Blogmas 2018 – Day 12 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

 
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Merry Christmas!! As a gift to you, I’m sharing with you a part of a Christmas chapter from my story, Hannah’s Rainbow, which is based on my late grandma’s life. I recreated what a typical Christmas morning was like at my house when growing up and Grandma would spend the night. While what’s below is fiction, it’s based in fact. I’ve also posted a short video of Grandma’s last Christmas with us, and you will see some parallels between the story and the real thing.

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When Hannah woke early on Christmas morning, she crossed the hallway to the bathroom and smiled at how Haley had lined up all of her personal items on the counter, completely unpacking her travel bag. After she finished her morning ablutions, Hannah made her way downstairs in her brightly-colored floral robe and fuzzy red and green slippers.
She entered the kitchen to find it empty, and hearing voices down in the finished basement, Hannah made to join the rest of the family. Haley came running up the steps, followed by Abbi.
“There are you, Grandma. We were waiting for you.”
“Did I hold you up?” Hannah asked, surprised. “It’s only 7:30.”
Abbi smirked, shaking her dark head. “You know my daughter, Mom. She was the first one up, counting the presents to see if she or her brother got more.”
“Grandma, come on downstairs,” Haley insisted.
“Wait, Haley,” Abbi said firmly. “Mom, do you want to grab a cup of tea before heading down?”
“Tea would be wonderful, thank you.”
The teapot was already on the stove. Hannah took a seat at the kitchen table to wait.
“How long is this gonna take?” the girl complained.
Just then, the kettle whistled.
“Hold your horses,” Abbi said, removing the teapot from the flame and pouring two cups, each with their own bag.
Hannah graciously accepted the cup, cradling the warm beverage between her hands. She kept from commenting on her daughter’s waste of good tea bags. Hannah had been using a single bag in the kettle for an entire week for decades now, and it had served her just fine.
“Are you ready now?” Haley asked. She looked out the window into the backyard and smiled. “Hey, it snowed!”
“What?” Abbi asked, frowning. She glanced briefly out the window. “That’s not snow, Haley. It’s just a thick frost.”
“Grandma, come here and look. What do you think?”
Amused, Hannah stood and ambled over to the window. Abbi was right about the frost, but not wishing to ruin her granddaughter’s spirit, she said, “What do you think?”
“Maybe it is frost, but it’s white, so it still counts as a white Christmas. Wouldn’t you say, Grandma?”
Hannah smiled warmly. “Yes, I think it does.”
Haley laughed. “See? I told you, Mom.”
“Yes, yes, let’s go downstairs now.”
Haley ran ahead of her mom and grandma. “She’s up, Dad! She’s finally coming, Randy!” she called down.
Hannah carefully followed Abbi down the carpeted stairs, remembering the youthful enthusiasm she once had on Christmas mornings.
By the time Hannah joined the rest of the family, Haley was already clutching a gift. For a moment, Hannah thought the girl was about to rip it open, but then Haley handed it to her.
“This is for you, Grandma. I made it.”
“Is it something you drink tea out of?” Randy asked.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Hey, can I help it if your hints are dead giveaways?” Randy teased.
Hannah smiled and said, “I wonder what it could be?”
She used her long thumbnail to undo the tape and the wrapping, careful not to rip it.
“Hurry up, Grandma. Who cares if you rip the paper?” Haley asked.
“Why waste good paper? It can be reused.”
“Mom, they don’t make wrapping paper like they used to. You don’t have to save it and iron it. It’s cheap enough to just buy new,” Abbi said.
In front of Hannah, Alan stood with his video camera. She didn’t comment on the younger generations’ lack of recycling, their tendency to rush through things, or their need to capture every minute of every special occasion on film. Wrapping removed, Hannah gazed down at the gift: a calendar.
“It’s lovely,” she said, flipping through the pages at ease. Haley had drawn a picture for every month and had written in the holidays.
“Thanks.” The girl glowed at her grandma’s praise. “I even wrote some Bible verses in it.”
Hannah pulled Haley into a hug and kissed her on the cheek. “I will hang it by my phone and use it. Thank you, Haley.”
“Now can we open our gifts?” asked Randy impatiently, his voice raw from coughing the past two weeks due to a bad cold.
“Go ahead,” Hannah said, motioning toward the tree. “They should be under there somewhere. Look for two envelopes.”
Frowning, the children darted toward the tree, digging through the horde of presents until they each came away with a red envelope. Hannah had taped a candy cane to each one, and Randy was already undoing the wrapping and biting into it. Haley set the candy aside and opened the envelope.
“Fifty dollars!” she and her brother exclaimed simultaneously.
“What do you kids say to your grandma?” asked Abbi.
“Oh, thank you, Grandma!” Haley cried, half-jumping from her seated position.
“Yeah, thanks, Grandma,” Randy said, more subdued but clearly pleased.
“You’re welcome,” Hannah replied. “This way, you can get something you want.”
“Or put it into savings,” Abbi said.
“Mom,” Haley moaned, “we put our birthday money into savings.”
Hannah was happy to see her grandkids smiling, although a part of her mind wandered to Glen’s kids. Abbi caught Hannah’s brief scowl and shot a questioning look at her mother. Hannah forced a smile, her warm countenance in place. She would see the rest of her family soon enough.
The family took the next hour to open gifts, and Haley and Randy argued over who would hold the video camera while their dad opened his presents.
“Neither of you if you can’t hold it still,” Alan said. “That camcorder is my baby, and I won’t have you breaking it.”
“You and your technology, Alan,” Abbi replied. “Two years ago, it was that VCR for six hundred dollars, and now you blow a thousand on this thing.”
“I told you that you didn’t have to get me anything for Christmas, honey.”
“Yeah, if you do come up with a list, you always go to the store and buy it before the event, anyway.”
The argument continued as Abbi and Alan walked back upstairs. The kids were putting some of their gifts away in their rooms, leaving Hannah alone for a few minutes. The tea cup sat empty on the small table next to her chair. She gazed at the lights on the tree, watching them blur, and Hannah touched her cheek to find it covered in tears as her thoughts drifted to Edward.
“Oh, Eddy,” she whispered. “I wish you could’ve been here to see your grandkids grow. We shared some lovely Christmases together, didn’t we? I do wonder what you would think of how things have turned out. Glen is so distant most of the time ever since you left us.”
Hannah gasped when something landed on her lap, and she gazed down to find Haley’s cat, Calliope, nuzzling her hand. Hannah rubbed the cat’s chin, and Cally purred as she settled onto Hannah’s soft robe.
“Were you talking to someone?” came Haley’s voice from the steps.
“Oh, just Cally here. She’s keeping me company while your mom gets breakfast ready.”
Haley scampered over to her grandma’s side and sat on the floor. “Cally only likes Mom and me… and you, Grandma. She’s such a fraidy cat.”
“She seems perfectly content right now. Is breakfast ready?”
“Yeah, that’s what I came down to tell you.”
Hannah gently picked up the cat and placed her on the floor. She followed her exuberant granddaughter to the kitchen, gazing one last time at the tree.

