A Royal Birthday

     I don’t think I’ve quite admired anyone equally as much as my mother, as I have Queen Elizabeth. There has always been a marked elegance, wisdom, poise and constancy about her that has garnered my attention from a very young age clear up to the present. It isn’t that she has had a picture-perfect life which most people would believe is the support for such a strong character as this- no, quite the opposite. She’s had her trials, bad years, grief and heartache which could cause many to break. However, I believe that words she has spoken at crucial times were not only from her heart and honest but that she really does hold to these tenets with real faith in them.

     As a longest reigning monarch in world history she has overseen the health and wealth of more than thirty countries for 69 years! (That is two more years than Queen Victoria, her great-great grandmother, who lived up to the age of 82.) Today, Lilibet, as she was lovingly referred to by her Prince Philip, turned 95 but without her Prince by her side. This may be her most trying time but she can stand firm and tall in the conviction and knowledge that she always gave her best and did so with dignity and joyful spirit, besides.

     Harkening back to 1947 when, as Princess Elizabeth, she accompanied her parents with her first overseas tour through southern Africa she was given a chance to speak in a broadcast sent out to all of the British Commonwealth. This was on her 21st birthday and she made an early pledge that would define the rest of her life:

     “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

     By 2012, only nine years ago, during her Diamond Jubilee which commemorated 60 years in service as the Queen, she stated, “In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness … I hope also that this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look forward to the future with clear head and warm heart.”

     After that she and her husband made an extensive tour of the U.K. and her children and grandchildren embarked on tours to many other commonwealth states on her behalf. By June of that same year her beacons were lit all around the world and by December she was the first British sovereign to attend a peace-time cabinet meeting since King George III back in 1781! If you’ll recall I covered information on 2012 Summer Olympics which occurred in London on this blog and the Queen became the first head of state to open two Olympic Games in two different countries (the other was the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal).

     A personal note about her faith often features in her annual BBC Royal Christmas message broadcasts. In the year 2000, while speaking about the theological significance of the millennium marking the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ she stated: “To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me, the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”

     May Christ’s life and triumph lead the way for you and all your progeny, Ma’am!

Also, God Save the Queen!

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God’s Promise, a reprise on Easter Sunday

In_Spirit_and_In_ Truth

When Jesus re-entered Nazareth, his hometown, the town of his birth, it is written that he preached in the synagogue. He read this scripture from Isaiah’s book which is numbered in modern day as 61:1-3  :

     The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up (mend) the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prisons to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint (provide) unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty ( a garland) for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Gethsemane Then he said, “Today this scripture you have heard has been fulfilled.” He meant that everything he planned to accomplish before his ultimate sacrifice had been fulfilled and that what was going to happen would bring all of it to fruition. You see, Jesus was not sent to offer salvation to the gentile. He was sent to the Jews because he said, “…salvation is for the Jews.” (John 4:22) Salvation was extended by him to the gentile through his encounter with a Cyrophoenician Greek woman whose daughter was demon-possessed and delivered (Mark 7:25-30) and then, later, relayed by the Spirit to Paul as his express assignment during his ministry. Much of the New Testament is the written proof of Paul’s commitment to extend salvation to all gentiles. Continue reading

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Need a little bit of green in your life?

What’s more Irish than the tale of Daniel O’Rourke? If you’ve never read or heard of the tale then you have missed a rare opportunity to understand the mind and manners of the ancient Irish in all its glory. Even though you’d be hard pressed to find Ballyashenogh or Pooka’s Tower any where in Ireland, this tale gives you a little taste of the fascinating, fantastical culture that resides within its shores. Put on your imagination hat! – The Castle Lady

DanOrour

502986_ORourkeCrest

(The Voyage to the Moon)

by Thomas Crofton Croker

     People may have heard of the renowned adventures of Daniel O’Rourke, but few there be who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was neither more nor less than his having slept under the walls of the Pooka’s Tower. An old man was he at the time he told me the story, with gray hair and a red nose; he sat smoking his pipe under the old poplar tree, on as fine an evening as ever shone from the sky.

