I have written this series of “12 Days of Christmas Blogs” for several years now, but I have a confession. Honestly, I’m worried. What if I’m all out of Christmas stories? The major moments of Christmas past, it seems, I’ve already penned. Before a panic attack sets in, I force myself to sit still for a while and try to calm my mind.
When I do, I find there are moments of inspiration floating by all around me. I simply need to take the time to notice and look a little deeper…
In the publishing world it is Tuesday, but in real time, it is the previous Saturday night. (I like to get a head start on these blogs before I get behind.) I am curled up on the old sofa in our little art studio- “Perry’s”Studio- it is more aptly named, as there is precious little of “me” in this space. Perry’s studio is filled with all the things he loves: colorful metal signs, old jars and handcrafted boxes, interesting things he’s found at tag sales and flea markets, and me, perhaps. Inside, it’s as warm and cozy as a cinnamon roll. The heck with LED lights and Hallmark, there’s a candle burning on the desk where he sits pasting together homemade Christmas cards. On a nearby table, a kerosene lamp, illuminates the other corner of the room with its neat slit of light. Beyond the confines of the studio, it is 2016, but in Perry’s world, it’s more like 1926. A CD is playing which I rather like, called Christmas on the Range. It is a collection of vintage Christmas carols, sang cowboy style, with my favorite- “Rootin’ Tootin Sandy Clause” – playing on the CD equivalent of what used to be a turntable. My running joke with Perry is that he only listens to dead people’s music and tonight, he does not disappoint.
To lure me into staying out here, my husband has procured a bottle of Peach Brandy. I briefly wonder what else he has out here. He pours me a drink in a vintage 1920’s stemmed shot glass from the bar of our old friend, Al Thomy. Al passed away several years ago, and his family was kind enough to give us a few mementos of which to remember him by.
As if we could forget…
It’s been a difficult day, a day spent at the hospital for a family member who is in a bad place personally but in the best possible place, considering the alternatives. I need to remember to be thankful for that and hand the rest, along with my worries, over to God.
No one wants to spend Christmas in a hospital, but if you must, you appreciate the little kindnesses and the extra touches that give these generic spaces personalization and a sense of peace and joy. There are many folks with loved ones who are sick this Christmas and I am so thankful for our doctors and nurses, EMS workers, the policemen, fireman, ambulance drivers, the folks running the cafeteria and answering the phone… all these folks who help keep our emergency systems operational and among the best in the world.
Done with card-making, Christmas on the Range comes to a screeching stop. He sets up an old television set- one with a built-in DVD player- on a shaky little table about 5 feet away from me, near the closest, accesible electrical outlet. The television screen is about 6” wide and I cannot quite make out the figures. Perry is unfazed regarding the less- than- steller screen quality or the tinny sound. He inserts into the tray one of his favorite Christmas DVD’s, The Angel Doll, by NC author and actor Jerry Bledsoe.
I remember meeting Jerry last year at an event for O.Henry Magazine. That’s a photo of us above with me grinnin’ like a Cheshire Cat. In addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, Jerry once worked for the Greensboro News & Record, as did our friend Al Thomy. I am certain the two of them were probably acquaintances, if not friends. As Perry and I chatted with Jerry that evening, we learned that Jerry’s wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the hospital near our house. We talked about the Christmas lights on our street and about how folks like to drive through this area in the evenings on their way home from the hospital. We also talked about his book (and subsequent movie) The Angel Doll, which Perry showed to his high school students at Christmastime, before his retirement, just a few years back. Jerry told us an interesting story- that he had received a letter from a family who had written to him, saying that they had followed the tradition of The Angel Doll for many years since losing a loved one. Jerry wanted to help, to spread the joy despite the difficult situation he faced within his own family with his wife’s sickness. Jerry had connected with the family’s story and planned to join them for Christmas Dinner.
Remembering, I wonder about Jerry’s wife and her breast cancer. I hope she’s doing alright…
In the quiet of Perry’s studio, I am, for the moment at least, at home. Life moves us in that circle, health and sickness, life and death, joy and sadness, from yesterday to today and on to tomorrow. The magical moments, which are the very heart of Christmastime, are there after all, scattered in the air like pixie dust- so tiny that you’d miss them if you blink. I take a deep breath, inhaling air, heady with kerosene and cinnamon, and focus my sights, past the lantern and the old collectibles before me and on to a place, just a little deeper…
December 13, 2016 at 7:42 am
xxx MERRY CHRISTMAS from COLD Minnesota.
December 13, 2016 at 1:49 pm
Jerry Bledsoe’s got nothing on you, Susan! This piece is so warm, reflective, and beautiful. Thanks for sharing!