Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Ornament

I shared this story originally in Dec. 2009.


When my oldest daughter was in the third grade, she became a “traitor” in our family. In Alabama there are only two football teams. One is Alabama and the other is Auburn. We were die-hard Alabama fans and my husband, Don, never missed a game. Then out of the blue, our oldest daughter decided that she wanted to to to Auburn University when she graduated from high school. I thought it would hurt my husband, but he never said a word. “It’s just a phase,” he joked, and then teased her, “No child of mine will ever go to that school.”

When Shannon graduated from high school she spent her first year living at home, working and attending the community college. By her Sophomore year, she was ready to transfer to Auburn. We packed up two cars and like thousands of other parents each Fall, tried to hide our anxiety and emotions, as we sent our oldest off to college. Shannon settled into her dorm, met her best friend on 'moving in' day, joined a local Christian fellowship group and last, but not least, bought a season pass to all the football games. That daughter of mine could talk football with the best and seasoned commentators and it simply amazed me. It amazed her father, too, that this former clarinet player in the high school band knew her football so well.

After her graduation she moved to Georgia, a few hours drive away. She and her father continued their mutual love of football. My husband and I had actually never attended a live Auburn football game, but one Fall my daughter arranged to get us tickets and she was going to meet us there. It happened to be the same week my husband had to undergo some serious medical tests. We hadn't yet told our daughters. I was worried and wanted to back out of the trip, but he didn't want to let her down, so we went. The test results came back the following week. It wasn't good. Cancer. Two weeks before Thanksgiving he started Chemotherapy.

Before Christmas that year my husband had ordered a special  Auburn football ornament for Shannon. It was the first in a series. She loved it. She came home every chance she could, now that her Dad was undergoing cancer treatments. It was naturally hard to leave each time and return to her job, knowing how ill her father was.

In March, a small package arrived in the mail. I opened it and there was another Christmas ornament, the second in a series. Had my husband already ordered another one, this early in the year? I put it away in the closet. The Chemo was taking a toll on my husband, but his spirit held strong. When his doctor told us that there was nothing else they could do, I called my oldest daughter to come home.  And I told her about the ornament that had come in the mail. I couldn't hold onto it until Christmas. I truly believed that this was God's way of letting her know that it was okay to let go.  God knew that her father wasn’t going to be there for the next Christmas.

Since then the ornaments have arrived like clockwork each year, each one uniquely designed with her favorite college colors, blue and orange. She has ten now and it is a gift from her father every year, a way of letting her know that he is still with her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas in Dixie


When Don and I moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas in October, 1982 we were sad to move so far away from our families in the South. So you can imagine how happy we were when we found out a few months later that my sister and brother-in-law, Keith, were also going to be stationed at Ft. Bliss.
   
Keith was homesick as soon as he moved to El Paso. He was a country boy through and through, and gave up his long hair and beard when he signed up with Uncle Sam. It was summer when they arrived. Somehow... and I can't remember exactly how, but Keith found out that we had a copy of  "Christmas in Dixie",  the record by the group, Alabama. He took that record home and played it with tears streaming down his cheeks. In the middle of summer. My sister told me.

That Christmas Eve in 1983 was a blistering cold day with single digit temperatures. It was also the day of the Sun Bowl and Don and Keith had  tickets to go to the game.  They came in that evening half-frozen, but pumped from having seen Alabama  beat SMU.  After all, they got to see Coach Ray Perkins and had their pictures taken with a group of Bama fans (the picture ended up in the newspaper).  My brother-in-law said that they missed half the game trying to stay warm. The concession stands even ran out of hot cocoa. Still, if you can't be in Alabama, the next best thing is seeing your favorite team play football.

Keith didn't make the Army his career and got out after his tour of duty and went back home to work in an auto parts store. He got an opportunity to advance his career in management and took a job in Birmingham. Seven months later he was killed in a random act of violence on his way home from work. He was 30 years old.

I can't listen to "Christmas in Dixie" to this day without thinking about my brother-in-law and the  good and decent man that he was. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Pocketbook


It was Christmas  1966 and we were living in middle Tennessee. My father was in Vietnam.  As a young mother of five children, with me being the oldest at nine years, my mother let me help with the Christmas shopping and wrapping that year. We went to the Dollar General on the downtown square and bought toys for my younger siblings. My mother bought me a boxed jewelry set and one of those eau de toilette sets that every little girl wanted.  We usually got new pajamas and new hats and mittens if we needed them.  I'm sure that my baby sister got a new rattle. I felt like a grown-up keeping the Christmas secrets along with my mother.