Hannah’s Rainbow is available on Amazon.

Blogmas 2018 – Day 8 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

 

A Merry Christmas

Smiles frozen in time decorate ruddy faces1980
And stare back at me, all bundled and warm
In holiday sweaters and knitted hats.
My fingers gently grace the baby
Who was once me in the old Polaroid,
The white tree with the red bulbs
And our stockings with our names in the background.
Grandma gazes back at me with the kindest eyes,
Her knobby fingers carefully unwrapping a gift,
Her patience to save the paper for another year.
The turkey still looks fresh out of the oven,
And I can almost smell the pies on the dining room table,grandmaonxmas
As all the family is gathered ‘round,
Ready to bless each other and the food.
Pictures are our looking glasses into the past,
Along with cherished memories of loved ones.
But as I look around me now,
I see the same smiles with those rosy cheeks
And get to actually hear the laughter and tales
That come with them.
The baby is my own son,
In whose eyes I witness the magic again,
And there hangs his stocking from our fireplace.
My parents are the grandparents, so happy and proud,
Bringing with them their own traditions from times past.2016
The meal is prepared before us to enjoy,
And we are still a family, still thankful to be so blessed.
This is the present, ever-fleeting and ever-changing,
Which is what makes it so special.
Life’s circle continues to turn as I age,
But it is beautiful,
And every Christmas is another reminder
Of how precious every moment is.
But lest we forget there is Someone much bigger than all this,
Let me just remind myself and everyone here
That Jesus is the true reason for our celebration.
In Him is our past, present, and future,
And that is a merry Christmas, indeed.

