Monthly Archives: December 2019

Each Little Ornament


Aunt Emma’s snowflakes, like real God-made snowflakes, are always different.

The Christmas tree glows displaying precious ornaments but how often do you stop to consider them? When you dressed the tree you may have paused in memory over the little angels and bells and you will handle the fragile treasures again when you take them off  to put them away. But how about sitting down by your tree in between your busy baking, shopping, and gift wrapping just to enjoy those ornaments that spend eleven months a year in your attic?

On my tree there is always a bird’s nest perched on a branch with a red cardinal sitting snugly in it. It was the first ornament I purchased for our very own Christmas tree in December 1969. (Prior to that our tree had been a large decorated pine cone in our Athens student apartment.) Now the bird is faded and the nest of straw is tousled after fifty years of finding a place on our Christmas trees. But I sigh with contentment as I remember the fun of ordering it from Spencer’s catalog and then pulling it with delight from its cute little box. Those were simpler times! That cardinal has been joined over the years by several others who perch here and there on green boughs. One cardinal was crafted of felt by my imaginative aunt Emma.

Aunt Emma was a very skilled Christmas decoration artist. She crocheted bells, all kinds of door hangers, and created charming ornaments using felt, bits of thread and buttons. Her creations were popular in north Georgia gift shops. Gradually I collected several of her treasures. Every year now I hang two bright red felt apples in the tree along with the red cardinal she made. One of my favorite of her decorations is a green crocheted door hanger with three sets of merry red bells that jingle every time the door is opened. But best of all are Aunt Emma’s finely crocheted white bells and snowflakes. Amazingly, the snowflakes, though not quite as white as they used to be, are still as crisply starched as when Aunt Emma made them.

One year a good friend, Jackie Joyner, and her daughter, Stephanie, gave us a dozen glass bead wreaths they had made. They are about three inches across, beautifully crafted in vivid red, green and white, and so merry. I always think of those friends as I carefully choose a branch where each wreath can hang.


The White House ornament reminds us to pray for our president and our country.

Then there are the candy canes I made under the instruction of my dear neighbor, Judy Rawlins. They’re made of macramé twine and garden wire, I think. I remember the fun day at our church when several of us girls (and we really were just girls then!) enjoyed a Christmas crafting party. I can hear our laughter and smell the hot Russian tea. There’s a wooden teddy bear ornament from a Sunday school student who’s all grown up now, framed picture ornaments of all our grandchildren, brass colored musical instruments I bought one year when our son was in the band–these all make Christmases past come alive. Oh, and there are the souvenirs–a tiny replica of the White House, Ann Hathaway’s cottage from England, a Hawaiian surfboard, a redwood tree and a cable car from California and a tiny blue windmill from Holland, Michigan.

Maybe you, as I do, have one ornament you simply must have on your tree, maybe a salt dough bell with your child’s thumbprint still on it, or a fragile carefully preserved angel made from a toilet tissue holder. One of my absolute “musts” is a two-inch wooden nativity scene purchased in Savannah.

The three of us–Charles, our six-year-old son, William, and I–had traveled to Savannah to meet for the first time a little girl named Julie who would soon be part of our family. We played with her that afternoon in a park but then had to leave her with her caseworker until the next day. William did not understand at all why his new sister couldn’t just go with us right then. Hadn’t we waited long enough? To console him (and ourselves!) we went down to the riverfront, ate at the Boar’s Head or some fun place, and browsed the shops. Aside from watching taffy makers at work, and eating ice cream, we found this tiny nativity scene ornament and purchased it to commemorate that special time. On the bottom I penciled “Savannah 1975” just in case we forgot!

Amidst all the wonderful busy blur of Christmas activities, stop at least one minute and relish the beauty and meaning of your Christmas tree and its many ornaments, whether bought or handmade. Then bake those sugar cookies, wrap that final present, and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas now!”


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December Blossoms


Sasanqua blossoms brighten our December

We expect poinsettias in the winter. Their bright red leaves we call blossoms are part of the Christmas scene and we treasure them. But I’m always surprised and amazed by the many other flowers that bloom “in the dead of winter” here in south Georgia. They seem to flourish when the days grow shorter and dreary clouds descend. This year they seem even brighter and more abundant.

Sasanqua trees are the prettiest I’ve ever seen them. White blossoms shine amongst dark shiny leaves. Those trees are a beautiful shape with twisting limbs that have been greatly enjoyed by our little climbers. We also have a sasanqua with pink blooms. Both trees drop carpets of blooms under their shade like flower girls sprinkling rose petals for a bride. I see these sasanquas all around brightening our winter days. By the way, the sasanquas are often used for grafting camellias and are sometimes called sasanqua camellias.


Yellow jasmine vine on our mailbox pine tree.

Yellow jasmine blooms smile from a vine hugging our mailbox tree. The vine has bloomed off and on all year and here in mid-December it is flourishing again totally unaware that it might get frostbitten.

Roses are subdued but still blooming. The sight of a row of knockout roses blooming in front of our Christmas-decorated house makes me smile. The roses have not been told by sun, wind, or temperature that they might need to pull their heads in for a few weeks and take a nap.

Lantana makes a bright yellow corner around the quiet butterfly house. I would say the butterfly house is obeying winter’s threat that inmates should hibernate. But butterflies, even when warmed by September sunshine, don’t like our little slim-windowed butterfly house. They hover over the lantana but I’ve never seen one enter the house.


Yesterday-today-tomorrow bush with one winter bloom!

