Tell Me a Story about … July!

7-16-18 F This week’s story word begins with a capital letter: July. Most people in PA think summer, Independence Day, swimming, picnics, and vacations. I could stories about those, some funny (one vacation in Potter County when I slept in a bed with my aunt, woke during the night, whacked her with my stuffed horse, then lay down and went to sleep), some exciting (the 4th of July fireworks display in Galeton, PA, where we sat right under the place they exploded and had embers cascading over us), some scary (the year 1995 when I went into premature labor around eight weeks into the pregnancy and was put on immediate bedrest for the duration … all went well in the end, daughter #3 only three weeks early).

However, I want to share a story about a special Christmas-in-July gift. I’ve loved7-16-18 B (2) everything Christmas since I shoved off the covers Christmas morning, anxious for Mom and Dad to call us to come down to check what filled our stockings. Fun traditions from my childhood Christmases spilled over into our daughters’ lives, including a few new ones. I’ll share about those in detail over December blog posts (I know, teaser!).

Though the true origins of these celebrations seem muddled, one report stands out as, if nothing else, a cute story. During a summer camp in NC during the 1930s, a co-founder, described as a “creative type,” decided to add a unique tradition to their camp activities: Christmas-in-July. Their celebrations included Christmas trees, makeshift laundry-bag stockings, and camp-wide gift exchanges.

Regardless of its start, I latched onto this extra chance to celebrate Christmas in our home! We listen to Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” watch The Miracle on 34th Street, and spend time coloring pictures of verdant holly wreaths and jaunty snowmen. We even drink cocoa in 90-degree weather! If we use our imagination, we could see snowflakes drifting and hear sleigh bells ringing.

The summer of 2016 found me in the doldrums. My aunt’s cancer alarmed us all with its rapid growth. A family friend died in a horrible accident. I procrastinated (again) so long on a writing project that I missed the deadline, after putting in hours of work to make it publishable. Our new puppy began acting out in negative ways and demanding more attention than I had energy for.

7-16-18 E (2) One hot day, our daughter, Faith, brought me a delightful surprise—a Christmas-in-July gift! She’d stopped at our local florist for a bouquet of red, green, and white flowers. The owner searched for a tiny Christmas notecard and a plastic Christmas tree pick to add to the festive holiday ensemble. Faith had also picked up a new notebook and a two-pack of pretty designer pens for me to use on a special writing project. And she topped it off with a cold bottle of Starbucks’ vanilla Frappuccino.7-16-18 A (2)

Faith knew my heart, knew the month’s events had left my spirit lagging. Her Christmas-in-July surprise hit its intended target—love and care for her mama. But then, what would any Christmas celebration be without the love of family and of Our Savior?!

*** What do the hot days of summer bring to your mind? Share your July story! Click on the words beside the date of this post. Scroll down to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

*** In honor of the Montrose Christian Writers Conference where you will find me next week, the blog post will have something to do with … well, with writing!

 

Tell Me a Story about … a Pickle

         7-9-18 B (2)When I think of words which entice memories from all five senses, pickles come early on the list. I see mounded dirt covered with green vines, tiny hands moving the leaves to peek at midget cucumbers growing. I feel prickly skins as I scrubbed them prior to slicing and dicing for canning. I smell pervasive odors of onions and vinegar as we mixed them with the pickling 7-9-18 C (2)spices. And taste … ah, those canned bread and butter pickles, a bit sweet, a bit tart. My senses reel with the memories.

          “What about sound?” you say? Everyone knows the crunch of a crisp dill pickle, the slurp of a tongue catching the juice. But for me, the thought of a dill pickle brings a much different sound—that of an organ. Not playing hymns in church (whoever heard of dill pickles at a worship service!) but jazzing away with what I cherished as “skating music.”