–written in 2010

 

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Standing around the perimeter of the ballroom rented for the occasion, Hannah shifted uncomfortably in a deep red taffeta evening gown and in heels that were too high for her taste.  She lifted her right hand to her hair and smoothed it down. She wasn’t accustomed to such luxury, and without Maria’s help, she wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Maria stepped into the room behind her, all smiles and glowing complexion.  

“Isn’t this just perfect?” Maria shouted over the live band music.  

“‘Perfect’ isn’t the first word I’d use,” Hannah murmured, her eyes raking the room for a familiar face.

“You need a drink.  You look about as at home as a pig in a slaughterhouse, ” Maria said as she grabbed Hannah’s clammy hand and took her to the refreshment table.

“Gee, thanks.”

Hannah didn’t enjoy feeling so uptight, but this outfit, this party, this whole charade wasn’t her.  Briefly, her mind drifted back to the days when she’d been swept up in attending parties with Kat, Will, and Harry… and how that had all ended in devastation.  Forcing down those memories, Hannah refocused on the moment. If she couldn’t be her natural self, she didn’t think her chances boded well that she would come away tonight with a fellow.

Before Hannah could protest, Maria pressed a glass of the ruby alcoholic punch into her hands.  

“Take the edge off,” Maria teased, taking a swig of her own punch.  “If I’m not careful, I’ll be knocking a few of these back before the night’s through.”  She laughed uproariously.

A weak smile played at Hannah’s red-lipsticked mouth.  “I count myself lucky to be employed by a company that can afford to throw such extravagant parties,” she said.  “Most people don’t even have the extra money to buy Christmas presents these days.”

“Aren’t you just the life of the party?” Maria said, an edge to her voice.  “Come on, Hannah! You’ve worked nearly your whole life doing jobs. Can’t you relax enough to enjoy yourself for one night?”

“Okay, okay,” Hannah said.  

Hannah sipped at the punch.  Well into the second glass, Hannah told herself that she would stop once she emptied it, but the heady feeling was pleasant.  Her eyes swept over the dance floor, the moving forms blending together. The band played a romantic number, the jazz clarinetist leading with his smooth, golden tones.

“Don’t look now, but someone’s got his peepers on you, babe,” Maria said, nudging Hannah’s side.

Hannah looked in the direction Maria indicated.  An attractive man of average height stood opposite the dance floor.  The man’s gaze locked with Hannah’s for several seconds, and he smiled slightly.

“Well, what are you waiting for?  He’s noticed you. You can’t very well back out now,” Maria said.

A confidence she didn’t usually possess took hold of Hannah and propelled her across the room.  She effortlessly dodged dancers and approached her admirer. Now that she was standing in front of him, she saw he was only a couple of inches taller than she was.  His dark brown hair was slicked back, and behind round spectacles blue eyes gazed into Hannah’s face.

“Hello,” Hannah said.

“Hello,” the man replied.  “I’m Edward… Edward Grunner.”

“Hannah Rechthart.  Do you work for Dependable Electric?”  

As soon as she asked the question, Hannah wished she could take the words back.  This was the company’s Christmas party. Of course he worked at the same establishment!

“In accounting,” Edward said, smiling in amusement.

A blush rose across Hannah’s face as a nervous laugh escaped.

“It’s a big company,” Hannah reasoned.  “I’ve worked here for a few years and never seen you.”

“I’m fairly new.  I was behind the grind for several years.”

“You went to college?” Hannah asked.

“Yes, Case University.  My step-father would have preferred I start working and not finish high school, but I suppose you could say I wanted something more.  He’s gone now, anyway.”

Hannah was surprised to hear Edward speak so openly about his family.

“My parents divorced before I can remember.  I never knew my father, but he was a drunk. My mother remarried when I was eight, but my step-father died ten years ago.”

Hannah blinked.  The mention of an alcoholic in the family sat too close to heart.  Recovering quickly, Hannah said, “In the past minute you’ve told me more about your history than most people who work around me have told me in years.”

“I’m sorry; does that offend?”

“No, actually.  I appreciate your honesty.”

“I’ve been told my honesty is both my best and my worst attribute.”  Edward chuckled. “Before I waste another moment of your time, I will simply tell you that I noticed you shining among the crowd.”

“You weren’t joking when you said you were honest,” Hannah said.

