'Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Clement Clarke Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
“DAD, WHEN’S MAGGIE going to get here?” Chloe’s breath fogged up the picture window. Her gaze scanned the snowy Montana mountains. “I hope she makes it in time for Christmas.” Ruffling Chloe’s dishwater-blond mane, I prayed like hell Maggie and her mother, Glad, would get here soon. Traveling had come to a halt across the country thanks to the winter storm, but at least Maggie and Glad were safe at home and not sleeping on some airport floor like the many interviewed on the news.
Feeling anxious, I massaged my temples. Wrapping my arms around Maggie and kissing her lips were the only Christmas presents I needed.
“Not sure, Pumpkin. Depends on the flights.”
Crossing paths with Maggie the summer before last was like finding a rose bush on top of a mountain while searching for gold. As much as she resisted, her heart finally won. We all won. Acquiring Glad in the deal was a bonus. Without hesitation, she’d taken a special liking to Chloe. They’d bonded instantly through their love of mischief. Glad was like the grandmother Chloe never had, and her sense of humor cut to the quick. Glad wore her heart on her sleeve and was the only one capable of giving Maggie a run for her money when Maggie needed a challenge. Glad was Maggie’s mother first and foremost, but their relationship—built on sarcastic wit, middle-naming, and genuine love—was most unique.
“Maggie has to get here.” Chloe drew a heart in the moisture on the frosty glass pane. She wrote her initials above Maggie’s, then she added a plus sign. “The snow is so thick you can barely see through it.” Chloe hummed a holiday tune between thoughts. “Just think, Dad, next year at this time, I’ll be nine and Maggie will have been here a whole year.”
Nudging the hat back from my brow, I thought about the woman who’d stolen my heart. I never dreamed in a million years I’d fall head over heels for my Michigan neighbor lady, Maggie Abernathy. Living in Grosse Pointe hadn’t been on my agenda originally, but the picture was crystal clear why I’d established residency in the Great Lake State before coming back to Montana. If I didn’t believe in fate before, I did now, and I wanted Maggie to get here as much as Chloe. We had big plans of starting a life together and this was only the beginning.
“Why couldn’t Maggie and Glad come earlier?” When Chloe spoke, deep lines appeared along the bridge of her nose.
“I told you, Chloe, Maggie’s settling things with her house. Remember when we sold our house in Grosse Pointe? It takes time. Papers have to be signed, things need to be packed, and besides Maggie wanted to spend some extra time with her momma. You can understand that, right? When Christmas is over, Glad’ll fly home. I don’t think Maggie has ever really been apart from her momma.”
I lifted Chloe’s chin with my index finger. My daughter’s soul shimmered behind her green stare. Hope should’ve been Chloe’s middle name because my girl never gave up when the chips were down.
“Glad’s house is where Maggie grew up. Maggie’s saying her last goodbye.”
Chloe’s expression tugged at my heart like the snap of a lasso when wrangling a wild pony.
“I know what you mean. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten used to being apart from my momma, but maybe that’ll change someday. Hollywood sure is a far way away.”
Chloe’s momma was nothing like Maggie, and I wondered if I’d ever shed the guilt from our failed marriage that had left my daughter living with her old man. Chloe longed for a normal household, whatever that was in this day and age. Smiling at Chloe, I wished she’d see the well of hope I carried myself.
“I guess so, but I want Maggie to be here. It’s almost Christmas. We have so much to do.”
“I want Maggie here, too, Peanut, but it is what it is.” Resting my hands on Chloe’s thin shoulders, I prayed for the skies to clear so our Maggie’s arrival was sooner than later.
“Maggie promised she’d make cookies with me. Christmas will be here before you know it. This is our first Montana Christmas, and I want it to be perfect.” Chloe leaned her forehead against the window, closed her eyes then whispered in the sweetest of voices, “Please Lord, it’s me, Chloe. I know I can be kind of a pain, but can you please help Maggie and Glad get here, and fast?”