On Christmas Eve we went to our grandparents' house. My grandparents didn't have much, but I don't remember how poor they were,  just Grandma's sweet spirit and her homemade cooking and how there was always room for one more  around the dining room table. My uncle, still in his teens, came in that Christmas Eve with a bag full of gifts. He emptied the sack on the table. He must have spent his entire paycheck on presents for us. There were presents for everyone and for me there was a pocketbook.


There are certain Christmas memories that always stand out. That Christmas, in 1966, is one of them.




































Saturday, November 15, 2014

Names in an Old Address Book

I have three address books. I don't know why I have held onto the oldest one, where names and addresses are scratched out and old acquaintances are long gone. But an old address book is like a memory capsule of sorts. They provide a glimpse of people and events that were once a part of our lives.

Under "A" there is the name of my husband's buddy. They were best friends in high school and both joined the military and served in Vietnam. I met him once. He seemed like a nice guy. He died a few years ago.

There are the two uncles, one in West Virginia, and one in Florida, both now deceased. Uncle #2 took care of his father for many years and didn't marry until middle-age.

In case she ever needed it, I still have my daughter's college address. She actually had three addresses while in college. We moved her into the old and dingy apartment that was assigned to her and moved her into the dorm two days later because I didn't feel that the apartment was safe enough for a 19-year old girl. It was meant to be because she met her best friend when she moved into the dorm.

Under"B" there is my old friend from El Paso. We were military spouses and met in the post-partum ward (no kidding) in the Army hospital. Our kids were born on the same day. We lost touch through numerous PCS moves. Her last address was in Colorado Springs.

Another old friend and neighbor from my El Paso days lives in East Texas now. We stopped to see them on our way to Alabama and ate at a country buffet. They both worked at the state prison.

There is the name of my old pastor, listed under "C". He baptized my younger daughter 20 years ago.

An old co-worker is listed under "D". She was a single Mom and a hard worker. I haven't seen her in years.

Then there is Cassie, the little girl that my daughter befriended on a church trip and became pen pals with. Cassie was from Virginia.

An old, old school friend, also from my Army brat days. She married her high school sweetheart and became an Air Force wife. We wrote each other for many years, but once we had families it dwindled to once-a-year Christmas cards. She was very talented and multi-lingual. We reconnected recently on Facebook.

Former neighbors, listed under "G", long gone. I miss their newsy Christmas letter. They also live in Virginia. She gave the best Halloween parties. She was a writer, like me.

When we get to "H" I remember my dear friend, Grace. She retired to Florida when her husband died from cancer. We were walking partners and she was a native New Yorker. Beautiful person. She is now deceased.

The piano teacher who taught my daughters. She was a wonderful woman and taught me more about faith by her example.

Under "T" there is another old friend, Sonny. She and I met through the tutoring program at school and became close friends. A native New Yorker, she was like a mentor to me. She was out-spoken, but had a heart of gold. She and her husband died within a week of each other three years ago this month. She was a big influence to me. Once you met Sonny, you never forgot her.

So many names and addresses. All have touched my life in some way or another.

A picture of downtown taken on Veteran's Day
 




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunset

I took these pictures of two recent sunsets. They looked like pictures in the sky.
 
 
Do you see the image of the cross?

 
And this one looks like two galloping horses.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Morning Rituals


Morning Rituals

 

I listen to your footsteps

turning on the kitchen faucet

and starting the coffee

I listen as you unlock the door

and walk to the end of the driveway

to pick up the morning newspaper

 

I listen to the clock radio

as another Top 40 song plays

and as the DJ tells another silly joke

I pull the blanket over me

through the weather report

and the latest news headlines

 

You open the bedroom door, softly

to see if I am awake

I rub the sleep from my eyes

and reach for my robe

which had fallen to the floor

and wrap it close around me

 

You pour my morning coffee

as I hunt for my reading glasses

You chatter; I am quiet

the early bird and the night owl

We are familiar with each other's habits
our morning rituals

 

(c)  Anita M. Ashworth
 
 

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn


 
Autumn has always been my favorite season.  I look forward to her cool temperatures and soft breezes, especially after the stifling heat of a summer day. Fall is not like Spring, although lovely to look at, she has a tendency to show off her unpredictable moods. And she is not like Summer, either, who is a show off with her tanned bodies and gorgeous sunsets.  No, Autumn's bloom is slightly fading, but she has a mature beauty. Her face is full of character and experience and paints a beautiful canvas.  Whereas all Spring and Summer want to do is have fun, Autumn is ready to settle down. She is all about home and family. Football games and marching bands. It is hot apple cider and jack-o-lanterns on the front porch. It is harvest time and hay rides and visits to the pumpkin patch. Autumn is Thanksgiving, which means  extra plates on the table for company and afternoon naps and leftovers to eat the next day. Grandma's turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole. This is why I love Autumn.  She  wraps her arm around you like a warm, cozy blanket. She has the biggest heart of all the seasons.