Since I posted one of my father's stories yesterday, I am posting one of my mother's today. It's very sweet, and I'm sure it's one most of us can relate to, those memories of when childhood still held mysteries and magic.....
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY
by Mary Louise Hillyard
It was Christmastime, and I was four years old. My brother, Bud, was two years old. This is actually the first Christmas I can remember, and the only reason I can remember it is because of what happened.
We were living in Moorhead, Minnesota, which is just across the Red River of the North from Fargo, North Dakota. The first thing that happened as I remember is Mother taking me with her to Fargo to do some shopping. To be honest, most of the shopping experience is a blank except for two things that happened that afternoon. My brother wasn’t with us, but in looking back, I am almost positive that my mother had left him with a neighbor, a Mrs. Erickson, who was a very nice Swedish woman.
The thing I remember the most is that my mother took me into a store, and we were suddenly in the toy department. We went to where the dolls were displayed and she showed them to me. Oh they were all so beautiful and I stood mesmerized by the sight of so many. The saleslady who was helping my mother asked me if I thought any one of those dolls was more special than the rest. I told her "Yes" and she wanted to know which one was my favorite. When I pointed to the only one who wore a green dress, she nodded and said that was her favorite too. Then she asked me if I would like to hold that doll for a minute. Oh yes, I did. Of course I did. So she very carefully took her down from the shelf and placed her in my arms.
I could hardly talk; I was so entranced by the doll and the fact that I was really and truly holding her. Then my mother said we had better give her back, so I handed her back and soon she was on the shelf again.
After we looked around some more, my mother took me some place, probably an ice cream parlor or coffee shop. I remember sitting at a round table and we both had hot chocolate. Then we went and got on the streetcar (which ran over to Moorhead) and went home. On the way home we talked about that doll and I told my mother I thought she was the most wonderful doll I had ever seen.
The next memory comes when it is Christmas Eve. We have had dinner, all of us, and the dishes have been done, my father helping my mother. Then we all went into the living room where we had a big Christmas tree that was all decorated beautifully and lit up. My father sat down and drew my brother and me to him. He wanted to read us a story-poem, he called it. But first, he had to explain some things about Christmas. So he told us about Santa Claus. I was very puzzled by this man who went around giving gifts to children who had been good. I just didn’t understand it at all.
I can’t remember what my father said, but I do remember he was beginning to read "The Night Before Christmas" to us. I kept asking questions such as when will he come, and how does he get in and so on and on. My father told me that sometimes he came when all the children were asleep, but sometimes, and no one ever knew how or why, he came when they were still up. He couldn’t really explain the flying reindeer to me, but we sort of dropped that for a while, and then suddenly, there was the sound of sleigh bells out in our backyard. My father stopped reading, and his eyes opened wide. I asked what that was, and he said, "I’m not sure, but…….it could be Santa Claus." We were all motionless as we sat there and heard the bells again. My mother jumped up and said, "Well, why don’t we go and see who it is?" So my father got up and my brother and I got up and we followed him through the living room, through the dining room, through the kitchen and to our back door.
When the back door was open, we could see our back yard. It had been a very cold winter, and the snow was piled up almost as high as the picket fence that went around the yard. The sidewalk to the garage was shoveled, as was the driveway, and there were no footprints or any kind of impressions on the snow to show that someone had been there. I remember how the moon shone on that yard…..it looked so beautiful, for moonlight on snow glitters and shines and it almost looks like diamonds strewn around there in the moonlight. As we all stood in the doorway, looking puzzled, suddenly there was a loud noise from the front of the house. Daddy said then. "Oh, he fooled us. He’s out in front. Everybody, run quick to the front door!"
Mama took my hand and we ran back through the house. As we got to the door, she flipped on the porch light. In the center of the porch was a sled. And on the sled was a stack of boxes all wrapped up in pretty paper. My father hurried to the railing on the side, and called to me very excitedly, "Mary Louise, come quickly, I can see his sleigh in the sky. Hurry!" I ran over to where he was and asked, "Where is he?" He pointed and said, "Oh he is so fast, can you see him?" Almost in tears I said I couldn’t. Then he told me, "Oh I’m so sorry. He’s gone. He’s out of sight." Then he looked at me and said, "But you mustn’t cry. Look at that sled. That is for you and Buddy. He left all those packages for you two. Shall Mama and I bring it in so you can open them?" I guess I agreed, for the next thing I know they are carrying the present-laden sled into our living room.