The most interesting bloom in the yard, though, is that of the yesterday-today-tomorrow bush. All spring, all summer, through September, October, and November I’ve looked for any sign of bud or bloom and been disappointed. This little bush claims to be a summer bloomer. Last year it displayed for months its beautiful blue flowers that change to darker blue, then purple earning its name “yesterday-today-tomorrow.” But after all the warm sunny days when it could have bloomed, now, in the middle of December, this little bush puts forth one very small blossom. It’s almost as if it’s saying, “I’m sorry. I’ll do better next year.”

Amanda and I went Christmas shopping yesterday in Tallahassee, a wonderful fun day. As we drove down we exclaimed over the marvelous display of wildflowers in the highway’s median. Colors of pink and lavender and white blanketed a nice long stretch. You would have thought it was spring!

Though we seldom, very seldom, see snow in Cairo, we enjoy the beauty of December blossoms. In case I don’t get another blog out before then, Merry Christmas from the blooming south!

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One Starry Night


Following is an excerpt from “Christmas Carols in my Heart,” my new Christmas book just out this fall.

I love stories. The words “Once upon a time…” make my ears perk up. This song (“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”) begins like a story: “It came upon the midnight clear…”

Who knows whether the setting was really midnight, but it could have been! When I was nine years old, I wasn’t worried about theology or philosophy–I simply absorbed the story and enjoyed singing the words that etched themselves into my heart for later perusal. The real night referenced in the song very well could have been a night like the one when I, along with several of my brothers and sisters, took a very special Christmas Eve walk.

My two playmate brothers (the other three had already left home by then) had been building a small house in our woods that fall of 1951. They had allowed five-year-old Suzanne and me to help…up to a point. As soon as the house was “dried in” and ready to be enjoyed, they put us out. We were forced to find our own amusement. Hopeful that the hammering and sawing we heard might mean the boys were making us a present, we tried to think of something we could give them in turn. Mamma helped us hem handkerchiefs after we gave up on our efforts at pottery and aircraft construction.

Christmas Eve finally, finally, arrived. Mamma and Daddy banned us from the Hall (main room at Stone Gables with living area on one end, dining on the other) about five o’clock that afternoon so they could bring in the Christmas tree and decorate it. We could hear swishing and sliding as they wangled the tree in and Daddy instructed Mamma, “All right, now, up she goes.” Mamma then apparently eyed the tree’s straightness and replied, “No, to the right, little to the left, there–that’s good. Here’s the string. Catch!” We knew Daddy was tying the tree to the balcony rail.

Even the oldest girls, Pat and Ginger, home from college, were not to see the tree until the candles were all lit and Daddu blew the trumpet. Instead, they were in charge of feeding the rest of us supper. But no one was hungry except Stan, who was never full.

Suddenly, instead of prodding us to eat our bread and milk, Pat put on her big coat, fluffing her hair out over the collar. She grabbed coats for Suzanne and me too. Everyone else started moving and preparing themselves in turn. Somehow, Suzanne and I seemed to be the only ones who didn’t know what we were doing.

“Oh, Suzanne, where are your mittens?” asked Ginger.

“They’re in my coat pocket,” I said. “Suzanne’s coat doesn’t have pockets. Anyway, our mittens are so full of holes our fingers are sticking out.”

“Well, that’s a good thing,” said Pat, helping Ginger fit them on us. “If it weren’t for the holes they’d be too little. Hmmm…too bad you two don’t have new mittens. That’s a shame.” She sounded as if she was telling a joke, but I wasn’t getting it.

It was a moonlit night with a dome of stars overhead. The sky was so clear it felt almost as if the lights above were pulling my eyes right out of my head. Someone started singing “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” as we trailed down Sunny Lawn, across Sand Flat, and crunched in the frozen ruts of an old road that wound around Tulip Hill. I could almost imagine one of those angels appearing in our path and “bending near,” especially when Pat said in a hushed voice, “There! Do you see that one bright star?” We followed her pointing finger and, sure enough, the brightest star actually did have a shining longer tail like the stars featured on Christmas cards.

Suzanne and I were so intent on studying the stars that we didn’t notice Stan, Charlie, and Jackie running on ahead, leaving us far behind. The cold crept into my holey mittens and I fisted my hands to warm them. It had gotten pretty dark in the deeper woods, and I stayed close by Pat’s side, glad when she took one of my hands in hers. At least that one could be warm. Then, in the most startling voice, Ginger said, “Halt! Look through the trees! What is that?”

For the tiniest second, I thought, The angel has come down! Then I took a deep breath of cold air and realized the light before me, like a tiny pinpoint through the trees, was coming from exactly where that little house was–the one from which Suzanne and I had been exiled weeks before. I let go of Pat’s hand and, suddenly fearless, dashed ahead.

The Little House, as we began to call it, had been furnished and decorated by Jackie and our brothers. It was the most fantastic playhouse anyone could have imagined. There was wallpaper, a stove, a quilted doll-sized bed, and a window adorned with curtains above a sill on which a candle gleamed. Fifty years later, I remember the pounding excitement in my chest when I took it all in. The Little House was a gift of love that would last long after the walls caved in and the shingles disintegrated.

It was time to hurry back to our home, Stone Gables, and line up for the Christmas tree. I can still taste the piece of hard candy I ate, feel the warmth of  my new mittens, and smell the tantalizing scent of my brand-new book.


Christmas Carols in my Heart is available at Barnes and Noble, and, locally, at Center Drugs, Miss Myrt’s, Rayann’s, and the Bookshelf. I’m also going to have a table at Mistletoe Market, downtown Cairo, on Saturday and will be hosted at a tea at Roddenbery Memorial Library, December 12, 4:00-6:00. I would love to have a chat with you!

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