Thanks for being in my flurry

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

How amazing is this? You and I having a few quiet moments on Christmas morning to hang out in the comfort of our pajamas with a hot steaming beverage of choice in hand . . . and I bet you didn’t know I’m not a coffee drinker.  

I’m hopped up enough without throwing caffeine in on the mix, so it will be decaf green tea for me.  But please enjoy whatever you like steaming in your cup and sit with me for a few minutes because I have something for you.

 Go ahead, open it, the anticipation has been killing me.

Don’t look so puzzled. Yes, it’s a snowflake. Sparkly and eye-catching, just like you. I’m hoping you’ll remember how special you are every time you look at it.

We don’t get to see much of the real thing here in these parts, but I love them just the same.

One of my most treasured childhood memories comes from when little snow flurries came down one year when I was in elementary school – first or second grade. For the life of me I can’t remember which it was or which teacher was so brilliant, but she quickly (knew it wouldn’t last long) lined us up at the door, passed out black construction paper and magnifying glasses and cut us loose within the vast confines of the playground.

It was pure magic to my little mind, and I never forgot the many examples of one-of-a-kind beauty I saw that day. Never mind the minor miracle it was seeing snow in Seabrook, Texas.

I verified that it is true no two snowflakes are the same. Ever. It gets into some pretty extreme physics that you know I studied and understood solely for your benefit (the sacrifices I make), but I’ll spare you the technicalities. I can, however, guarantee that if you want to take a little scientific jaunt on your own, seeing the science behind this cool phenomenon takes nothing away—only makes it more wondrous.

So, the snowflake from me to you is my symbolic gesture of how special you are to me and how I truly treasure the unique friendship we’ve formed here in my little corner of the newspaper. Thank you for being you and for putting up with me being me.

Some of you e-mail, some call, and others have even enlisted the services of the United States Postal Service to get in touch and let me know you enjoyed (or not) my harebrained ramblings.

Then there are those who eye me suspiciously around town, not quite sure why I look familiar. The brave ones (even though I’ve mentioned being quite docile-looking) approach, and I’m always glad they did.  

And I’m sure there are plenty who I’ve never had the pleasure of knowing at all. I have snowflakes for you, too.

Thank you for your encouragement and kind words, but most of all thank you for your friendship. I’m honored to have such a beautiful flurry floating around me. Merry Christmas!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

‘Twas the week before Christmas

Author: admin  //  Category: Holidays

Tinkering with this old classic and sharing it with you has sort of become an annual holiday ritual. So enjoy as you make final preparations for the big day. Somebody wake me when it’s over, the mess is cleaned up, the decorations put away and everyone has completed their store returns. Thanks, you’re the best.

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the land preparations were being made, everything planned. The house was all decorated, gifts purchased and wrapped, the route to a fine feast perfectly mapped.

The children were excited school was finally out, parents were feeling unnerved and on the verge of a shout.  Pappa with his impatience and me near insane, how about a dose of Novocain?

Because throughout the house there’s all this noise, isn’t this time supposed to be full of joys? Away for some peace my mind tries to travel to a place where just maybe I won’t unravel.

The room in my head’s not quite far enough away, but it harbors sweet memories I like to replay. Then what to my hungering eyes should appear, but miniature teenagers, and wait, shiny good cheer.

With younger fresh parents, so alive and not boring, I knew in an instant this was worth not ignoring. More rapid than lightening the visions they came, how quickly it went, things never stay the same.

Now Grumpy! Now, Dopey! Now Sleepy and Hormonal! On Difficult! On, Belligerent! On Testy and Bemoanal! To the top of the stairs! To your room down the hall! Smash away! Crash away! Gnash away, all!

It was with dry eyes before the real craziness started that I couldn’t see how rapidly childhood parted. Flashes of the past came one after the other, back then I didn’t really understand being a mother.

And then through the chaos I heard a soft voice, “Gotta learn to roll with it, there’s no other choice.” As I drew in a breath and slowly turned around, down the stairs cherubs came looking profound.

They were dressed in their pajamas only without the feet, but the bigger clothes didn’t matter, seeing them together’s a treat. They had some gifts of their own to give, big smiles and “Thanks, Mom”. For this, I live.

My eyes how they watered! My soul how content! They knew all along of my good intent. My quivering mouth drew up in a smile, for we had all traveled many a bumpy mile.

Memories of years past lingered in my mind, how much of them had my actions defined? I did my very best and tried to do them right and so many times I stayed awake at night.

Lost in thought and being truly insightful, I realized life with imperfections is most delightful. Because with the blink of an eye it’s all said and done. Not one of us gets a trial run.

So I spoke not a word and got straight back to work, teaching cherubs how to deal with life’s little quirks. And laying my heart at the edge of my sleeve, I tried to prepare them for the one day they’d leave.

I sprang back to the present, opened my eyes to the light and looked forward to the target in sight. And I heard them whisper as they walked back up the stairs, “She will always be with us, she really does care.”

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

O Christmas tree!

Author: natalie  //  Category: Holidays

Last week I relayed how the exterior of The Whatley Estate was decked out for Christmas. Please know that Jeff enjoys the notoriety involved in my making his outdoor-decorating antics known. I think I’m one public, “so, you been fallin’ out of trees?” away from having myself and my belongings moved to the unlit storage shed in the backyard. Y’all were supposed to keep that tale a secret.