They put the sled on the floor, and then my father picked up a package that was on the top and said, "I think this one is for you" and then he gave my brother one. My mother was helping him open his package, and so I turned to mine. It was all so bewildering to me. I just couldn’t understand anything at all. But, with a bit of help from Daddy, I got the paper off, and then he told me I had to lift the lid off the box. When I opened the box, and the tissue that was inside, do you know what? Santa Claus had given me that very same doll that I had held when we were shopping. I simply cannot put into words how I felt. All I do know is that that is all I can remember.
I have never forgotten that night, and there have been so many times that I thanked my parents for doing that. I don’t know how they accomplished it all.
And somehow, I never really wanted to know for it made such a wonderful, wonderful and loving memory of them and the very first Christmas that I can remember.
My parents are taking a creative writing class at the local college where they live in California. It's a class designed for older students, and is to encourage them to write their memories down. Many of the stories my mother has already shared with me, but my father is not that way, so his stories are new and fun for me to read. He just turned 77, and was raised in a small town in northern Utah called Richmond, located in Cache Valley. This story, which was for the given prompt of an early childhood memory, I found so endearing. I could picture my father as a small boy as I read this, and wanted to share. Enjoy .......
EARLY CHILDHOOD By Arland D. Hillyard
My Mother was a stay at home mom, as was every mother in the town where I grew up. But, her responsibilities, besides raising me was summer canning, raising a garden, caning eggs, and the list goes on and on.
One of the first memories I have is my almost daily trips around the neighborhood. In my home town the city was laid out in square blocks. Here were no house numbers and no mail delivery. I remember that four trips around the block equaled a mile.
Almost daily I would leave the house, and walk a half block the Aunt Tea's home. Aunt Tea was not really my aunt, but a widow lady who count read Danish. She would transcribe our letters from Denmark into English. If there were letters from Denmark, it was my official duty to be the courier within my neighborhood. After my arrival, I would stay for a while and be given a cookie or two and visit. I would then go to the Bullen Home next door to the south. Louie had been a barber, but lost his left leg to diabetes I think. His wife, Maude, was in poor health, staying in bed in a warm room. I hated going in there because the odor was quite unpleasant. Louie would sit out on the front porch whittling. He was a nice guy that used to tease a lot. If he was not out on the porch, my friends and I would go check behind the columns on the porch to see if he had left one of his completed carvings which we all cherished.
In the next house, lived the Ag. Teacher at the high school, I remember him because after he moved intro a newer house, he was the only person to own a power mower. His children were a lot older. I don't remember his wife, hence I bypassed this place on my travels.
I would then cross the street and end up at my Aunt Mary’s place. Her cookies & pastries were five star. She also had 5 & 10 cent toy cars I could play with. My Aunt Mary and my mother would exchange magazines and books which I would transport back and forth.
A side note: Aunt Mary was my father's half sister. They both came to the United States as small children. Although separated during their younger years they got together married, and lived a half a block apart. The two couple’s first child was a boy, born in the same year. Their second child, boys, born 4 years later, their third baby was a girl, 4 years after. My parents four child was me. Since I had no counter part I chose a life of travel.
I know what I have written is true. I was reminded by the two families about how I would wonder around the neighborhood collecting my bag of goodies.
Someone asked me a couple of days ago where the name for this blog came from. It's a rather dopey (and embarassing) story, but here goes.
When we lived in San Jose, California, we used to drive over and spend the weekend with my parents and sister who live in Los Banos. It's about 70 miles away, and we would often arrive late Friday afternoon.
The area they live in is very rural, with lots of fields on either side of the roads. One visit we made a turn so that the setting sun was on our left and a recently harvested field was on our right. We were able to view our shadows as we drove along.
Soon all of us were waving our arms and rocking our heads back and forth so we could see our shadows moving.
Suddenly it hit us all how dumb we were acting. "I guess," Stan said, "the Mullis' are just easily amused." So it seems ......
Between my husband being home for four days (his car was in the shop) and my kids I haven't been able to get on the computer since last Friday. Which means I missed St. Patrick's Day! I hope it was a happy one for you all.