“Come here, Peanut.” Opening my arms, I scooped my little girl up. My cheek grazed hers. Nothing compared to her soft touch when pangs of disappointment bristled.
On the outside, my daughter was as tough as they come, but on the inside, she was soft and cuddly. Chloe rested her head against my shoulder, her warm breath like butterfly kisses upon my neck.
“Are you going to marry Maggie?”
“Without a doubt.” My heart pounded as I imagined sharing life with the woman I loved. “Don’t you worry.”
“Good,” Chloe whispered. “I can feel your heartbeat against mine. I think we both love her.”
“This is where Maggie needs to be, Peanut.” Holding my daughter tight, I breathed her in. She was a wee one, but something told me the years would pass in a blink of an eye if I wasn’t careful.
“I love you, Daddy.” “I love you, too, Munchkin.” Outside, heaping mounds of snow grew deeper
with each passing hour. If Maggie and Glad couldn’t get to the 617 Ranch before Christmas morning this was going to be some Montana-bound holiday.
I'm Linda Bradley, author of the Montana Bound Series.
This merry band of misfits is together once again in A Montana Bound Christmas. Like warm cocoa and your favorite pair of slippers, I hope ho, ho, home for the holidays! warms your heart, too.
A little about myself . . . When I'm not writing or plotting my next Women's Fiction book, you can find me teaching second grade, reading, dabbling with my art supplies, baking, walking my beautiful rescue dog, Maisey or traveling.
Seriously, is there anything better than summer?
I don't know where you live,
but here in Michigan, summer is short...
too damn short.
Don't get me wrong,
I love the four seasons
and wouldn't change that for anything but....
I sure wouldn't mind
extending summer two months.
May is still pretty chilly so we really can't keep our windows
open till June. That gives us
June, July and August.
Okay...part of September too, but then we have to start closing our windows again.
Fall is a warning that temperatures are dropping and winter is quickly approaching.
I don't mind winter. In fact, I like winter. The winter-wonderland with trees coated in newly fallen snow is beautiful. And I pray for a white Christmas every year.
But come January and February, I am done with you Old Man Winter.
You can have it. The cold and gray gets old pretty quick. I am ready for spring right after the winter holidays.
I have always wondered....for those of you in the south with warm weather year round...do you get sick of it? Do you long for heavy coats and mittens? Do you get tired of blue skies and warm sunshine? I thought not! LOL
What do you do with all that free time? No dragging your patio furniture inside to protect it from the ice and snow. No spring clean up of your flower beds, ripping out the dead soldiers of last summer and planting new seedlings.
Yep, I'm jealous.
But tell me, do you appreciate those warm summer days that are so fleetingly precious in the north or do you take them for granted?
Yep, I'm jealous...but not enough to give up the aroma of crisp autumn mornings or gathering around campfires for warmth. Or the excitement of the first snowflakes of the season or the crunch of fresh fallen snow underfoot.
And my memory bank is full of wonderful four season memories.
I guess I am not ready to give up autumn and winter....
Why do I do it? Every single year, I come up with New Year’s resolutions with the belief that this year will be different . . . this year I will follow through . . . yeah right.
The only consolation is that I know I am not alone.
Funny but when I make a promise to someone other than myself, I DO follow through, ALWAYS. I don’t make promises lightly or without thought as I know how important it is to that person and myself that I keep it.
But why don’t I keep promises to myself? I do like myself and I do have the best of intentions. My resolutions are not impossible to keep (i.e., eat less, exercise more, be kinder, etc.).
I envy those that keep their resolutions but I can’t honestly say that I know a lot of people who do. So I guess I am in good company and shouldn’t beat myself up.
But I will make my 2017 New Year resolutions and keep them . . . really I will… honest.
Here are the some of the most common New Year’s resolutions:
Care to share your New Year’s resolutions with me? Or even better, advice on keeping them?
My parting message to you . . . and myself . . . let’s not get down on ourselves if we fall short of meeting our goals. Life is short, be happy.