While I still have access to electricity, I’ll continue my holiday whining over the fact that I came to enjoy a minimalist approach to decking the halls, but was asked to step it back up a bit by a young man who sees his family Christmases as numbered. 

He even got to his little sister; we girls are such sentimental suckers. She was jazzed up and offering me all sorts of indoor help while the guys handled the dangerous outdoors.

“You get that fancy gold ribbon laced around the tree and I’ll do the rest,” beamed my sweet tinsel-mouthed angel, Erin.

With the whole clan in on the task, why the entire house would be aglow in no time and with less effort than I’d ever expended. Ah, the upside of not eating my young had finally been unwrapped.

Do I even have to mention the “ah” moment was fleeting? Of course I’m not going to eat them because I have seen a glimpse of what I’m told will become more frequent in the coming years, but the prospect is tempting.

About a third of the way through tree decorating, you-know-who grew weary of the task. She didn’t recall it taking so long. I reminded her that it didn’t when an entire enthusiastic family participated. She and I both stood for a moment and tried to remember when that last occurred. Neither of us could recall. Then she pronounced she was done.

In her own way, she had followed my “advice” (probably sounded more like instructions or a directive) on spreading the ornaments all over the tree. (I was trying to avoid that task of going-behind and moving ornaments like I had to do when they were all little and hung everything on the same lower branch.) One third of the tree was fully ornamented – the other two thirds barren. She was going to get to those before exhaustion set in.

I considered leaving it exactly as it was. In my older age I’m learning to embrace and admire unfinished imperfection and especially in things that in the grand scheme don’t mean a hoot.

I picked through ornaments and pulled out the ones that personify all the Christmases past – those made by tiny, unsteady hands during a time when the season was pure magic. Some were falling apart, so I fired up the glue gun, made repairs, and put them on the tree.

Days later, an about-to-move-me-to-the-shed Jeff took great delight in noting a rather large undecorated section of the tree.  It was my turn to have my methods and work critiqued. And lest I wanted to make that move on out to the shed, I had to confess to you folks how I had not risen to the occasion. (Mostly because I’m smart enough in my older age not to climb that high and risk having my ladder come out from under me.) I know, shame on me.

Decades of accumulated Christmas décor has been placed all about the interior and exterior of our dwelling. And guess what? Said young man is never home to see and/or enjoy it. Love is blind, but how did I not see that coming?

 O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, you’re sort-of unfinished, and that’s fine with me!

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Yule laugh, too!

Author: natalie  //  Category: Home sweet home

Here at the Whatley Estate, we’ve been decking the halls with boughs of holly because ‘tis the season to be jolly. Oh, what the heck, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! Wow. I sing so much more beautifully in print.

As you all know, I quite purposely became a slacker in the holiday-decorating regard after many years of going way overboard both inside and out. And it was without cheer in my heart that I spent weeks after the big day carefully packing and putting away.

Did my home’s occupants even notice how it all went up and then back down, or have a clue why I wore a frown? I thought not.

Two scaled-back, far-easier-on-me seasons passed and truth be told, I was fine with it. Pleased as holiday punch. Life in the new, less-is-more era was good.

BUT. You knew there was going to be a “but”, didn’t you? Parental guilt. It makes us do nostalgic and other insane things.

How were Jeff and I to refuse when faced with, “You know this could be one of my last Christmases at home.” (That same cherub used similar logic last spring break to score a week-long family trip to sunny Orlando, Florida. I think he just wanted to check out the Minnie Mice, but I digress.) Anyway, my spine slipped completely from my body.

So, out from the deep recesses of the Whatley Estate’s belly came boxes left undisturbed for nearly three years.

I did have some backbone and told darling cherubs and their daddy that I would not touch, or hang, a single strand of outdoor Christmas lights. Sounds harsh (bah humbug!), I know, but you must understand that Jeff can’t (finds it physically impossible) hang a few lights . . . more to the tune of about 10,000. You know I wouldn’t exaggerate.

I have awakened some nights to the sounds of hovering aircraft mistaking it all for a place to land. And then there’s the minor detail of not being able to run a hairdryer upstairs while the “display” is lit . . .  trips the breaker. Get the picture? 

My thinking was that if I left cherubs to put in the hard outdoor labor, they’d determine it was all too much work. Not for the first time, I was wrong. Guess who will not go outside and direct air traffic with wet hair?

For the most part I ignored my outdoor workers, refused to be sucked into that bit of madness I’d easily given up. Oblivion to non-working strings of lights, blown fuses, and the disposition of the individual tending to same is a beautiful thing.

 Wearing blinders, I’d occasionally step out and at least offer food and drink – wanted them to remain strong enough to finish what they’d started.

But the highlight came when after hearing oldest cherub’s name called by an excited-sounding, way- up-in-the-air Jeff. 

“Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash!”

“When what to my wondering eyes should appear” but a man whose ladder had fallen, he was bear-hugging a tree, holding on to life and unbroken limbs (tree and body) so dear.

And oldest cherub so lively and quick ran to the scene . . . it was pure slapstick.

After a fleeting moment of horror and then the viewing of things quickly turning out OK, I lost it in a fit of hysterical laughter.

I even acted surprised when the story was later relayed with great fanfare.

“Dad fell out of the tree, but had the presence of mind to grab the trunk on the way down? You don’t say.”

I think they were disappointed over eliciting only a slight giggle from me.

I never told them I saw it all go down and laughed myself to tears and stomach cramps.

Yule keep this between us, right?

© 2011 Natalie Whatley