, I took a sip of my coffee and cast a smile to Jo-Ann. I walked to where she stood, gazing out of our sliding doors on to the lake as if mesmerized. “Look,” she whispered.

I turned.  A soft snow was falling.  Large, fluffy flakes floated to the ground as a pink dawn broke upon our picturesque lake.  Currier and Ives came to mind as I stood beside my friend and lost myself in the wonder of a beautiful Christmas Day snowfall.  Millions of diamonds sparkled upon frozen water, fir trees, sloping roofs and undulating lawns.  The snow was unmarked.  No foot, or paw, or webbed claw had marred its shimmering surface.  It was breath taking.

My soul sighed with contentment.  I cupped the warm mug of coffee in my hands and leaned into my friend.  She reciprocated with a supporting stance as we stood, side-by-side, and enjoyed God’s special show.  Something inside of me cautioned, “Mark this moment.  Remember this.  Never forget.”  I heard my inner voice, or was it my guardian angel, and impressed upon my mind every detail.  Like a scrap booker carefully laying out a special page, I marked the moment.  I savored it, and filed it away under “never forget this.”

I felt the fifteen years of love and camaraderie that we shared between us.  Remembered her delight in teaching me how to cook, her joy when my sweet son was placed in my arms.  I remembered her demand to be called “Auntie Jo” and not “Aunt Jo-Ann.”  “I’m an auntie,” she said, “not an aaaaaaunt” drawing out the flat a of the word.  She was, as my husband said, “a piece of work” and I loved her dearly.

We stood, leaning in to each other, watching the magical show of a dawn-kissed snowfall until, finally, we left the window reluctantly.  But, the beauty of the snowfall remained with us throughout the day.  Jo-Ann made breakfast – Eggs Benedict – and helped me with the post-frantic-joyous opening of presents. That done, she helped me with the preparation of the hors d’oeuvres for the coming open house.

We laughed, we sang, we cooked and we cleaned, and when the day was over, I drove her home in a snow encased post-card-like scene of red and green stop lights, glistening snow banks and the muffled streets sounds heard only when a blanket of snow has covered a city.

Jo-Ann would not join us the following Christmas.  She would pass away, holding my hand, the August before.  As I watched her drift into eternal life, I remembered our last, magical Christmas and whispered into her ear, “Remember, Jo-Ann, when I join you, we’ll watch the snowfall.”

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The First Snowfall

Crisp, clean and white, a veil of liquid crystal falls during the night.  Noses pressed against cold windowpanes, we watch, our breaths clouding the glass, and sigh with wonder:  God is showing off.

A snowy landscape unfolds.  Hill and valley glisten, as if so many stars fallen from heaven, spread upon the frozen ground in an iridescent blanket of celestial, sparkling light.

Scrambling into coats and boots, we plunge into the cold, wet and fluffy clouds of snow.  Free falling into a cushion of shimmering, wet, pillows, we fan our arms and legs.  Snow angels decorate the lawn.

Pushing, rolling, we build a snowman: coal for eyes, a carrot for a nose, Dad’s old fishing hat and a scarf from Grandpa.  Hello, Sir, we carol, and bow with respect to our new friend.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful.” Not to us.  The world has become quiet.  Glistening, diamond-like, the snow muffles sound.  Ahhh, Silent Night.

Twirling, twirling, face toward heaven – catching a snowflake on the tongue.  A gourmet treat sent from God.

Cheeks red from the cold; it feels good, so good.  A mist forms as we speak.  Clapping hands to keep them warm, laughing as we gather around a bonfire.  Hot chocolate, warm and rich, sipped with gratitude.  This is the life!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Our neighbor spread straw on his lawn today so that the ducks and geese will not eat his newly sown grass seed.  A rain-filled breeze swept my way and with it came sweet-scented memories.

The Farm: where a child could be a child.  My grandparents:  Momaw and Popaw, sturdy legs planted on the land, strong arms, shielding a child from hunger, from danger.

Straw....I remember the front porch with rocking chairs creaking and Popaw singing.

“Amazing Grace”

I remember a canopy of stars above and below, lightning bugs sparkling on the hill, iced tea, pie. I lean against my grandfather’s legs.  A calloused finger stretches forth, pointing to the ancient Hopewell Indian earthworks on the hill directly across from ours.  “That there is Serpent Mound,” he says.  “You’ve got kin buried there.”  He lights his pipe.

I crawl into his lap and snuggle.  His chest is bony.  He works too hard to put on fat.  He pulls out his harmonica and plays.

“Amazing Grace”

Straw....I remember the barn.

Fragrant hay and chubby kittens; soft, roly poly balls of purring fur; sweet babies.  The hayloft: my domain where “Nancy Drew” is devoured as quickly as my grandmother’s biscuits.

Warm teats in the palms of my hands, the metallic sheeeeeesh sheeeeeesh of warm, rich milk as it hits the side of the bucket, my cheek against warm, contented cow.  Here you go! A cat catches a well aimed stream and looks satisfied.

Bucket fed calves, their noses knocking against the metal pail. Soft noses, nuzzling for more, their sandpaper tongues searching for every drop.  Squawking chickens gently lifted from straw filled nests; eggs are gathered for breakfast.

Straw....I remember Momaw’s kitchen. 

Here is food: yeast rolls and fried chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, peas, summer salad, corn on the cob, noodles and fresh green beans.   Here is security and love.

Straw, I remember running wild at last I can be a child running through pastures and woods

There are grapevines to swing on and hills to climb.  I walk with the cows.  I carry a stick.  It’s handy to scratch a bovine’s hard to reach itch.

Sun drenched rocks on which to dream.  “Wolf Run”: a clear running stream gorgeous with its blue, clay walls.  I stop and eat my lunch of thick ham sandwiches with homemade bread, Momaw’s cured ham, preserved pickles and secret recipe spread.  I drink from the stream.  It’s cold and delicious.  Crawdads dart by.  I laugh and raise my face to the sun.

Straw....I remember the “Joke Tree.”

My cousins come “a visitin’of the weekends.”  We dart from the house and run to the pig pen over which the aged tree reigns.  Up her trunk we scramble and clamber over thick, leaf filled limbs.  “What did the mayonnaise say to the refrigerator?  Shut the door, I’m dressing!”  Exaggerated laughs. We swing from the limbs and dare each other to jump and miss the slop trough.

Straw....I remember the smell of straw and cows and manure. 

I remember the smell of pipe smoke and hay lofts, rich milk and good food.  I remember the smell of sunshine and laughter.  I remember the smell of love.

"Amazing Grace."

Excerpt from Son of My Soul - The Adoption of Christopher
©Debra Shiveley Welch 6/17/05