The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

Published 9:29 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

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By E. Bishop
According to a German study on aging, those born in December are more likely to live up to one hundred years of age compared to those born in the summer. I’m finding that somewhat reassuring since I was almost a Christmas baby. Some born near the holidays feel they will be forgotten, or their birthdays will be overshadowed by all the Yuletide glitz. But, if this finding is true, then those of us born in December can’t say we have been cheated. Still, do get a separate birthday present, don’t leave it under the tree, and don’t wrap it in Christmas paper (if you remember it’s my birthday).
If you did forget, we’ll still remember some of the great Christmas presents we received through the years along with the memories of family gathered in the holiday spirit. After all, it’s really not about us.
We’re competing with the reason for the season, Santa Clause and the promise of a new year. Still, some may call us the shelved elves. Or, if we get carded, (which won’t happen to me again), the person will say “wow, a Christmas baby”. Call us what you may, just call us. Some say being a Christmas baby really stinks. Others revel in being a holiday baby and feel lucky and blessed to have been born under a lucky star. From my short survey of friends and family born in December, I found that in general we all feel somewhat special; not cheated at all!
Growing up, we may not have had a bunch of presents under the tree, but the spirit of Christmas was abundant. We felt it in the trek through the woods to find that special cedar tree to cut down along with gathering up some running cedar or mistletoe for decoration, we felt it in the holiday baking as well as the special worship service where we always received that bag with an orange, an apple, and some candy. We saw generosity and love year after year from special people. One of those was a dentist from Salisbury that our father had allowed to go hunting on the farm. He never failed to bring a large box of Christmas goodies for us and something special for our mother.
Speaking of special, I’m sure most of us will remember that one Christmas that we received something extra surprising and amazing. For me, it was the small jewelry box that played music when it was wound up. So proud was I that third grade year of school; I just had to take it to show off only to be crying on the way home on the bus because I had lost the key that opened that beautiful box. Somehow it got opened, never to be locked again. It is still a treasure taking me back to my childhood and has a prominent place on my dresser. And, to my beloved sister who received a larger one with a ballerina in it, mine is still prettier than yours.
There are some great quotes from Southern Living magazine about Christmas. These two I would like to share – by Charles Dickens “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – “At Christmas, all roads lead home.” by Marjorie Holmes. May all of you be able to go “home” somehow this Christmas. Now, Jeff, Susan, Noel, and all of you other December babies – Happy, Happy Birthday – if we are going to live to be 100, we had better get on that treadmill.

My Favorite Carol
By Marie Craig
This Christmas is a little more normal than a year ago when we were all quarantined and wary of each other and health issues. Hopefully, we’ll get back to our sharing and visiting habits of the past.
One thing that doesn’t change about Christmas is the quiet, humble story of the Savior’s birth. The bright lights and excessive purchasing of gifts are the dramatic parts of some celebrations, but I like to think of the story itself and its message to us.
There are scripture, movies, poems, and stories about the season, but my favorite way of telling the meaning is by singing Christmas Carols. I capitalize the word “carols” because they deserve it. All of the songs are wonderful (except maybe “Grammaw Got Run Over By a Reindeer”) and I really enjoy playing through my extensive collection of holiday music. Handel’s “Messiah” is way too difficult, but I still try a few of the easier scores.
My all-time favorite Carol is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It is so subtle, picturesque, and full of tears-in-the-eyes pathos. When I hear it or sing it, I’m immediately transported back in time to hearing the Tabernacle Choir sing it Sunday afternoons on the radio when I was a child. Later, I am singing it with young people in my church wearing the choir robe that my mother helped make for me and my church friends.
Then I jump to watching Perry Como sing it on his TV show. This song followed me through schooling, teaching math, being a wife and mother, and moving to different homes. It never abandoned me and could always find me.
The words were written by Phillips Brooks who was born in 1835 in Boston. He was an Episcopal minister, 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 300 pounds. A biography describes him thus: “Brook’s mind was poetic rather than analytical. It is revealing that his pen produced the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” rather than enduring theological works. Although learned, Brooks was not an academician. He neither anguished over the shattering new finds of science and scholarship nor argued the case for Christianity philosophically. Rather, luminously and passionately, he presented to his people the full and joyous life open to all who accepted Christ as the revelation of what God is and man may be.”
The music was composed by Lewis H. Redner who was born in 1831 in Philadelphia. He was a realtor who served on weekends as an organist and Sunday School superintendent in a church with Brooks. Brooks had recently returned from a trip to Bethlehem and had written the words to the song. He asked Redner to write a tune for it. The night before the children were going to sing this new carol, he wrote the music.
The next time you sing or hear this Carol, savor the words, because they are really special. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