     “I am often axed to tell it, sir,” said he. “The master’s son, you see, had come from beyond foreign parts in France and Spain as young gentlemen used to do, and, sure enough, there was a dinner given to all the people on the ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor.

     “Well we had everything of the best and plenty of it; and it was in the wee small hours o’ the morning that I left the place. Just as I was crossing the stepping-stones of the ford of Ballyashenogh, hard by the Pooka’s Tower, and was looking up at the stars, whistling to keep awake, I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the water. ‘Begorra!’ thought I. ‘Is it drounded I’m goin’ to be?’ However, I began swimming, swimming, swimming away for dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of me can tell how, on a desarted island.

     “I wandered and wandered about, without knowing where I wandered, until at last I got into a big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day and I looked east and west, north and south, and every way, and nothing did I see but bog, bog, bog. So I sat upon a stone and I began to scratch my head, for, sure and certain, think I, here’s the end o’ Daniel O’Rourke. And I began to sing the Ullagone- when all of a sudden the moon grew black and I looked up and saw something, for all the world, as if it was moving down between me and it and I could not tell what it was. Down it came with a pounce and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an eagle?- as fine a one as ever flew from the kingdom of Kerry. So he looked at me in the face and says he to me, ‘Daniel O’Rourke,’ says he, ‘how do you do?’

    DanOrour3 “ ‘Very well, I thank you, sir,’ says I; ‘I hope you’re well;’ wondering, out of my senses all the time, how an eagle came to speak like a Christian!

     “ ‘What brings you here, Dan?’ ” says he.

     “ ‘Nothing at all, sir,’ says I, ‘only I wish I was safe home again.’”

     “ ‘Is it out of the bog you want to go, Dan?’” says he.

     “ ‘ ‘Tis, sir’, says I.

     “ ‘Dan,’ says he, after a minute’s thought, ‘as you are a decent sober man, who never flings stones at me or mine, my life for yours,’ says he; ‘get up on my back, grip me well, and I’ll fly you out of the bog.’

     “ ‘I am afraid,’ says I , ‘your honour’s making game of me; for whoever heard of riding a-horseback on an eagle before?’

     “ ‘ ‘Pon the honour of a gentleman,’ says he, putting his right foot on his breast, ‘I am quite in earnest; and so now either take my offer or starve in the bog!’

     “I had no choice; so, thinks I to myself, faint heart(s) never won (a) fair lady. ‘I thank your honour,’ says I, ‘for the kind offer.’ I therefore mounted on the back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat and up he flew in the air like a lark. Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me. Up, up, up –God knows how far he flew. ‘Why, then,’ said I to him –thinking he did not know the right road home – very civilly, because why? I was in his power entirely; ‘sir,’ says I, ‘please your honour’s glory and with humble submission to your better judgment, if you’d fly down a bit, you’re now just over my cabin, and I could be put down there and many thanks to your worship.’

     “ ‘Arrah, Dan,’ says he, ‘do you think me a fool? Hold your tongue and mind your own business and don’t be interfering with the business of other people.’

     “ ‘Faith, this is my business, I think,’ says I. ‘Where in the world are you going, sir?’

     “ ‘Be quiet, Dan!’ says he, and bedad he flew on and on.

     “Well, sir, where should we come to at last but to the moon itself. Now you can’t see it from here but there is, or there was in my time, a reaping hook sticking out of the side of the moon.

     “ ‘Dan,’ says the eagle, ‘I’m tired with this long fly. I had no notion ‘twas so far!’

     “ ‘And my lord, sir,’ says I, ‘who in the world axed you to fly so far- was it I? Did not I beg and pray and beseech you to stop half an hour ago?’