Edward took Hannah by the hand and ambled her toward the crowd on the ballroom floor.  If she was at all awkward, Edward’s confidence made up for it as he swept her across the dance floor to the big band music.

Several songs later, Hannah said, “I could use a break.  My feet are killing me in these shoes.”

Edward shrugged.  “Why not take them off?”

Hannah had the gall to look offended.  

Edward laughed outright.  “Are you too much of a lady?”

“I’ve worked in the freezing rain, in the mud, in chicken waste.  Do you think I’m a lady?”

“I’m impressed,” Edward said with genuine affection.  “You, Hannah Rechthart, are just the woman I need.”

“What kind of woman is that?”

“One who will keep me in line.”  Edward’s smile widened.

“Hmm…” Hannah pretended to mull over the events so far.  “Well, then I just might be your woman after all, Eddy.”

They continued dancing well into the night, and out of the corner of her eye, Hannah noticed Maria, in a man’s arms, giving her the thumbs up.  Soon the party was winding down, the music slowing.

A distinguished, well-dressed woman took the microphone and began softly chanting “Silent Night.”  Hannah relaxed into Edward’s arms, her head resting on his right shoulder as if they had known each other for years.  The comfort Hannah found with him was an unexpected gift, and as the song progressed, the two melted into one.

When the song ended, the president of the company stepped up and announced the conclusion of the party, wishing everyone a merry Christmas.

With some reluctance, Hannah pulled away from Edward, but they continued to hold hands, arms stretched out in front of them as they faced each other.

“Thank you for tonight,” Hannah said.  “I didn’t come here with any expectations, but if I had, I would have to say they were far exceeded.”

Hand-in-hand, they walked toward the exit after gathering their coats.  Stepping outside into the brisk air, Hannah’s face lit up as she looked at the heavens.

“It’s snowing,” she whispered.

“One surprise after another tonight,” Edward said, squeezing her hand gently.

“Mmm.”  Searching the crowd leaving around them, Hannah said, “I’ll need to find my friend.  I haven’t spoken with her since we arrived.”

“Before you go,” Edward said, pulling Hannah toward him again, “answer one question.”

“All right.”

“Would you be willing to see me again?”

“I think I just might.”  Hannah smiled teasingly.

“‘Might?’”

“Yes!” Hannah exclaimed, giggling like a child.

“Perfect.”  Edward kissed her sweetly on the lips.

With more resolve than she had experienced in ages, Hannah returned the kiss, her mind remembering Maria’s remark upon entering the ballroom that evening.

Yes, this… this was just perfect.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful (Chapter 3)

While the summer of 1918 was rough because of one childhood illness after another, Hannah enjoyed the last two weeks outside before school resumed.  Ma had a piano in the living room, which she seldom played, but Hannah began taking lessons on it. The busyness of raising a family afforded her little time to devote to hobbies.  

Soon enough, the dexterity with which Hannah’s nimble fingers moved over the keys felt as natural as breathing.  She was a fast learner, and making magic with music was quickly becoming her favorite hobby. Notes printed on a piece of paper creating a song never failed to awe and inspire the young girl.  Ma often hummed along to the familiar tunes her daughter played as she dried dishes every evening.

By Christmas, the First World War ended.  The children had decorated the pine tree with a popcorn-strung garland, an assortment of handmade ornaments from school, and a few carefully placed candles.

Both Christmas Eve and Day had separate dinners that were planned to the point of perfection.  Other than Lucy’s mother, only the immediate family gathered to partake in both meals. Everyone dressed in their finest, shoes polished, and under Ma’s eagle eye, not a hair out of place.  It was the one time of year when Erik and Harry would allow their mother to dictate what they wore.

After dinner on Christmas Eve, the family attended church to hear the story of the birth of Jesus, the miracle of light that came into the world.

The service ended, and the family walked the short distance down Madison Avenue to their home.  Snow was falling lightly. It had a magical quality when Hannah looked upward and imagined the angels dusting their wings off.  She skipped ahead, kicking up the fresh thin layer of snow on the sidewalk. She was laughing, when an icy wetness suddenly hit her in the back of the head.

“Ow!”

Her mood evaporated as she spun around to glare daggers at her brothers.  

“Hey, how dare you!” she said.

Harry had the audacity to look innocent, while Erik couldn’t help but chuckle.  The adults and Amy hung back farther, lost in conversation.

