Tales From A Writer’s Life
Christmas is a time for happy memories. I have a lot of memories from different Christmases, most of them wonderful. My grandmother loved all the holidays. She always wanted decorations out for every occasion. For Christmas, Mimi had little red velvet reindeer she’d put on her fireplace mantel. There would be a turkey for dinner, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a chocolate chip cake. I’ve tried many times unsuccessfully to make the chocolate chip cake. My kids have encouraged me to try again. We think the secret may lie in the heaviness of the bundt pan, but I am not so sure. Maybe it was the hands that mixed the cake. Mine hasn’t come close, not yet.
Mimi made beautiful Christmas ornaments; she must have made hundreds. Years after she’d made them, and even after a fire in my childhood home destroyed our collection of them, the family is still swamped with ornaments. They are jeweled and tasseled, well over forty years old now. She made them in her basement, which must have taken months. She also needlepointed eight chair cushions for her dining room table, a floral pattern with a beige background that would have had me crying with boredom, times eight. Mimi was a wonderful needlepointer, but what she was more than anything was gifted in entertaining herself during long winters in Tennessee.
Mimi could definitely entertain herself, and sometimes at your expense. One sunny afternoon three bees flew up my grandfather’s Bermuda shorts as we sat on the patio. Grandpa hopped around in agony, slapping at his shorts, trying desperately to get the bees to quit stinging him, while Mimi sat laughing hysterically. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t exactly help him, considering where the bees were located, but I remember being amazed that my grandmother seemed to find the whole incident such a knee-slapper.
Another time, Mimi pulled a little piece of paper from her recipe box and handed it to me. In her scrawling stick-printing, it read,
My nookie days are over,
My pilot light is out,
What used to be my sex appeal,
Is now my water spout.
Time was when of its own accord
From my trousers it would spring.
But now I’ve got a full time job
To find the blasted thing!
It used to be embarrassing
The way it would behave;
And every single morning
It would stand and watch me shave.
As my old age approaches
It sure gives me the blues,
To see it hang its little head
And watch me tie my shoes!
Mimi thought this was a howler. Since this ditty was tucked into her treasured recipe box, it merited “keeper” status. Maybe when she was baking those Christmas goodies we so enjoyed, she pulled the poem out every once in a while for a giggle over her cigarette and floured pans. I don’t know who the author was, and can’t recall from where she received the poem. I do know that she carefully scratched out the word “with” and replaced it with “of,” certifying that she copied the poem down with care. It clearly had resonated with her.
Mimi wanted me to write, so I did. She was my first fan. She had no computer of course, so I mailed my writings to her. She’d call me up on the phone; we often spoke about five-thirty or six in the morning. She was an early riser, a farm girl, and I was up with my baby. “This is good,” Mimi would say of my first writings, though looking back over them now I realize they were anything but. “Very good, really,” she’d muse, and I could hear her drawing on her cigarette as she pondered my story.
My grandmother was an inveterate, enthusiastic reader, so she knew the difference between good and lacking material. But she never said, “You can do better,” or “Maybe try again.” Her consistent response was always, “This is good.”
I believed her. So I kept writing. After four years, I was published. Mimi wasn’t surprised. “I always knew you would be,” she said, and she was being totally honest. She always had been. My cheering section of one had pushed me into going exactly where she wanted me to go, by never saying a single negative, doubtful word.
So when I think about holidays and happy memories, a lot of times I remember great food, beautiful ornaments, and wonderful laughter with family. And then after the presents have been enjoyed and the ornaments are tucked away for the season, I remember quiet encouragement and steadfast belief, perhaps the best, most lasting gifts of all.
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Until next time,
Tina Leonard has a publishing history of more than forty projects. With sales of over a million books, she is also a Bookscan and Borders bestselling author. Tina enjoys family, friends, researching projects, and a good glass of wine when she’s not on deadline. Right now she is hoping to get boxes unpacked and find the Christmas tree in time to celebrate the holidays in the new family dwelling. A COWBOY FROM CHRISTMAS PAST is her latest release. You can find out more about Tina at www.tinaleonard.com.