I always told my children, if it’s not illegal and you are not hurting anyone . . . go for it!
Oh . . . I almost forgot. In the New Year, don't forget to . . .
Why do I always voice surprise that the Holiday season is upon us once again? What a wonderful way to end the year…especially this year. 2016 was brutal.
Simple kindness and decorum is the exception now. Intolerance, speaking your mind with no censors is the ‘in’ thing. Heck, if our civic leaders do it, we certainly can’t punish our children for it, can we? I know I am old school, but civility, empathy and good will should never be outdated.
I am a sucker for those corny Christmas movies that make me cry and end with a message of love. We need to get back to basics.
Put down your smart phones and tablets, stop videoing everyone for everything they do, and talk . . . just talk. Even if we don’t agree, we can have a spirited discussion without ending in obscene language, gestures, or even violence. It’s ok to disagree and then get back to basics. Life would be pretty boring if we all thought the same.
There was many a politician in the past that disagreed on all types of topics. But at the end of the day, they could share a toast and laugh.
Let’s get back to basics. Do what we were taught in kindergarten. It is still true, no matter how old we are- when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
So let’s end this year on a good note . . . have some fun this Holiday season.
Wear that Santa hat around town and enjoy the smiles it brings.
Sing Christmas carols OUT LOUD.
Eat Christmas cookies . . . LOTS of them.
Get together with family and friends, rekindle lost friendships.
Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us so make this Christmas the best!
And speaking of fun holidays, help me come up with a caption for the photo above.
I took the picture of my husband and daughter while we were out cutting our Christmas tree. I didn’t realize that I didn't capture my daughter in the photo till I looked later. A photographer I am not . . . guess I won’t quit my day job.
I do think it would make a GREAT Christmas card! If I use your caption, I’ll throw in a $20 Amazon gift card to show my thanks. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!
I have attended three reunions in the past 6 weeks. Please tell me I am not alone when I say there is always some pre-reunion anxiety, right? Who will come? What has changed since we were last together? Have we changed? Did we lose our closeness? Will we get along?
Two of the reunions were family which always brings drama. Should we avoid talking politics, religion, child raising, healthcare, the economy? Dare we revive old conflicts …. the possibilities are endless…and worrisome! But then again…what else is there to talk about? How do we relate if we walk on egg shells?
Some friends and coworkers I know avoid reunions at all costs. They just are not up for it. Whether imagined or real, they do not want to be judged. Nor do they want to answer the inevitable questions… not married? Don’t you want kids…you’re not getting any younger you know. Do you have a job? No grandkids? Why not? Have you gained weight? And it goes on and on.
Of course, there is an up side…memories of our younger days with grandparents, aunts, uncles, remembering stories of times past that make us laugh…and cry, holding on to the shared history that bonds us. Life changes us all and leads us down different paths but our roots ground us, unite us.
Henry Ford Hospital-School of Nursing - 40th year reunion
The third reunion was my 40 year nursing school class and it brought me the most anxiety. Except for a few, I hadn’t seen my classmates in 40 years! Would they even remember me? What would we talk about? Could I measure up to their success? Walking down the hall, I prepared myself for a quiet evening talking to only a few people.
Man…was I wrong! Like my family reunions, our shared past brought us together. We laughed (a lot!), we cried, but best of all our bonds were strengthened and rejuvenated. Our varied careers, though interesting, were minor details. The forty-year distance melted away and once again, we were human beings just trying to do our part in changing the world…at least for our patients. Especially in this age of such turmoil in the world, it does the heart good to be in a room filled with love…and pure joy at seeing old friends and comrades. The reunion reminded us that no matter where we go, those two intense years we spent together bonded us for life. Wherever we go, whatever we do, I have brothers and sisters out there and yes, corny as it sounds, it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.
So my vote on reunions, family or other…a big fat YES! It’s one more way to . . .
kiss life in the face!