I dug out all my celtic albums and played them all day long. We had our traditional feast of Dublin Coddle, sauteed cabbage and soda bread. Yum! It felt like a fun, celebratory day for me. I am Irish (with an Irish name like Maureen Lee--Irish for Mary Elizabeth) and I love to remember my roots.
Anyway, I heard a cute quote today and thought I would pass it on to you all:
I want to thank you for rallying around me. I have been shown true Christlike love and acceptance by all of you, and after my family I count my friends as the greatest blessings of my life.
After giving too much credence to what someone I neither know nor will ever see again said, I am reminded again and again what is truly important in this life we are living--and that is the hearts of those we hold dear. My family and friends see me not the body I inhabit, not the dumb mistakes I make, but the love I show. I hope I do the same for all of you.
Sarah brought me a sweet note and some brownies, Rachel gave me a lovely, cheery bouquet along with a hug and a note of encouragement, Tara called me and gave me a pep talk, and Mel reminded me that those who are critical don't matter. And Tiffany, she gave me examples of those who have walked much harder paths than I did; dealt with so much more than some cranky little lady in Costco, and He who's opinion is the most important of all.
I am humbled by all of you and your support. No woman has been more blessed than I.
Yesterday was a bad day and it's spilled over into today for me. Then Stan reminded me that my fellow bloggers would probably make me feel better.
Wednesday Stan took the boys and me to Costco, one of my favorite stores! We had hot dogs for lunch then did our shopping. I saw a good friend, Kristeen, there with her two youngest daughters. It was so nice to see her, and I got a hug and a quick chat before AJ brought one of the riding carts for me. He was pretending to be a major celebrity as he drove it down to me and it made Kevin and me laugh. I use the riding cart because since injuring my leg it's so hard to get around a store as large as Costco.
It was fun. Stan got a bonus as work this week and we decided to pick up a couple of cases of things to donate to the new food bank that opened near us last week. The boys and I picked out what we were going to take and they also helped me get the rest of our groceries.
Then I found out that an older woman, after I passed her, made some remarks about me and my size and the fact that I was using the riding cart. I didn't hear her, but she said those things about me in the presence of my children. AJ told me that he almost had to hold Kevin back because he got so angry and the woman took off scowling at them.
The thing is, I was feeling happy, hopeful and good about myself. And then I'm reminded that I'm different, that I don't fit in. I'm never prepared for people's hostility toward me for being overweight, but sometimes it just takes my breath away. And what particularly hurt about this is that she said it where my children heard it. The thing I'm most afraid of, most self-conscious of is being an embarassment to my family and friends. And in one moment that's what she did, and I let her.
Last night Tara and I took two of the women we visit teach out for frozen custard and a visit. The whole afternoon I fretted about it; would I embarass them, would they feel uncomfortable being with me in public, that sort of thing. But bless their hearts, if they did they didn't let me feel it.
I know why people who aren't the same as everyone else sometimes become recluses. I had to go out again today and it was so hard. When I talked it over with Stan he said, "Blog about it. Those women are your friends and they don't judge you." So that's what I'm doing. I'm getting it off my chest instead of brooding about it. I'm sorry that lady said those things. But I'm sorrier that I let her hurt me. Next time maybe I'll be stronger.
Yesterday was an interesting day. AJ, who works at Gunther Toody's diner, had a co-worker who asked for help. She is one of the waitresses, and is an older, single woman. Her washing machine was acting up and she needed it looked at. AJ told her his dad was good at fixing things, and so he and Stan spent Monday over there working on her washer.
They didn't get home until 10 pm last night. They were exhausted, and because the woman is a smoker, they were soaked in cigarette smoke. Both wanted some dinner, a hot shower and to fall into bed. It had turned into a marathon.
I went upstairs after AJ and I heard him in his room mumbling to himself. I thought he was frustrated that a kind offering of assistance had turned into such an ordeal and that he was in there complaining to himself.
As I listened, however, he was quoting to himself, "When you do this unto the least of these, my brethren, you do it unto me."
He wasn't complaining, so much as reminding himself who it was he was really serving. I was taught a valuable lesson last night.
WHOOOOOOSH! Do you hear that sound? That's the sound of Jane Austen spinning in her grave. Can't say as if I blame her.