     “ ‘There’s no use talking, Dan,’ said he; ‘I’m tired bad enough, so you must get off and sit down on the moon until I rest myself.’

     “ ‘Is it sit down upon that little round thing?’ said I. ‘Why, then, sure, I’d fall off in a minute and be split and smashed entirely. You are a vile deceiver- so you are.’

     “ ‘Not at all, Dan,’ says he; ‘you can catch fast hold of the reaping hook that’s sticking out of the side of the moon and ‘twill keep you up.’

     “ ‘I won’t then,’ said I.

     “ ‘Maybe not,’ said he, quite quiet. ‘If you don’t, my man, I shall just give you a shake and one slap of my wing and send you down smash to the ground!’

     “ ‘Why, then, I’m in a fine way,’ said I to myself, ‘ever to have come along with the likes of you;’ and so, telling him plain to his face what I thought of him (but in Irish, for fear he’d know what I said) I got off his back with a heavy heart, took hold of the reaping hook and sat down upon the moon.

     “When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, ‘Good morning to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ said he; ‘I think I’ve nicked you fairly now. You robbed my nest last year and in return you are freely welcome to cool your heels dangling upon the moon.’

  DamOrour5   “ ‘Is this how you leave me, you brute, you?’ says I. ‘You ugly, unnatural baste!” ‘Twas all to no manner of use; he spread out his great wings, burst out a-laughing and flew away like lightning. I bawled after him to stop; but I might have called and bawled forever, without his minding me. Away he went and I never saw him from that day to this. You may be sure I was in a disconsolate condition and kept roaring out for the bare grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon! creaking on its hinges as if it had not been opened for a month before- I suppose they never thought of greasing them- and out there walks- who do you think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.* (*beard)

     “ ‘Good morrow to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ says he, ‘how do you do?’

     “ ‘Very well, thank your honour,’ says I. ‘I hope your honour’s well.’

     “ ‘What brought you here, Dan?’ said he. So I told him all the whole terrible story.

     “ ‘Dan,’ said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done, ‘you must not stay here.’

     “ ‘Indeed, sir,’ says I, ‘’tis much against my will that I’m here at all; but how am I to go back?’

     “ ‘That’s your business,’ said he; ‘Dan, mine is to tell you that you must not stay, so be off in less than no time.’

     “ ‘I’m doing no harm,’ said I, ‘only holding on hard by the reaping hook lest I fall off.’

     “ ‘That’s what you must not do, Dan,’ says he.

     “ ‘Faith and with your leave,’ says I, ‘I’ll not let go the reaping hook and the more you bids me, the more I won’t let go- so I will.’

     “ ‘You had better, Dan,’ says he again.

     “ ’Why, then my little fellow,’ says I, taking the whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, ‘there are two words to that bargain and I’ll not budge!”

     “’We’ll see how that is to be,’ says he; and back he went giving the door such a great bang after him (for it was plain he was huffed) that I thought the moon and all would fall down with it.

     “Well, I was preparing myself to try strength with him, when back he comes, with the kitchen cleaver in his hand and without saying a word he gives two bangs to the handle of the reaping hook that was holding me up and whap, it came in two! ‘Good morning to you, Dan,’ says the blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a bit of the handle in my hand, ‘I thank you for your visit and fair weather after you, Daniel.’ I had no time to make any answer to him, for I was tumbling over and over, and rolling and rolling at the rate of a fox hunt. ‘God help me!’ says I. ‘But this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this time o’ night. I am now sold fairly.’ The word was not out of my mouth, when, whiz! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock of wild geese, all the way from my own bog of Ballyashenogh, else how should they know me? The ould gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to me, ‘Is that you, Dan?’

     “ ‘The same,’ said I.

     “ ‘Good morrow to you,’ says he, ‘Daniel O’Rourke; how are you in health this morning?’

     “’Very well, sir,’ says I, ‘thank you kindly!’ drawing my breath, for I was mightily in want of some. ‘I hope your honour’s the same?’

