Christmas Eve was upon us again. We gathered around the kitchen table excitedly finishing our supper with Christmas music dancing through the house. Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year and even though the stress of finances was on them, my parents enjoyed the season. Our beautiful tree glistened with old ornaments, funky childmade ornaments, and lights. The same angel that always looked down, did so from her perch that year from the top of the tree. Our stockings were hung, on the wall, so it seems, no fireplace was there. The three of us giggling and trying very hard to be good looked out into the dark December sky and saw a red light flying by. Heidi yelled, “Rudolph is coming, hurry!” (Perhaps it was a plane, but it being Rudolph was much more likely being Christmas Eve and all.) We went to bed a wee earlier than usual and stayed awake for what seemed forever with sounds of Mahalia Jackson’s, “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and the Andy William’s Christmas album singing us to sleep.
Santa must have fallen on rough times as well that year because he brought a toy for us to share. Not a usual occurrence, but we were so delighted with the community castle and a “My Little Pony” for each of us. We played and danced and opened our stockings and ate the chocolate and smiled. (Even now, you must eat the chocolate immediately before the dog gets into the stocking and does it for you.) I don’t remember this part, but the tree was rather bare that year, my parents were concerned that we would be unhappy with our small gifts.
There was a tea set under the tree from my Grandma and Grandpa. Miniature, real china tea cups with a single sweet rosebud on each with saucers, and a real teapot with the same pink roses. It delighted me so. My mother found invitations that said the “Tuesday Tea Party” and I was allowed to choose a few girls to come to my house after school and have tea with real sugar cubes and little snacks. It was a delight I will not soon forget.
There were not many other gifts but I do remember one. One that would change the course of my life forever. A simple spiral notebook. I cannot imagine how my parents would have fretted over such simple gifts and our reaction to them as our peers were receiving tape players and Madonna-esqe clothing. “You can write some stories in it,” my mother said. I took that as a personal invitation, as if I was not able to write before. I quickly filled the spiral with short stories and poems. I gave them to my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, to read and she told me to call her when I became an author. An author? I never thought that was an option!
Through teenage turmoils and growing pains, I filled journals and spirals with thousands of poems and thoughts. The notebooks shaped me. As I became a young woman I outlined my dreams of the future in poetry prose. My journal in my twenties was my therapist, hearing out every thought and making sense of the jumble and stressors in my mind. It fueled me to start school to be an English teacher (though that was short lived because of finances), but I continued to write.
I have now written three vegetarian cookbooks, a textbook to use in my Certified Herbalist Courses, an “Ask the Herbalist” column in the paper, and most fun, I am the Food and Wine writer for another local paper, circ 5000, called the High Plains Rider. Katie’s Culinary Corner sure is catchy. And now I can write this. All because of a spiral notebook.
What a simple spiral can do in a child’s life. My son has filled several with adorable stories and now, at nineteen years old, fills them with music lyrics. So, this Christmas, instead of the newest video game or (gasp) cash (that they will spend on junk food at the gas station, guaranteed!) maybe a beautiful journal with nice pens, or drawing paper and oil pastels, or a beginning knitting or crocheting book and needles and fabulous yard and a bit of your time, or an apron with wooden spoons and a cookbook. Most adults might enjoy these things too!
Give simply, and see what your gift will become.