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
As a nurse, I encountered numerous memorable patients but there were a few that forever settled into my heart. Montana Wild is fiction, but Jacob, the patient in the story was real. In the span of a human lifetime, I knew him a very short time, but his spirit had a lasting effect on me. Jacob died decades ago but he stays with me and inspired me to write.
How is it that someone I knew for so short a time could have such a lasting effect on me?
Have you ever had a chance encounter with someone. . .a stranger, and you just clicked, even for a few minutes? I am not talking romantically, it goes deeper and more to the core than that. Age, gender, race doesn’t come into play…you just feel a connection with their spirit. In my lifetime, this has happened to me only a handful of times but I cherish each occurrence.
I was in an elevator with a group of people once when it happened…something almost magical. For those few short moments, as we traveled between floors, I felt a kinship… talking, laughing, interacting on a real level, sharing an unusually close rapport of humankind. As the routine journey stopped at every floor, packed in like sardines, we became one…sharing laughter, stories, kindness…basic human spirit.
When we finally reached our destination, I felt sadness when the doors opened and the shared warmth dissipated as we all went our separate ways. I mourned that it was over, but a deep contentment lingered as I knew I had just shared something special. Did everyone feel that same afterglow? I hope so. Why does it happen so rarely?
Jacob’s time with me was short but when a connection like that happens, one cannot measure it in time but in essence. A bit of his spirit lives on in me. It was a gift.
Thank you Jacob.
When my children were growing up, we had a chocolate lab, Stanley who was an ‘old soul’ and loved by all. Pre-occupied with raising kids and a full time job I didn’t give Stanley much of my time but luckily, my kids and husband lavished him with love and attention. Sadly, he developed cancer and the prognosis was poor. I tearfully asked our vet how long can we could keep him without being cruel. “You’ll know when it’s time,” our kind friend answered.
It was only a month later while we were vacationing at our cottage, when his words rang true. We unanimously decided that it was time and my husband would drive Stanley back to our home vet. During his last 2 days with us, we fed him everything and anything he wanted. For his last night, my daughter and I slept in sleeping bags with him between us on his bed on the floor. It was a long, tough night but I hope he felt our love.
Saying good-bye to him as my husband loaded him into the car was heartbreaking.
That was the last summer before our daughter left for college and I swore off any more pets. It was too painful saying good-bye.
Fast forward 8 years and my son temporarily moved back in with us. He wanted a dog and my husband and I finally agreed after many a discussion. After all, my son was home for a short-term transition and it would be his dog, his responsibility. Evan was true to his word. He fed him, trained him, cleaned up after him and loved him.
However, just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a puppy. That darn pup worked his way into my heart in a big way. I still had pangs of guilt about not giving Stanley enough attention because I was too busy with life. I didn’t have that excuse this time . . .my kids were grown. I had time to dote on my grand puppy and dote I did. I came home at lunch to walk him, cuddled with him in the evening, and took him to obedience class when my son’s schedule didn’t permit. I had all the time in the world and I fell in love!
Nothing melts away a workday’s stress better than a dog’s loving welcome.
A year later my son tells me he is moving out. My reaction? “I’ll miss you son, but the dog stays!”
I tell myself it’s because my son’s schedule is too busy with full time school, a demanding job and busy social schedule. But I am fooling no one.
For now, we are sharing custody and it is working. I know I will eventually have to give him up but I’ll think about that tomorrow.
In Montana Wild, Jamie the heroine, was a New York City girl, born and bred. An impromptu trip to Montana brings her face to face, literally with horses and she is amazed at her reaction. Having never loved an animal before, she is surprised with her overwhelming affection for one horse in particular.
As she confesses her emotions to the the caretaker of the horses, he acknowledges her feelings.
“We are all God’s creatures. And I don’t necessarily think humans are on a higher level than other animals.”
Is there anything more true, more pure, than the affection of an animal? I think not. It is love in its most basic form and I hope everyone experiences it, at least once in their lifetime.
It is another way to . . .