Hannah quickly knelt down and grabbed a handful of snow, formed a ball, and chucked it at her brothers.  It missed, flying between them and ended up smacking Pa in the side of the face.

Both boys were briefly shocked, before dissolving into laughter.

“Oh, you’re in for it now, Hannah-panna,” Harry teased.

“Be quiet!” Hannah shouted.  “You started it!”

The adults were upon them a few seconds later.  Pa was wiping his cheek with his gloved hand, but it was Ma who was angry.

“Who threw that?” she demanded.

“It wasn’t us.  It was Hannah,” Erik said.

“Yeah, but I wasn’t aiming for you, Pa” Hannah said.  “One of them hit me in the back of the head.”

“A likely story,” Harry said coyly, smirking.

Ma’s eyes shifted to her younger son.  “Actually, it sounds about right. Come.  We will discuss this once we’re inside.”

Pa pretended to be stern, but when he walked past Hannah and the boys, he half-smiled.  He winked at Hannah, and then his face was impassive once more. As Hannah watched her parents retreating down the road, she grinned.  

Once back inside their small home, Pa worked at starting a fire in the grate, while Ma sat Erik, Harry, and Hannah on the sofa to give them a brief lecture on how to treat each other with more respect, “most especially on Christmas.”

“How is pelting each other with snow when it’s already freezing outside a Christ-like attitude?”

Pa, finished with the fire, came to his wife’s side, and wrapped an arm around her.

“I think, perhaps just this once, we might excuse the children.  It is Christmas, after all. There will be plenty of time for extra chores in a few days.”  He smirked knowingly.

“Hmm,” Ma murmured, although her eye twinkled as she exchanged a look with her husband.  

Walking into the living room, Amy said, “Why don’t we sing carols and hymns?  I’m sure Hannah’s just bursting to play for us.” She grinned at her little sister.

Hannah bounced up from the sofa and darted to the piano nestled between the fireplace and the Christmas tree.  She had been waiting all day to play. All those weeks of practice would finally pay off when her family heard how much she’d learned since September.

“I like ‘O Tannenbaum,’” Grossmutter said.  “Is good German song.”

“I don’t know all the words in German,” Harry said weakly.

“You can learn it with a few tries,” Ma said.  

Hannah found the music in one of her songbooks.  

A bit unsure, she said, “I haven’t really practiced this one a whole lot.”

“That’s all right, dear,” Pa said, pulling up a chair.  “The important thing is to enjoy ourselves.”

“Can I run through it once before you start singing?” she asked.

At her father’s nod of approval, Hannah’s fingers began moving across the keys, slowly at first, but then picking up the pace as she grew more comfortable with the tune.  Her grossmutter had been mouthing the words, perhaps even singing softly in German, during the practice run. Ma and Pa sang along in German, the song familiar from their childhood, and Grossmutter belted out the words with gusto.  Amy’s pretty voice lingered in the background, the words somewhat unsure but right all the same. The boys were embarrassed as they stumbled over the foreign words, but after a while, they joined in.

The family continued for the better part of the next hour singing songs of the season.  Turning off the lights, save the candles burning dimly on the tree, Ma suggested they end with “Silent Night,” in both German and English.  The children knew this song well in German, as they sang it every year at church on Christmas Eve. It was the perfect way to wind down the evening and usher in the night’s dreams of what tomorrow would bring.

“Well done, Hannah,” Pa said, smiling proudly and clapping his daughter gently on the shoulder.  “I think it’s high time we all retired for the evening.”

“Thanks, Pa,” Hannah replied, smiling from ear to ear.  She stood from the piano bench and went upstairs to her room.

After everyone was ready for bed, the parents worked on tucking each child in.  Before Hannah could turn in for the night, however, she ran downstairs to hug her grossmutter goodnight.

The old lady was sitting in the armchair nearest the piano, the light from a single lamp the only illumination.  An open book perched on her lap on top of a blanket.

Grossmutter smiled, the wrinkles on her face crinkling deeper.

“Is not time for bed, child?”

“I just came to say goodnight.  What were you reading?”

“The Bible.  First Christmas story.  Not all this nonsense about der Weihnachtsmann.”

“What?”

“Not what, child, who.  You call him Santa Claus.”

“Oh.”  Hannah giggled.  Hannah recalled being frightened by Grossmutter when she was smaller.  Perhaps it was the stern-sound of the German language or the way her face could turn as firm as a stiff board, the wrinkles hiding any youth left.  She knew better now. Coming to Grossmutter’s side, Hannah gazed inquiringly at the Bible. “I can’t read it.”