     “ ‘I think ‘tis falling you are, Daniel,’ says he.

     “ ‘You may say that, sir,’ says I.

     “ ’And where are you going all the way so fast?’ said the gander, so I told him all the whole, terrible story and never the once stopped rolling.

     “ ‘Dan,’ says he, ‘I’ll save you; put out your hand and catch me by the leg and I’ll fly you home.’ Well, I didn’t much trust the gander but there was no help for it. So I caught him by the leg and away I and the other geese flew after him as fast as hops.

     “We flew and we flew and we flew until we came right over the ocean. ‘Ah, my lord,’ said I to the goose, for I thought it best to keep a civil tongue in my head, ‘fly to land, if you please.’

     “ ‘It is impossible, Dan,’ said he, ‘for you see, we are going to Arabia!’

     “ ‘To Arabia!’ said I. ‘Oh! Mr. Goose, why, then, to be sure, I’m a man to be pitied among you.’

     “ ‘Whist, whist, you impident rascal,’ says he, ‘hold your tongue. Arabia is a very decent sort of place.’

     “ Just as we were talking a ship hove in sight, sailing so beautiful before the wind. ‘Ah, then, sir,’ said I, ‘will you drop me on the ship, if you please?’

     “ ‘We are not fair over it,’ said he; ‘if I dropped you now you would go splash into the sea.”

     “ ‘I would not,’ says I, ‘I know better than that, so let me drop at once.’

     “ ‘If you must, you must,’ said he; ‘there, take your own way;’ and he opened his claw, and , faith, he was right- I came down plump into the sea! Down to the very bottom I went and I gave myself up, then, for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself after his night’s sleep and looked me full in the face and never word did he say but lifting up his tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water till there wasn’t a dry stitch on me! And I heard somebody saying –‘twas a voice I knew, too- ‘Get up, you lazy vagabone!’ With that I woke up and there was Judy with a tub full of water, splashing, splashing all over me.

     “ ‘Get up, ‘says she, ‘and to work. Late out o’nights, no reason for shlapin’ late o’ morning. Off with you after the pigs!’

     “Begorra! of all the places in the parish, there I’d been fast asleep under the ould walls of the Pooka’s Tower. And what with eagles and men of the moon and ganders and whales driving me through bogs and up to the moon and down to the bottom of the ocean, I never again took forty winks on the road coming home from a party- leastwise not under the Pooka’s Tower!”

Castle_Glow

Just don’t paint your nails green- it’s not a good look ! stpatricksnoopy_woodso

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Pithy Quotes for Valentine’s Anyone?

As is  usual with most lovers in the city, they were troubled by the lack of that essential need of love- a meeting place.    –  Thomas Wolfe

(though love be a day and life be nothing, it shall not stop kissing).       –  e.e. cummings

It is love, and not German philosophy, that is the true explanation of this world, whatever may be the explanation of the next.            Oscar Wilde

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.    (an old Welsh proverb)

Amen!

 

 

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Burns Night in Scotland

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne? (old long since)

 

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 

    Not very many people realize that the song they sing every New Year’s Eve is actually an ancient song which spread from Scotland to the world! It could be thought of as the most famous song ever written and the list of languages it has been translated into is astonishing. Robert Burns is credited with the song but he cannot actually claim authorship of it because he merely set a folk tune to verse that had been sung every year long before he actually sat down to record it in the Scots vernacular. Some words he wrote were Scots Gaelic and not quite comprehensible to the English. Burns made a regular practice of this in his poetry so it is taken for granted in Scotland but those in foreign countries who learned English as a second language are often mystified. The partial version I’ve included here is understandable for those who don’t know a word of Scots Gaelic and it’s easy for those who claim English as their only language. Burns Night is not celebrated on New Year’s Day but on January 25th– his birthday.

