The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
Published 9:39 am Thursday, December 7, 2017
By N. R. Tucker
In the 1960s in East Tennessee, there was a rare snowstorm in December. From Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning, the snow fell and blanketed Elaine’s small town. By Sunday morning, there was an impressive amount of snow making travel by car unwise.
When Elaine sat down to breakfast, her dad said, “I’m going to walk to church. The rest of you can stay home.”
Cream of Wheat forgotten, Elaine stared at him. Skipping church was rare in her family. It was a mile to church. She had walked the distance many times, but in all that snow, it would be… fun! Elaine had planned to spend the day outside after church, and she would walk much further than a mile just goofing off.
“I want to go.” Elaine was not thinking of talking to God or even a worship service on a snowy morning. She was thinking of the adventure. Walking through town under the still falling snow and meeting up with the other townsfolk who were able to walk to church. What a delightful tale she would have to tell.
Dad thought she should stay home. Recognizing Elaine’s resolve, Mom said, “If she wears long johns under her pants, Elaine will be fine. Anyone going to church in this snow will be dressed for trudging through the snow.”
Dad nodded. “Okay, but I’m leaving in twenty minutes.”
Elaine finished breakfast and got ready before he changed his mind.
Walking through the snow was peaceful. Dad spoke of impressive snowfalls when he was a kid, which was a treat as he rarely spoke of his childhood. Father and daughter arrived at the church to find their number was small, small enough that Elaine ended up playing the dreaded piano.
In support of her newfound status as the pianist, the minister of music told her to pick the hymns. Elaine chose all standard Christmas carols that she played at home for family get-togethers. Songs she was comfortable with. Elaine would never remember what the preacher said on that morning. She was busy thinking about the final hymn, hoping she wouldn’t mess it up, but she always remembered the walk home.
Dad said, “I’m proud of you for stepping up and playing the piano even though you didn’t want to.”
Elaine looked at her dad in shock. She hated playing the piano and only took lessons to appease her mother. She thought she had hidden her dislike but apparently not.
“Pee Bee and Possum”
By Sandra Vance
What a great day for me! Oh, hey, this is PeeBee and here is my day. This morning really started with last night when my daddy set a trap for a possum that had been coming in the night and eating all my food! So, this morning, therehewas! In the trap! Looking at me! But daddy said this one is very small, PeeBee. Let’s just let him out. So he did! And I was near, and so I poked at him and he fell over on his back and Ithoughthewasdead! I looked up at daddy and, guess what! HE WAS NOT DEAD! He rolled over and ran away, and I chased him! But he was FAST and got away…up a tree, I think. Oh well. I bet he will come back later.
Then daddy said, PeeBee do you want to ride? And, I did want to ride in my Big Black Truck so we did. We went to that little house with the big window where daddy puts his piece of paper in that thing that goes Swoosh, and he gets other pieces of paper back and IGETATREAT! I do not know what this place is called, but someday I would like to go inside because I think there are lots and lots of treats in there.
We have been fishing some at the pond, not the river, and daddy caught a fish. It was BIG! I could not get its head in my mouth it was sooo big! We did not keep it, daddy let it go back into the water so maybe we can catch it again some time. Mama has been being busy, and I think she will want daddy to get boxes down just like he did a long time ago. I can’t wait for mama to cook some more good food. I always get some of it. Well, it is night time now. (remember, I know that dark time is night and light time is day! I learn stuff!) I think it is time for me to go to my Big Ole Dog Bed and sleep. Mama says I snore, whatever that is!
So sayth PeeBee the Dog.
“Christmas is for Our Children”
By Julie Terry Cartner
You’ve all been there, trying to make Christmas special for your children. The joy and excitement of the days and weeks preceding Christmas are so very special. The Christmas wish lists have been made, Santa letters have been sent, Christmas programs at school and church have been completed for another year. You’ve taken the children Christmas shopping and Christmas caroling, and to ensure that they think of others, you’ve made goodie baskets and delivered them to the elderly and those who can’t leave their homes. You’ve driven through neighborhoods and oohed and aahed over the beautiful Christmas lights and maybe have driven through Tanglewood or one of the other commercially decorated places. You’ve wrapped and tagged presents and helped the children hide their siblings’ gifts so that no peeking would happen.
Christmas Eve arrives. You read the Christmas story, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Your children prepare a plate of cookies and a glass of chocolate milk for Santa and carrots and apple slices for the reindeer. You answer the questions: “How can Santa get around the world in one night?” and “How can Santa fit down the chimney?” and a myriad of others – to all of which you reply the standard answer of “Magic.” There’s no point in trying to use logic when Christmas magic works so much better. Even the older ones hold that tiny bit of hope that the whole Santa thing is real, and even when they are convinced otherwise, they still put on a good show for the little ones.