“Is German Bible.  You know Martin Luther made Bible into German from old Latin?”

“Yes, I learned about that in Sunday school.  I can’t imagine not understanding what was being read in church.”

“Yes.  If you like, I teach you some German.  You understand?”

“You want to read the story to me?” Hannah asked, her eyes lighting up like the candles on the tree.

“Not too much, but ja.”

Grossmutter patted the arm of the chair, and Hannah sat and listened.  The old woman’s knobby finger moved slowly across the yellowed, tattered page.  Hannah wondered if the Bible had been hers since she was a little girl. At the end of the passage, Grossmutter kissed Hannah and beckoned her to bed.

Upstairs, the family exchanged goodnights, kisses, and hugs. Filled with the joy and excitement of Christmas, Hannah lay awake for a while, posed on her right side, her gaze out the window.  The snowflakes continued their ballet just beyond the pane, and the lackadaisical whirl of white lulled her into sleep soon enough, the music from earlier in the evening the perfect companion to the dance.

* * *

“Your father would like your attention,” Ma said in a mock-stern voice on Christmas morning as the children tore open their presents.

“Huh?” Hannah asked, pulling her eyes away from a new pair of shoes she had been admiring on her feet.  “Why are you wearing your coat, Pa?”

Amy, Erik, and Harry looked up simultaneously, their fingers stopped mid-tear with the wrapping paper they each clutched.  An amused smile curled Pa’s lips.

“Is something wrong?” Erik asked.

“Pa looks like he’s up to something,” Harry said.  “I know that look because I’ve worn the same one.”

“Well, since you asked so kindly,” Pa said.  He reached into one of the deep front pockets of his long coat and withdrew a tiny black puppy.

Hannah was the first to rush forward, holding her hands out.  “Oh, he’s adorable! May I hold him?”

“Yes, you may, and she’s a girl.”  Pa laughed easily as he handed the puppy off to his youngest.  

Hannah cuddled the puppy close.  The dog licked her chin, and she giggled.  “She’s so soft.”

Her siblings gathered around her.  

“Is she ours?” Harry asked.

“She sure is,” Pa said.  “Ma and I decided it was high time for a dog.  She’s a Labrador. She’ll grow quite large.”

“Mitchell Woods down the way has a yellow Lab,” Erik said.  “He’s a good dog.”

Amy scooped the puppy up from her sister’s hands and smiled at the dog.  “Does she have a name?”

“Not yet,” Pa said.  “We were going to leave that up to you all to figure out.”

After a morning of debate, the children came up with the name Flossie.  By the end of the day, the new pet was curled up on Hannah’s bed, and from that day forward, Flossie spent many nights sleeping there.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for $4.99 here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Review of The Memory Tree (Carson Chronicles Book 2) by John A. Heldt

memorytreeThe Memory Tree is the second in the Carson Chronicles series, immediately following the events of the first book, River Rising. Please read my review of the first book here.

In book two of the five-part series (books three through five still to be released), we follow the Carson family from 1889 to 1918. The five Carson children, all young adults, pass through the portal in Sedona, Arizona, on the summer solstice, following their missing time-traveling parents’ schedule. Since the Carson children were unsuccessful in locating their parents in 1888-89, they must continue their journey in 1918.

The riveting story is told from different character points of view (third person limited) in each chapter. The oldest of the clan, Adam, is 28 and is happily married to his Irish bride, Bridget, who he met at a hotel in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1888. They settle in the Duluth, Minnesota, area, where the whole family at first congregates at the beginning of the novel when they strategize their next moves. The Carsons have ancestors in several areas of the country, one of which is Duluth, and knowing that Tim and Caroline, the parents, intend to visit several of their relatives while in 1918, the kids decide their best option would be to split up in those different locations and try to intercept them. Adam and Bridget wind up moving into a remote cabin next to one of their ancestors. Life seems peaceful for them with good news on the horizon, but then all that is rocked.

Greg, age 26, the next oldest, is the adventurer in the family. He agrees to travel to Baja California. He has to illegally cross the Mexico border. He is already a wanted man from a shootout 29 years earlier, and once in Tijuana, his troubles don’t lift. He meets vivacious, gun-toting Patricia O’Rourke while there, but he once again finds himself caught up with the law and on the run.

