Friday, December 25, 2015

Oh my, it’s fruitcake weather

Originally posted on December 24, 2008. Of the seven years I've been writing this blog, this is still one of my favorite posts (and stories). 

With her Texas twang, my aunt does a perfect rendition of that line from Truman Capote's “A Christmas Memory.” After first watching the movie version at her house, several years later I encountered the audio version on a long car ride to Arkansas. It wasn’t until I bought a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at a church book sale that I read the print version. It’s always with a sense of delight tempered with melancholy that I turn to the story, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to follow Buddy and his friend as they buy whiskey from Mr. Ha Ha Jones, send fruitcakes to the White House, and craft homemade kites for Christmas morning.

Every year different details in the story stand out. The year my mom made homemade fruitcake, I could taste the citron as I read their recipe. Last year, when my daughter was infatuated with dolls, I could picture exactly the wicker buggy with wobbly wheels they use to haul pecans. This year, I noticed the prices of things in the Depression era story – two dollars for a quart of whiskey, fifty cents for a Christmas tree, a dime for a picture show.


This story sates that yen you had for something rich and sweet and Christmasy, and like fruitcake, endures December after December. So after you've set up the Advent wreath, made the gingerbread cookies, and assembled some 15-odd nativity sets, it’s time to curl up with a hot mug of cider and “A Christmas Memory.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Very Merry (until it's not)

I probably have mentioned before that my daughter and I are suckers for any Christmas movie produced for ABC Family or the Hallmark Channel.  But when she goes to bed, every once in a while, I also like to watch a good feel-depressed holiday movie featuring a dysfunctional family.

When I’ve run out of those, there’s always a book or two to fill the void (or make it bigger).

Refund by KarenBender


Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick


Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart


This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Friday, December 11, 2015

Old Familiar Carols

When my grandparents lived in Bella Vista, Arkansas, we would often make the seven hour car trip to visit them the day after Christmas. After eating a lunch of leftover turkey and Jell-O salad, we would make the obligatory trip to Wal-Mart. Sometimes (if we were lucky), we would also stop off at a junk store on the outskirts of town. One of my favorite finds there was a pack of mini playing cards for a game called Authors.

Through this game, I discovered the titles of works by James Fenimore Cooper, Sir Walter Scott, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Although I’ve read excerpts of Longfellow’s poems over the years, it wasn’t until I read Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini that I gave his personal life a second thought.  

The book opens with a harried choir-director, Sophia, rushing to make rehearsal on time at St. Margaret’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A featured piece in the program her children’s choir is singing is a song based on Longfellow’s poem. Throughout the novel, Chiaverini revisits the rehearsal character by character. Each of their stories reveals the hurts, fears, and longings they bring with them to the church on this wintery night.


Interwoven throughout these modern-day stories is the story of Longfellow. We read about the crises he endures from his wife’s death to his son’s struggle to fight in the Civil War. Dark though it may be, his tale offers some perspective to the somewhat lighter tones of unrequited crushes and mischievous pranks of the contemporary story lines.  

I have long since misplaced that card game, but luckily the poetry of its authors is readily available

Friday, December 4, 2015

"Ascribing meaning to life is a piece of cake compared to actually living it."

Between my local library's online request service for hardcovers and its digital service, I hardly spend any face time in the library these days.

With the cooler, rainer weather, the library has been a welcome alternative to the park. So, after school lets out and before the first volleyball practice, music lesson, or choir practice begins, we can spend a few minutes perusing the shelves.

Thus, we've discovered several of our favorite authors have released new books.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The fifth-grader (and her dad) love Selznick's other illustrated books like Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This one combines two narratives (in pictures and prose)that the reader must puzzle together.

Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami 
His forward to these two connected short novels was almost more fascinating than the stories themselves. 

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman 
This novel tells the story of Camille Pissaro's mother. What could be better for a gloomy, wintry day than a novel about a scandalous affair set on a tropical island?