Saturday, December 17, 2005

Remembering the Season

Governor and Mrs. Haley Barbour sent this card to citizens with the statement inside, "God bless Mississippi and the wonderful people who make her great". They are standing in front of a yard on the Gulf Coast with only the statue of Mary still intact. A poignant moment captured to be remembered at this holy time of the year. The Bible verse quoted from Jeremiah states, "There is hope for your future, says the Lord, your children will come again to their own land." Take a moment to think or pray for those ravaged by the hurricanes who feel only bleakness in their lives.

I don't begrudge those who wish to say "Happy Holidays" or any other secular greeting. Those who consider this time in December as commemoration of Jesus' birth easily greet with "Merry Christmas", leaving others to use their own means of wishing happiness. It's not the words we use but how we use them and the tone of voice. We Southerners greet strangers easily with a "Good morning" or a "Hello" at motels, restaurants, on the street and always follow with "Thank you" after a favor is done. A greeting communicates caring.

Our tiny tree now sparkles with colored lights and six white dove sit precariously on the limbs. Digging into the few small boxes of ornaments passed from year to year, I'm reminded of the many years between Thanksgiving and December 19 (usually the last day of school) our three kids would make their own ornaments for the tree: painting wooden figures and making paper chains. It was fun also making gifts for neighbors, teachers, and their closest friends. Soon the idea of pasting pictures on soap with wax or hand drawing a picture or making their own greeting cards became passe, and only bought items would do.

One season when daughter Janie was in the third grade, she had decided not to give her teacher a gift, only to change her mind on the evening of the 18th. Because she had decided late in the evening I was quite distraught, needing to prepare for my last day of classes. We traipsed to a department store looking at all the possible gifts. Of course my ideas didn't agree with hers, so I gave her a hard sell. "Look at this scarf, see the way the flowers are arranged at each end? Anyone knowing this artist will appreciate this as a gift. Vera is a well-known designer. One of her scarves is a real gift." Janie had to muse over what I said as she gazed around the ladies' department, finally settling on a Vera scarf with some reluctance. Taking the selection home she wrapped the box her way and never spoke to me again about that gift. That was in 1971.

Several years ago I was in the local library chatting with some friends when that third grade teacher of three decades ago walked in. She asked about Janie and I proudly told her Janie's accomplishments. Putting her hand on my arm, she said, "I'll never forget that Christmas when Janie walked up to my desk and presented me with her gift. As I opened it, she said, 'That's a Vera scarf; anyone is happy to wear something of hers, she's a famous designer.' You know, I've still got that scarf and I've never forgotten those words of hers!"

Ironic as it was, three summers ago at our Kudzu Food and Goods Scott had purchased some Vera collectible napkins. I was pleased to learn more of this talented woman. Then one day a visitor who became a customer mentioned that he collected scarves and hoped to write a biography of her. During that same summer I picked up a budget decorating magazine and found an article about how a young man utilized his collection of her scarves: framing and hanging on his living room wall. They were just as beautiful as when they were originally designed.

What goes around comes around--just like this season. Merry Christmas!

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