A few weeks ago I was listening to NPR and they talked about a new version of Miss Austen's classic novel "Pride and Prejudice" that has been reworked in an effort to draw in young readers (teenagers I'm supposing). It's called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I kid you not. It's coming out in June and it's supposed to feature Mr. Darcy and his friends fighting the undead to protect their love interests. (I'm seriously rolling my eyes as I type this!)
But now I've read something else to make poor Miss Austen spin even faster. Elton John's Rocket Pictures has plans to make Pride and Predator, a traditional costume drama that reworks this lovely novel into a horror film that has aliens butchering the cast.
Well, I don't know. I think I'm going to spend the night in bed with the REAL Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and try to put these gross images from my mind.
My teenaged boys have discovered a new place which has captured their interest. It's the Asian Pacific Market. The love to go there and check out the products, and, if possible, purchase treats from the in-store deli.
The other day they went there and AJ bought a roast duck. The whole duck and nothin' buThey brought it home excited as all get out to eat it. Especially, AJ told me, the head.
Yikes! I hot-footed it upstairs so that I wouldn't witness the dreaded event. I, for one, am not an adventurous eater and didn't want the sight of him eating that duck's head in my mind. They took some pictures, which I am sharing here.
Afterwards, they said it was delicious. AJ told me that he "cracked the head open like an oyster" and ate the brain. Ugggh! Am I ever glad I was upstairs!
Today is one of those days. My manuscript was out to a couple of literary agents and I hadn't heard from them. You know that old saying "No new is good news"? Well I guess. I got anxious and wrote to them asking if they'd come to a decision on weather to take on my project. I heard from them and the answer was no. *Sigh* I still believe in the book, and the overwhelming response from beta readers (both those whom I know, and those I don't) has been 8 to 1 in positive response to it. I'm going to believe my readers, and keep plugging at it.
Jack London State Park is up in Northern California. We used to visit it often when I was growing up. Just north of Sonoma, the author's estate is in a wooded, hilly area. The ruins of his mansion are there, as well as the house he lived in and his gravesite.
In the visitor's center there are a couple of display cases. One is filled, and I mean filled, with rejection letters. Some are quite harsh, some are just postcards saying "no thanks". And in the case next to it is THE CALL OF THE WILD printed in every language in the world. It does a writer's heart good to see that.
Now, I don't claim to be Jack London, but if he could stand up to all those rejection letters, then I can too. I don't save mine as he did, but I sure do remember them all. And, let me say once more, if anyone is interested in reading any of my novels, please let me know and I'll pass it on to you for your input. I appreciate any and all comments--even the negative ones--because they help me to be a better writer. Thanks!
Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month. In my church, we use this day as a time of fasting and give the money we would use for food to those in need. It is also an opportunity for each of us to stand up and bear testimony of the things in our lives that have shown us the love of our Father in Heaven and His influence in our lives. It is a wonderful experience and one that always fortifies me. I hear that others struggle and are blessed the same as myself, and it gives me the strength I need to continue.
I haven't been to church for a couple of months because of my leg--sitting is a physical struggle for me. And while it was difficult the final half hour for me, I was so glad that I went. Three friends of mine, women whom I admire and who inspire me each stood yesterday. Tara, Kristeen and Rachel are women that I hope to be more like. That are my role models, and their hearts and spirits are beautiful.
As I listened to them yesterday I felt my eyes fill and my heart burn with the promise that what they were sharing was true. It buoyed me up and was a tonic to my spirit, and I feel energized today because of these wonderful women. (Links to their blogs are here as well!)
Each of them also had one of their children stand yesterday as well, which tells me what kind of mothers they are that their children felt strongly enough to share their feelings. It was a terrific day.
That evening we spent with Tara and her family celebrating her birthday. It was fun. And for those of you who don't know, Tara is a peanut butter and chocolate addict. (She claims she would eat a cockroach if dipped in the stuff!) I confess, I had enough peanut butter and chocolate to last me a couple of weeks! It was a blast. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TARA!
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? To surrender dreams--this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all--to see life as it is and not as it should be.
I have been married for over 27 years to my husband Stan. We have two sons, AJ (26) and Kevin (24). We have two crazy dogs named Jasper and Riley. I love my life, my family and have a strong faith that directs me.
Feel free to comment on my postings and let me know how you feel. I always like making new friends!