Natalie, age 24, is the oldest sister, and is the independent, ambitious journalist of the family. She takes a job with the Minneapolis Post after being selected for her impressive job of interviewing a World War I soldier. She is given the opportunity to go to France to be on the frontlines to interview soldiers directly in combat, and she takes the trip, meeting dashing Lieutenant Tom Jackson among the injured soldiers in France. Despite the war drawing to a close, the horrors of battle are never far and have devastating consequences for some of the men Natalie has come to know and love.

Twins Cody and Caitlin, age 18, travel to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where they meet up with their friend (and Cody’s first love) Emma Bauer Jackson from 1888. Emma is overjoyed to see them and is let in on the Carsons’ time-traveling secret. They meet an ancestor, but so far, there is no sign of their parents passing through Pennsylvania.

Tim and Caroline spend much of their time with Caroline’s ancestors in Mexico and come to learn of Greg being close by. They begin traveling throughout the United States, just on the tails of their children. They leave a message in several newspapers in the ad section that they will meet them in Sedona on December 22, and while the kids see this note, Tim and Caroline are unaware if their children ever see it.

The book is a huge journey of several paths crossing and dividing, of the importance of friends and family, of loss due to war, illness, and natural disaster, and of a family trying to overcome the challenges they face to find each other against the odds. John A. Heldt tells a masterful tale that is carefully researched for historical accuracy, with regards to events, places, and period details. His characters are engaging, heartfelt, sometimes humorous, and the type of people you would want in your family. He always brings the narrative back to the importance of staying together as a family, of the love and hope that keep humanity persevering.

It was a pleasure to read this historical fiction book about time travel and family. I look forward to reading and reviewing the next one.

5 out of 5 stars

Purchase The Memory Tree on Amazon.

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My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is available for pre-order here.
My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

 

Remembering Grandpa by Creating Him

We stood in the basement of my grandma’s old house, the place I visited every Sunday afternoon as a child. I was now an adult. While I knew she had passed away years ago, as had the man with me, the moment felt so real.

The security of his arms around me, the steady rise and fall of his chest, his breath warm in my ear as he whispered, “I know you never knew me, but I wanted to tell you I love you.”

He wasn’t much taller than me, if at all. His voice was kind, gentle…grandfatherly.

I woke in awe, a tear in my eye. I never knew my grandfather, yet he had spoken to me through a dream.

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My grandfather in 1903

I have seen many pictures of my grandfather. He passed away four years before I was born. Being nearly 11 years older than my grandmother, he would have been well into his seventies by the time I came along. My grandparents were older than most in that generation, she at 28 and he at 39 when they married in 1942. My uncle was born in ‘46 and my mom in ‘49, so my grandfather was 46 when my mom came into this world. With my grandparents being older, especially my grandfather, I don’t suppose chances were favorable that even if he had lived longer, I would have remembered him much or known him long… But I digress. It’s a sad reality, but true, and I cannot undo the past.

So, that dream held and holds significance for me, seeing as my grandfather was just a man I knew from pictures and from my grandma and mom’s memories of him. He was among the tallest in his extended family. All of the Grundmans were short, so at 5 feet 9 inches, he was a veritable giant! His mother passed away from breast cancer shortly before my grandparents married, and his father was never in his life. His parents divorced when he was a baby because his father was an alcoholic. His mother remarried a man named Samuel Winhold when my grandfather was seven. Samuel must have passed away some 20 years later, as he no longer showed up in pictures.

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My grandfather, his step-father, and his mother (Amelia) in 1923

My grandfather was Howard Grundman. That’s a good, strong German name, isn’t it? In fact, my mother’s side of the family is completely German, although they have been living in the United States (on both sides) since the 1880s. What’s funny is that when growing up, I often referred to my grandfather as “Howard” when talking about him with my mom or grandma. We visited my grandma every Sunday afternoon for many years, and one of the things we often did was get out all the old pictures and look at them at her dining room table. I had an interest in my heritage from an early age, asking my parents and grandmas to tell me the names of their direct ancestors, so I could write them down. I had a family tree going back to my great-great-grandparents when I was eight, and since then, I have done extensive genealogy research, but that is another topic.

Getting back to my grandfather, or Howard, I feel the need to make the distinction of personalizing him. He will be Grandpa going forward, as it has been in my head and in my writing that I have remembered him in a roundabout way.