A Christmas Surprise
By Julie Terry Cartner
Dad slipped quietly down the stairs, the morning sun only a hint below the horizon as he made his way across the cold floors to the kitchen. With the snow falling steadily, the sunrise wouldn’t make much of a dent in the darkness. Making his first cup of coffee for the day, he walked into the living room and plugged in the lights of the Christmas tree. He sat in his favorite chair, gazing at the tree, sipping his coffee. He loved this part of the day, the silence, the solitude, the tranquility. Contemplating the tree, he thought of the day ahead. It was Christmas morning, and soon his family would stir, then, realizing what day it was, the girls would swoop down the stairs. He looked sadly at the small array of presents. Not much to brag about. It had been a hard year, well truthfully, it had been a hard couple of years. Farming was challenging, and the weather had not been his friend. Wet when he needed dry, dry when he needed wet. But, he thought, I have a home to call my own and we have food to put on the table. It could be worse. Regardless, he still wished he had something special to give the girls, something to make their Christmas unforgettable.
Needing to feed the chickens before the snow got any deeper, Dad trudged through the billowing flakes. Entering the shop, he blinked snow from his eyes and frost covered lashes, about the only part of him exposed to the bitter winter cold. Unwrapping the scarf from around his neck, he gave himself a moment to relish the stillness inside the sturdy shed that blocked the storm’s ire. Then he realized it wasn’t entirely quiet. A plaintive meow drifted across the room. Scanning the shop, he found the source. Gato, their rescued, dark yellow, tabby cat, had made a home on the farm, and now reclined on his bed of soft cloths.
Reaching over to scratch his ears, Dad noticed the tomcat was not alone. “Whatcha got there?” he asked. Reaching inside Gato’s nest, Dad pulled out a kitten, a baby, barely old enough to leave its mother. “What in the world?” he exclaimed, wondering where the male cat had found this tiny lost kitten and amazed that he had rescued him. The kitten was warm and dry, and Dad had no doubt that the older cat had sheltered him. Putting the kitten back in the box with Gato, he reached for the chicken feed. Gato was having no part of that. Nudging the kitten towards Dad, he as much as said, I saved him. Now it’s your turn. I certainly can’t feed him!
Laughing, Dad promised he’d come back for the kitten after he’d fed the chickens. After returning the feed can to the bin, Dad took the tiny kitten, tucked him safely inside his coat and, with a gentle stroke down Gato’s back, headed for the house. It was still early, and luckily, his family members continued to dream of sugarplums. Good, he had some time. Moving quickly, he found a box, an old blanket and a saucer. After warming milk on the stove, he poured some in the saucer, then gently pushed the kitten’s mouth into the warm, rich cream. The kitten resisted for a second, but as soon as it had some milk on its face, Dad released it, softly stroking the baby’s golden fur. As he expected, a pink tongue immediately slipped out and the kitten washed the milk off his face. Another dip, another lick, another soft stroke, again, and then once more. The kitten caught on and soon he was hungrily lapping the cream from the saucer. Then, tummy full, he curled up on the blanket and fell asleep.
Dad removed the saucer, then partially closed the lid on the box. Taking a red marker, he wrote Merry Christmas, Girls! on the lid and placed the box under the Christmas tree. Shaking his head ruefully, he thought, I wished for something to make this Christmas special. Guess I’d better be careful what I wish for.

Draining Life’s Cup
By Gaye Hoots
Each year I slow down a bit, part of this has been COVID restrictions, and part of it is choice. I would say I sip from life’s cup, which is a choice. Many my age and much older drain their cup every day, and I admire them.
My distant cousin is in her mid-eighties and runs marathons. She hikes and has hiked most of the parks in our state in the last year. Every few days, she posts pictures on Facebook of her travels and visits family and friends. Her energy is tremendous. One of the pictures posted was a picture on Pilot Mt. with her ninety-year-old relative. This was before the fire that destroyed much of the forestland there.
Classmates from school and friends from our community minister to others by cooking meals, playing music, and visiting the sick. Many have lost loved ones and channel their grief into caring for others. Jimmy Carter, our former president, is an example of this selfless commitment, as was his mother.
My ancestor rode the train to Mocksville and walked to Yadkinville to visit relatives in his nineties. In traveling I met older people who were still actively running businesses in their late eighties and nineties because they chose to. Some seem to be endowed with extra energy and ambition.
One character I remember when I stopped with a friend at a hardware store in a small coastal town. He was at the register, and his son and grandson were eating lunch at a counter in the back. He told them he would take care of us, and he was clearly in charge. While talking, he pointed out two businesses across the street and related they belonged to him. He gave a history of building and accumulating these and other properties. We enjoyed his stories, and seeing someone in their nineties so full of life was a treat.
We mentioned dancing, and he stated he could still “dance all night.” He was tall but of slight build and bragged he still had a stomach of iron and pounded it with his fist to accentuate his claim. I enjoyed his antics, but my friend thanked him, and we left. He called after us as a parting shot, “If you get tired of that gal, just drop her off with me.”
I admire those who take the time to do their make-up and dress up every day, but I tend to stay in my pajamas when I am not going out, and for errands, wear jeans and sweatshirts. My favorite pastimes are reading and playing with the twins.
My Christmas holidays will be spent with family and friends, and I look forward to it, but I will then settle into my routine again. I wish all of you a blessed Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate and hope you will enjoy every day whether you sip from or drain your cup.