cj Sez: Now that I'm fully stuffed with Thanksgiving dinner, it's time to find my Christmas spirit ... not that it's been lost. It's just been in storage. In boxes. In the closets. In the garage. But Saturday, I retrieved the outside lights and hung them up then set the timer for an automatic shut-off six hours after they go on (at dusk). I like to have my outside Christmas lights operating for at least a month if I'm going to go to the up-and-down-the-ladder effort to get them up. Happy to tell you, I couldn't wait until tomorrow to have them come on. Ergo, tonight, my eaves are glittering with color! Yay. Now, I'm in the mood to shop, shop, shop. Scary thought.
Rather than try to create some incentive for all you writers to sit down and write over the holiday season -- especially for those who've just gone through NaNoWriMo (hope you met your goal), I think I'll serialize one of my favorite Christmas short stories. I picked this piece in honor of the memory of my friend, Tracy Hurley, who helped me get the story ready for submission. Thanks, Tracy. I miss you.
"Dancing with Daddy" was published by Adams Media in 2008 in their anthology CHRISTMAS THROUGH A CHILD'S EYES, edited by Helen Szymanski. I wrote this memory under my maiden name, Marilyn Olsein. Here is this week's excerpt of "Dancing with Daddy":
Living in a small town in Texas during World War II was tough, especially at Christmas. My father, disqualified from the Armed Forces because of his age, was working in an auto factory in Michigan, trying to earn more money than farming paid.
When I remember my childhood, the phrase "dirt poor" comes to mind, but we--Mama, my brother, my two sisters, and me--always managed a wonderful Christmas. Mama's family came to our house for dinner, and Mama made pans of Swedish cardamom rolls, the sweet smell filling the whole house. Grampa would bring in a couple of chickens for Mama to roast and fry, and we'd have cornbread dressing, white and sweet potatoes, corn, and green beans that Gramma had canned. We ate, laughed, sang, and carried on all day and into the night.
Not long after that hateful war ended, Mama sat us down on the screened porch and told us we'd spend our next Christmas in Michigan. We were moving to Detroit to be with Daddy.
I was terrified. We all were--even Mama, I think. Detroit was at least a hundred thousand times bigger than Melvin, Texas.
"Mama, doesn't it snow up there . . . a lot?" Phyllis asked. At twelve, she was the oldest.
I was born in Texas, and at the age of seven, I could remember seeing snow only once--the Christmas the Army gave all my uncles holiday leave. Uncle Steve, Mama's youngest brother and my favorite, chased me down a slippery road and washed my face with a handful of cold, melting flakes.
"It's not like snow in Texas," I said. "Detroit snow is black."
"Don't tell fibs, Marilyn," Mama scolded. "Snow is white wherever it falls."
"Maybe it's white when it first comes down in Detroit, but Daddy's letter said coal smoke from the factories makes it black," I insisted. I imagined Detroit as a city without color, all black, gray, and white.
"You'll find out soon enough," Mama said. "We'll be in Detroit for the first snowfall." She saw my face cloud up. "And crying won't change things."
I didn't want to spend Christmas in a cold, dirty city with a stranger, for that's what Daddy had become to me.
I think the idea for the anthology was a wonderful one and a lot of older writers responded with their favorite, and wonderfully written, childhood memories. I do believe, however, it'd also be a marvelous exercise for young writers whose memories haven't been clouded by the years between then and now. Do you have a young writer in your family? Bet you'd be surprised at what their favorite memory is.
That's all for this post. I'll finish the story next time. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.
PS: The 'toon is from Facebook.