7-9-18 F          At the roller rink where I spent my teen years, they offered live organ music to skate by. I can still hear lilting melodies perfect for free-spirited wheeling around the floor. Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” melted into “Rockin’ Robin” from the 1950s. We “shook, rattled, and rolled” with Bill Haley’s hit, then slowed for a couples’ skate to Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover.” Since it was the 1970s, they also played recorded music, but this girl’s heart came alive when the organist came off break and the real music began.7-9-18 A (2)

          “But what about pickles?” you ask. Ah, yes, pickles. The snack bar contained plenty to give hungry teenagers something to rebuild their energy: hot pizza, icy slushies, sweet candy, salty soft pretzels. I’d pay my quarter and watched the seller fish out a huge, dripping, forest green dill pickle from the humongous jar. I’d take it to a corner booth and crunch away, happy and satisfied with life at the skating rink.

7-9-18 E (2)          Today, another pickle brings me much joy, and since it IS Christmas-in-July time, let’s talk about it! Early in our daughters’ childhood, we found a unique ornament—a blown-glass pickle with a story. Always drawn to things with stories, we read how the pickle tradition started in Germany. Parents hid the ornament in the Christmas tree after the children fell asleep. Christmas morning found the kiddos scrambling to be the first to find the pickle, for the one who did received an extra gift! We bought that pickle and continue to hang it today, granting the find-ee a special gift (usually something to share with everyone—a box of Pop Tarts or cocoa).

          Pickles! When God created the cucumber, do you think He had any idea they’d fill a girl’s life from gardens to roller skating rinks to Christmas trees?

 *** What senses does the word “pickle” set off for you? Please, share your story! Click on the words beside the date of this post. Scroll down to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

*** Do you celebrate “Christmas-in-July”? We do! See how in next week’s blog!         

Tell Me a Story about … a Goose!

          A “gaggle” of memories flies about geese. Of course, that isn’t grammatically correct, but using it is such fun! I remember studying farm animals in our homeschool and how we giggled at the idea of a gaggle of geese, as a group of them is called.

          In fact, most of my geese memories involve laughter. One vacation in Potter County, PA, we visited Ole Bull State Park for a hike and a picnic. A wide creek runs through the park. We walked out on the bridge separating the picnic area from the campground to check out the fish swimming under the bridge.

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      Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley. http://www.naturelegacies.com

           About twenty yards upstream, some Canadian geese floated on the creek. In a movement I’d never before witnessed, one goose upended itself in the water, totally vertical, its tail pointing straight at the sky. One by one, more geese followed suit. The sight of a half-dozen geese bottoms sticking straight up out of the water looked so hilarious, I dissolved in a fit of giggles. Giggles at gaggles again!

          The geese remained in their ungainly position for so long, I feared they’d drown. Then, pop! One righted itself. Pop, pop, pop! Soon all the geese floated as normal geese should. But before I could recover, more geese flipped over, tails waving at the sun. Another round of giggles, and another pop, pop, pop! I wanted to watch and laugh the day away, but Kevin insisted he’d had enough silliness and wanted to take our hike. I recall thinking they resembled ducks at a shooting gallery—up, down, up, down.

         One more smile-producing goose memory goes back even more years to when we lived beside a couple who farmed their small plot of land. They enjoyed working their garden together, growing most of their own vegetables. Often, we received overflowing baskets of corn or strawberries from their caring arms.

          Valeria, the woman of the house, fashioned decorations out of just about anything she could find. One year, she called me over to see her newest creation. She’d taken a neck 7-2-18pumpkin (not the jack-o-lantern kind, but the let’s-bake-a-pie kind) and turned it into a goose! She stood it up, painted eyes on the small head-end, painted the stem-beak black, and added a felt scarf around its neck. I smiled at her ingenuity and creative spirit. Set by our Ben Franklin stove with a few gourds tucked around his “feet,” he made quite a fetching fall display.

          So, yes, the mournful cries of a large V of geese flying south for the winter may be what many people think of with geese, but to me, I remember laughter—giggling at gaggles! I’m sure God laughed, too, when He taught them to turn upside down in the water and watched them go pop, pop, pop!

 *** Do you have a “gaggle” of goose stories? Even if just one, please, share your story! Click on the words beside the date of this post. Scroll down to the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

 *** Can you guess next week’s post topic? Words associated with it: sour, sweet, bread-and-butter!