Finally, when all of the traditions have been completed, with a sigh of relief tinged with exhaustion, you send your children off to bed with the dire warning: “If you don’t go to sleep, Santa won’t come.” After the obligatory thirty or so minutes of whispering, giggling and soft footsteps have drifted away to silence, you breathe a sigh of relief. You go to the closet and start bringing out the gifts that you have so carefully hidden away for the past days, weeks or even months. Carrying them out into the living room, you prepare to create the children’s piles and fill their stockings.
Everything starts well, but then it happens. The dreaded packaging! You, of course, want the presents to look like they come from Santa, so the plastic packaging must go. However, the desire to do this and the actuality of doing this are two different things. First, you try pulling the packaging apart, but when that fails, out come the scissors. You cut, and pull and cut some more, and finally, with a screeching noise that would rival the most vocal owl or peacock, the package opens and pieces cascade to the floor. The eternal questions – “Why must Barbie have so many shoes?” and “Do superheroes really need so many parts?” roll through your brain while you hold your breath, listening to make sure that no child wakes up, hoping not to hear, “What was that Mom, Dad?” And if you do, living in the country, you answer, “The coyotes are really close to the house tonight. Maybe they’re calling Santa!”
Hours later, when all of the packaging is finally conquered, when you have applied band-aids to all of the cuts that occurred due to that same packaging, when every scrap of evidence that might indicate that the gift came from local retail rather than Santa has been discarded, when each stocking has been stuffed and placed in the appropriate location beside the Santa gifts, when the Christmas pickle has been hidden in the tree, when the cookies and carrots and apples and chocolate milk have been consumed, you and your spouse wearily stumble into bed, almost too tired to brush your teeth.
About two seconds later, or so it seems, the hilarity begins. It’s morning! Merry Christmas! And the dreaded, “Can we come downstairs?”
“Just a minute,” the standard response, is greeted with “Hurry!” So we quickly wash our faces, brush our teeth, start the pot of coffee and stumble wearily into the living room. As the children troop down the stairs, excitement coloring all of their expressions, the exhaustion goes away, for at least awhile, and we watch as the magic of Christmas joy envelops our household.
“Punch Bowl Revival”
By Stephanie Dean
The noble, Southern punch bowl has always demanded great respect in my book. The punch bowl has claimed such an illustrious past career, served the most distinguished of citizens, and commemorated the most highly regarded events. Often elevated to the status of being placed on a pedestal, the punchbowl was the queen of all beverage servers and a forerunner to modern-day cocktails.
Punch served from punch bowls was the English aristocrat’s tipple of choice for hundreds of years. Punch bowls were so popular they became an accessory to acquire and show off. History noted the rich and ostentatious melted down coinage and then commissioned punch bowls so large several children could play in them. During the Restoration, all the rage was drinking punch in London, especially for the literary set such as John Dryden, Daniel Defoe, and Joseph Addison. Even the ceremony which followed signing the Declaration of Independence, founding fathers and friends drank 76 punch bowls filled with punch.
But, the much-adored punch bowl became a thing of the past when the Victorian era ushered in a more prudent stance on alcohol. The party bowl was brought down from her pedestal, left to gather dust, and hold nothing more but memories of her regal reign at the most ceremonious affairs.
Recently, I’ve given thought to doomed southern punch bowls. Much to my dismay, she no longer reigns as a choice libation server, and based on how infrequently her presence graces a cocktail party, she appears to have completely fallen out of fashion. Her fate is unknown. The grand dame of bowls might have enjoyed a hiatus, boxed up, stored under a bed somewhere or possibly suffered a worse plight; in all her traditional glory, she might be standing tall on a shelf at the local donation store, awaiting someone to place her on a pedestal once again.
How could anything so delightful have been relegated to the footnotes of bartending books authored by modern mixologists? While my personal punch bowl is stored close by, she has enjoyed no such hiatus and stands ready as ever to withstand an onslaught of partakers. She’s faithfully attended every tradition my family has upheld from birthday ceremonies to recital commemorations. In fact, the last time she served spirits at a party, the one recipe, requested by my guest-food editor, was a delicious concoction with floating ice cream served from her enormous, see-through glass bowl.
Given to me as a wedding gift in 1985, the punch bowl has aged to perfection with a few small chips from the glass of the rim. The last time I used it, the hairline crack between the glass ladle and handle finally gave way and the ladle sank deep into the punch, while the melted ice cream obscured its whereabouts. But that didn’t matter as the ladle was later replaced. The memories of ice creams, sodas, fruit juices and liquor filled bowls that have supported our family traditions can never be replaced. She will never be just another out of fashion, replaceable trend. So impressive and stately, she stands alone without a pedestal.
Having been an old-fashioned woman yet always one step ahead of my time, I’ve always believed the punch bowl deserved restored dignity, a continued legacy of party presence in the South. I’m thrilled to report that the punch bowl has experienced a true come back, a renaissance, and is considered fashionable once again with punch being the hot ticket drink in leading bars around the world. Call it a punch bowl revival. To the hipsters, I’m truly grateful.