   This baird who is honored as a premiere poet by both Scots and English was born at Alloway, Ayrshire which is southwestern Scotland. He was born in the year 1759 to a tenant farmer who built his own cottage of clay. It is said that Burns father was intelligent, religious and of good character but his success as a farmer was not up to par. As Robert grew up he learned farming and never rose above this peasant rank but with only a few years of school and reading anything he could lay hands on, he managed to also acquire a good self-taught knowledge of French, as well.

   If he was a peasant he was surely an extraordinary one and if he didn’t make a rich man of himself with his pen he made mankind, in general, wealthy in more important ways. Until the age of twenty-eight he never traveled more than ten miles from his birthplace and this primarily rural life is well captured in his poems and songs which were often inspired by his neighbors and acquaintances. He announced that he wanted to emigrate to Jamaica to break the cycle of poverty he was experiencing and although this was an admirable burst of productivity for his poetical aspirations and ambition, did not happen.

     What did happen is that he raised money enough with his published poems in 1786 to put more of his poems in print. His first edition was published at a nearby town, Kilmarnock but the new book he had published at Edinburgh and he became quite a literary sensation there. He made regular forays back and forth to Edinburgh and eventually found himself in with a literary society which took him under their wing. That year’s edition in 1787 netted him ₤500 making him fabulously rich overnight, by the times standard. He actually worked in government service for a while at Edinburgh as a tax assessor and collector on beer, after this windfall.

     He decided to buy a farm at Ellisland located near Dumfries and continued working in service. He wrote only in his spare time. One would think that his talent would suffer but much of his most popular writing took place in this last decade of his life. A good part of it never won him another farthing but he continued out of love for his native Scotland and it made his life even more toilsome and difficult. Sometimes he drank just to stave off the sadness of his life. It shows in his love songs which mention many different ladies, some of whom he fervently tried to do right by but meddling fathers and mothers plus death itself overtook nearly all his paramours. He was formally married only to Jean Armour in 1788. It has been said that he fathered many children but only three were buried in his purpose built mausoleum upon the grounds of St. Michael’s Church at Dumfries. The third son was entombed there exactly seventy years, to the day, after his second edition of poetry was published. If a Latin inscription were placed on his tombstone it would’ve read, semper in amorem. In 1796 he died at only 37 years of age and Scotland lost their most famous and beloved poet.

     When Burns poems are translated, even into English, a bit of the magic he wrote in his dialect is most likely lost. Burns could write, when he chose, in standard English but when he did it was not the voice of himself. Readers who wish to really know and understand him must accept him in his own rural setting. That said, I have assembled a small but good selection of his best, I believe, and highly recommend reading and deciphering the following list: The Twa Dogs, Epistle to J. Lapraik, Tam O’ Shanter, The Jolly Beggars (pub. posthumously), O Green Grow the Rashes, The Silver Tassie, Sweet Afton, Ye Flowery Banks (a personal favorite of mine!), A Red, Red Rose, Highland Mary, Honest Poverty…and To a Mouse illuminates the 18th century sensibility of his homeland.

    Burns Night has been celebrated with elaborate suppers, wearing of the tartans and reciting Burns’ poetry for over two centuries now. Supper on this brilliant night involves haggis (sheep entrails), neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (potatoes) along with the best Scotch whiskey in the house. At the end of the supper Auld Lang Syne is sung. Close friends of Robert Burns began this tradition not long after his death and continues, unchanged, to this day in Scotland and many other parts of the world where Burns memory is a welcome visitor. I’ve never had occasion to celebrate it myself and was unaware of such for most of my life but I’ve known quite a bit of his poetry from my youngest years. My mother quoted his finest lines on occasion- most likely unaware that she was quoting him and this is all the more ironic since her birthday was on the exact same day. Honest!

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So Long, 2020 !

