And so, I put the oranges and the peace candles on the fireplace mantel again yesterday, as I do each year, and we went to get the Christmas tree. But this time, when we came home with our tree stuffed in the back of the Prius, my younger daughter asked, "Are those peas growing by the mailbox?" We've never had peas growing at Christmastime. It's never been warm enough. But this year is different. This year, somehow everything seems different.
It was a hard year. It's ending on a very sad note for our nation. And yet . . . I have hope. I always have hope, that seeds of good planted in simple moments by humbled hands will somehow grow. So, here it is again. The post I rerun every year when I silence this blog for a bit. Thank you for all you do. It matters. You matter. ____ (written December 24, 2007) And so there was this family of nine children who, every year for
Christmas, received an orange, because oranges weren't local and during
the Depression, when this story took place, something not local was
still such a very rare and special treat. And when the father returned
home late, late, late, in the middle of a blizzard, with the Christmas
oranges, the youngest child couldn't wait to get his hands on his orange.
then, as stories like this tend to go, he lost his beloved orange. The
other children found this out and knew what an incredible sadness this
was, to wait all year for something sweet and special and then lose it
because of being too anxious and careless.
But when they all
woke up on Christmas morning, there were nine oranges on the fireplace
mantel. All nine. How could that be? Well, one of the oranges was
wrapped with a ribbon. Because that orange, Frankie's orange, was made up out of a slice from each of the other eight.
And so, now, after many years of reading this story, An Orange for Frankie, by my very favorite children's author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco, I cannot look at an orange without thinking of it.
as a heavy, full moon hangs over my garden, pulling moisture up to
fatten my Christmas salad, and I prepare to line my mantel with oranges
as well, one always made up of slices from the others, the sweet and
gentle words from a song by the band Alabama waft through my mind:
By now in New York City There's snow on the ground And out in California The sunshine's falling down And maybe down in Memphis Graceland's all in lights And in Atlanta, Georgia There's peace on earth tonight
to hear the song (and see snow!). It's a beauty. It has played at least
14 times while I've written and edited this post (mostly correcting my
And for those of you who may be struggling this
week, I offer you this poem by Mary Oliver. It was shared with me by a
dear friend who is undergoing serious medical issues.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body Love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain Are moving across the landscapes, Over the prairies and the deep trees, The mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, Are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, The world offers itself to your imagination, Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -- Over and over announcing your place In the family of things.
finally, as yet another example of the incredible cosmic energy
swirling around the world, I sat down to read the Travel section of The New York Times last
night and there was a story about Adelaide, Australia. I showed the
map to my younger daughter, who had drawn that exact map as part of her
Flat Stanley project for school (for those who don't know, my daughter
sent Flat Stanley to Kate and Maggie in Australia, who then sent Stan
the Man on to Beijing, China--the experience was truly life-changing in
this household). My daughter shouted, "It's Adelaide!" And for some odd
reason, I knew it was not a coincidence. You can read the Times' article about Adelaide here , and for what it's worth, Pliny's Italy has nothing on Adelaide, apparently!
I managed to get Patricia Polacco, Alabama, Mary Oliver, Adelaide, and
even another Pliny mention all into this post. I can't call this post
complete without telling you this little story So I'm at a drug store getting a couple of little things and the clerk says, "A dollar eighty seven."
I gasp a little and ask, "Did you just say a dollar eighty seven?"
"Yes, ma'am, a dollar eighty seven," the poor, unsuspecting young man replies.
"The Gift of the Magi! The Gift of the Magi!" I squeal.
He looks at me blankly.
"You know, Della? Jim? The hair? The combs? The watch?"
Blank. Blank. Blank.
Finally, he starts to put my items in a plastic bag.
"Oh, no thank you, " I say, deflated. "I don't need a bag."