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My grandparents on March 21, 1942

I was fortunate to know my grandma, Emma Grundman, until I was 15, when she passed away. I was close to her, as we saw her weekly. When she died, a void opened in my heart that I spent years (and still do) trying to fill. How can you replace a loved one? You can’t, of course, but you can help them live on by remembering them, by sharing stories, writing down memories, looking at pictures. I am a writer, and writing a story based on my late grandma’s life was inside me. I didn’t know it until 11 year later, when at age 26, I woke with a fictional character’s name on my lips: Hannah Rechthart. Hannah would become my grandma in the story, and her husband would be Edward (Howard).

I wrote a couple of chapters and then a couple more over the next few years, but nothing came of that story until March 2015. I was tired of waiting: waiting for inspiration to strike, waiting to achieve my dream of writing the story and maybe even publishing it. So, I sat down with the intention of writing for at least fifteen minutes a day. That’s it, I told myself, 15 minutes. And do it every day.

I stuck to that, and in the process, the fictional name of Edward Grunner became a character who seemed to breathe and walk off the page. He shared a lot in common with my grandpa: being raised mostly by his mother, being an only child, working in accounting, marrying later in life, being drafted during World War II but only serving for three months, and in love with his dear wife. Edward was an admirable man in many ways. He was kind, patient, and supportive. He was a hard worker and went to church with his family every Sunday. But doubts of being a good father figure plagued him because of his own lack of a good fatherly role model. He questioned his ability to be the type of dad his children needed, especially where his son was concerned.

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The Grundman family in the early 1950s

For the first time, the ache of not actually knowing Grandpa hit me. I looked at the old pictures of him with my grandma and their kids as if for the first time. I wondered what he sounded like. What was his laugh like? There’s a picture of my grandparents sitting on the couch laughing, and the sound almost escapes. It’s like a phantom room right next door, but I just can’t enter.

What was his favorite food? Did he enjoy Grandma’s pork chops as much as the rest of the family? Did he play that old Monopoly set from the 1930s that Grandma had, the one where I only wanted to play the banker because I didn’t want to lose? Did he sit in the pew and listen to his wife play the organ in church like Edward did in my story? What did he think of his in-laws? Were his grandparents really as stern as they looked in their pictures?

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My grandparents laughing in 1956

So many questions and only my imagination to answer them!

I mourned Grandpa as if he had just died in 2015 instead of 40 years earlier. For me, by making him alive in my story, I felt that loss penetrate me in a way I never had before. I remember setting an extra place at the table at times when I was a child and we’d be at my grandma’s. It was for my grandpa. Now I have set a place in my heart for him.

I remember him in this way. It’s all I’ve really got.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post excerpts of my stories on Saturdays, poetry on Tuesdays, and the occasional blog on Fridays. Also keep up-to-date with my writing.

The book I refer to in this post, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

My other book, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

Also, don’t forget my next book, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

 

Old Family Pictures & Genealogy: Our Connection to the Past

grandma2I can still remember sitting at the dining room table in my grandma’s house and looking at old family pictures. Those days were at least 25 years ago now.

When you’re a kid, time almost seems to stand still. Those Sunday afternoons at Grandma’s house seemed like they would never end.

Now I cannot believe how much time has passed.

The photo to the right shows my grandma’s family around 1921. My grandma is the girl in the front, about 8 years old here. She grew up in a family of nine (her younger brother hadn’t yet been born here) in Cleveland, Ohio.

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My grandparents in 1942: Love the hat!

Those old photographs now belong to my mom, but I have scanned several of them. They reside in a box in the closet, on my computer, and in my heart. I look at them now with an awe and appreciation I couldn’t as a child. Now I’m a mother. My mom is a grandmother, and so the cycle continues.

Seven years ago, I dove into genealogy and researching my family tree on both sides. I used Family Search as a free resource to find a lot of my information, but I was also fortunate to have documentation of my own. I used My Heritage to build my family tree online and share it with my family. Next week, I will share more about my experiences with family tree creation, so come back to check that out!

I wanted to update and document my family tree, as heritage is important to me. Knowing where I come from is part of who I am. When I see old pictures of family members, I can look into their eyes and smile with them, feeling that connection. I am transported back in time, and Grandma is sitting next to me at her dining room table again, telling me who all those people are in the photographs.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.