Our Thanksgiving leftovers are all gone now, and my daughter, Kerry, and I survived our yearly Black Friday shopping outing. We’ve headed out before dawn every year since she was twelve, with the exception of last year when our other daughter was just out of the hospital after her stroke. “Black Friday” is the day Kerry and I spend together shopping and having lunch out. She wanted to eat at Dixie Cafe this time; having spent the past two and a half years in New England, she was craving Southern food. Once again, the crowds we encountered were friendly and well-behaved, unlike the few ugly episodes shown on the news, and we had a wonderful day together. In a few days, she and her husband will be heading back north, where they’ll be spending Christmas for the first time because Kerry will be on call during the holidays. They’ll be greatly missed by their Arkansas families, but it’s been so nice having them here for Thanksgiving. Our other daughter will be home in two weeks to spend Christmas and New Year’s with us before going back to her job in the Pacific Northwest.
And now it’s time to prepare for the next holiday. I spent the past couple of days decorating the house while Kerry and her husband visited with his family in another part of the state. I hung ornaments on two artificial trees. One is in the living room, covered with the many ornaments I’ve collected during the years (I pick up an ornament as a souvenir every time I visit a new place). The tree in the den (pictured above) displays wooden ornaments my husband has made on his lathe and scroll saw for more than a decade. My philosophy is that one can never have too many ornaments on a tree — if there’s a tip, something might as well hang from it! Every ornament has sentimental value for me, bringing back memories of Christmases past as I place it just so.
When I was a child growing up in rural Arkansas, we often cut down our own Christmas trees. I remember tramping through woods with my dad and my brothers, searching for the perfect pine or cedar. Of course, we would point to trees that had to be at least twelve feet tall, not quite comprehending that we had only eight-foot ceilings. Sometimes Daddy would overestimate, as well. I remember him having to cut the tops out of a few trees to make them fit in the room after he put them on a stand. We would watch Daddy struggle with the lights, then the four of us kids, supervised by our mother, would hang the ornaments and drape silver tinsel “icicles.” We quickly grew tired of the process and threw on clumps of tinsel that more resembled shiny hairballs than icicles. Still, no matter how crooked or clumpy our trees, they were always magical to our young eyes, as was the smell of sap and needles and the sounds of carols from the annual television Christmas variety shows.
Mother is no longer with us, and my own three kids are independent adults now, but I still cherish the Christmas memories of my childhood and theirs. It’s my favorite time of the year — which is, perhaps, why it shows up so often in my books. The story I just completed features a single mom who falls in love during the busy holiday season, and finds it hard to juggle family obligations, work demands and a new relationship with an man from her past. I’ll let you know the title and publication date soon. I’ll have two other Harlequin Special Editions available before that one — DOCTORS IN THE WEDDING in January, 2012 and HUSBAND FOR A WEEKEND in April, 2012.
For now, I’ll enjoy these last few days of Kerry and Justin’s visit, then it’s back to work on another book before the next set of festivities. I’ll try to remember to savor the moments this year that will become happy memories during future holidays.
Don’t forget to enter for the special drawing to be held on December 20 (my birthday). In honor of the holiday season and my 100th book (my 99th Harlequin release), I’m giving away a book and a wooden pen turned by my very talented husband. Click the Enter to Win! tab above for details on how to enter.