Ring Out, Wild Bells

 

 by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

    The flying cloud, the frosty light;

    The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

    Ring, happy bells, across the snow;

    The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 

Ring out the grief that saps the mind

    For those that here we see no more;

    Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

 

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

    And ancient forms of party strife;

    Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

    The faithless coldness of the times;

    Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

 

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

    The civic slander and the spite;

    Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

 

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

    Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

 

Ring in the valiant man and free,

    The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

    Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.

gleaned from a 2020 reprint in Guideposts’

The Joys of Christmas

 

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Yuletide Cheer et al

As rough as this year has been for one and all I just want to take the time to thank everyone who has come to my blog this year to read, comment and put up likes. You’re the reason I put up content on this blog and I want to continue to provide the service of presenting you with many subjects besides castles. When you can, please leave comments about what you like and I promise to supply you with the type of information, photos and ideas that have made you happy, better educated and enlightened. Have a wonderful holiday with family and friends in whatever capacity you can manage. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next year with much more on castles. Our favorite subject !

The Castle Lady

(12-28-2020 @ 6:26 p.m. Mtn time) 199,843 hits and growing as we read…

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Waiting for Santa

I have decided to get real with my readership concerning what kind of holiday Christmas has become for me. Last December I had a strange bout of a slight cold just before Christmas Eve. I canceled going to my sister’s house for festivities that evening. In fact, I was alone the entire holiday. I hadn’t trimmed a tree like I usually do because of other pressing matters and by the time Christmas day arrived I felt as weird, as weird can get. Through no one’s particular fault- not even my own- none of the usual things fell into place. I did not, however, just have a regular day as some may think. That would’ve made the situation worse. Instead, I chose to finally truly focus on what Christmas Day is in its most genuine form. I prayed for this year, thanking Jesus for making a way of salvation not just for me but for the entire world. I counted all the blessings I could think of and started to wonder why we go through this gift-giving process every year. I understand why children want to but why do adults continue this practice?

     Well, it turned out to be the most inspiring Christmas I think I’ve ever had and only sighed to myself when I realized that what I loved most about celebrating this holyday was celebrating every year with my Mom. For eight years now I have missed my Christmas buddy but I know that she is with the big family not so far away. The remainder of the day I spent musing over long passed Christmas memories we shared and by bedtime I slept sounder than I have for many years.

   The story you are about to read is pure fiction by David Baldacci but it should give you that glow which I experienced last year. Christmas is actually a love story presented to all of us by God, our Heavenly Father. There is a true reason to celebrate life this year. Let’s do that!The Castle Lady

 

    How do you learn how to live again after holding a warm child in your arms, wanting nothing more than to love and protect her from all harm, and then having to give her up forever less than twenty-four hours later? I’ve pondered that for the last eight years, ever since my wife died during childbirth on a Monday and our one day-old daughter Sara followed her on Tuesday. I had gone to the hospital expecting to leave with the two people I loved most in the world. Instead I went home alone to arrange for twin funerals.

   The hardest time of the year for me is Christmas because Sara was born on December twenty-fourth. For the last eight years I’ve come to the mall to watch the long line of children waiting their turn with Saint Nick. And each year I go home afterward and cry myself to sleep for never being able to hold Sara’s hand as she anxiously waits to whisper in Santa’s ear.

  My family and friends keep asking me when I’m going to get on with my life. I’ve stopped trying to answer because I don’t know what the answer is. In many important ways my life ended with the deaths of my wife and child. I’m not certain that I’m entitled to another one.

     This year, as I stood watching the long line of kids and parents, a little girl of about nine appeared near me. She was small with curly brown hair clustered around a perfect oval face that framed enormous green eyes. She looked familiar but I was sure I didn’t know her.

    “Hey, mister, can you stand in line with me? My granny’s knees aren’t so good.” She pointed to an old woman who sat nearby. Before I could answer, she took my hand and led me to the end of the line.

She said, “I’ve seen you here before.”

     “Yes,” I replied, “you probably have.”

     “Only you just watch.”

     “That’s right,” I said. “I just watch.”

     “Your kids don’t like Santa?”

“I had a child but she died.” I don’t know why I told her this, but I suppose I was unable to lie to a child.

     She patted my hand. “I had a mom and dad but they died too. Granny says it was in an accident.”

“I’m sure you miss them.”

     “I didn’t really know them. But you have to miss your parents. It’s a rule.”

     A good rule, I thought. “What are you going to ask Santa for?”

     “Same thing I ask for every year: a mom and dad.”

     I looked at her grandmother. “I’m sure your granny loves having you with her.”

     “I’m a lot of work.” She added, “And she’s not as young as she used to be.”

     “You want to be adopted?”

     “It’s the right thing to do,” she said confidently.

     The firmness of her words startled me. “I’m not sure I understand.”

     “I can make someone another family, someone who doesn’t have kids.”

  “I guess that’s one way to look at it, making a family that way.”

     “Lots of people can do it.”

     “I suppose,” I said absently. I was growing a little uncomfortable holding the strange girl’s hand. But every time I tried to pull away she gripped my fingers tighter.

     “Yeah, even people like you. But you have it easy. It’s harder for me,” she said.

     I stared at her. “What do you mean?”

     “I have to wait for a grown-up to want me.”

     “It’s not that easy for me either,” I said. “Grown-ups have their own limitations.”

     “But it happens, every day. You’ll make a new family and then you won’t have to come here and just watch.”

     “I can’t replace the family I lost.”

     “No, you’ll actually have two families- two families of memories. That’s pretty lucky when you think about it, most people only have one. Right now I don’t really have any. So when I get a new family I’ll only have one set of real memories. But I’ve already made up memories of my real mom and dad. I’ll never forget them. That’s a rule, too.”

I smiled. “I’ve never known a child who liked rules so much.”

     “It’s easy when you love someone. Like your kid. I bet you loved her a lot.”

     “More than anything,” I felt myself tearing up and I swiped at my eyes.

     “Well, once you love someone, that’s it. That love will always be there.”

     “But what about her? She died when she was very young, she didn’t even know me. Like you said, you don’t remember your parents. You had to make up memories.”

     “No. That’s different. I don’t remember them in one way but I remember them in another. It’s from their love. I know my mom and dad held me close before they died. I know they wanted me. I know they loved me. And once they love you, you never forget it. You can’t take it back. It’s inside of you forever. I know that, and so did your little girl.”

     “Another rule,” I said weakly as an overpowering sensation of hope flooded me.

     “Actually, the most important one of all.”

    She went and sat on Santa’s lap. When she was finished she waved to me. “Thanks, mister.”

     As she walked off I asked, “What’s your name?”

“Sara,” she said before disappearing with her grandmother.

* * *

I was married a year later, and a year after that we had a son named Timothy. I took Timothy to see Santa when he was two years old. As I was standing there I noticed the old grandmother sitting nearby. I looked around for Sara but didn’t see her. Leaving my son with his mother, I went over to the old woman, introduced myself and asked if her granddaughter Sara had been adopted.

The old woman looked at me curiously for a moment. “I don’t have a granddaughter.”

     I was less shocked by this than I probably should have been. I walked back to my son, took his hand and led him to Santa Claus. My wife and I hugged while our son whispered his wishes into Saint Nick’s ear. As we left to go home I said a silent prayer of gratitude for both my families.

 

* * *

The only people who enjoyed the first Christmas were the people who were looking for it.

– Rick Warren

Have a wonderful Christmas,

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Joy at Christmas Time

Somehow, not only for Christmas,

but all the year through,

the joy that you give others,

is the joy that comes back you;

And the more you spend in blessing

the poor and the lonely and sad,

The more of your heart’s possessing returns to make you glad.

-John Greenleaf Whittier

 

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Hurray for Hanukkah !

Who says Hanukkah isn’t fun? Check these out! The Castle Lady

COVID-19 Humor !

 

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