Nan’s Parlor


My Great Grandmother Edith ( or  Nan as her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren  addressed her )  did not receive visitors in ‘ living room’, she invited them into her Parlour.

It was not decorated in the style of the day( which was the early 1970’s) , it was arranged tastefully, elegantly and with  the plan to helping her visitors remember to sit up properly, speak quietly and above all to act in a dignified manner at all times.

Nobody acted the fool in Nan’s Parlor.

Not even at Christmas Time.

I was allowed to go into the parlor alone and at the very young age of five,   PROVIDING I act like a young lady. No jumping on or off the furniture. No playing with her collection of porcelain figures, no carrying on like a ” rabid dog ” and running  in and out or around the room.

I remember the first time I was allowed to use, ” The Parlor ” on my own.

We stood outside the doorway and  she spelled out each of her rules, which I was required to repeat at the end of her instructions without prompting.

She seemed satisfied and reached for the doorknob, she turned it while looking down me. ” Do you have any questions.”

” Yes “I asked as I drank in the pictures on the walls- they were paintings and photographs of people in fancy clothes, uniforms and lots of jewelry.

” What is it.”

” Are all of those people dead now?”

She took a quick inventory and said. ” Yes.”

I stepped into the Parlor and with my back straight I turned back towards her and closed the door.

Like a proper, well behaved   young lady would do.

On one particular Christmas Eve my Dad took me to Nan’s early  so that I could use the Parlor alone- as I enjoyed it the most before everyone else showed up.

After a few words  with Nan I was allowed to make my way- like a young lady, Nan reminded me, and not like a Heathen being chased into chased into Church by bible thumpers with burning torches ( that is actually a real quote from) to Nan’s Parlor.

This year there was tree hung with Nan’s collection of old ornaments and I was very surprised to see, real lit candles.  Garland trimmed the fireplace and there were little bowls of hard  Christmas candy on a few of the tables.

I turned on the radio- which was old and if I remember correctly it had to ‘warm up ‘ because it ran off of tubes and there was a gray eye in the center of the tuner that opened up when the signal was the strongest.

The radio crackled on and the music- which was classical of course- came on. I chose a magazine with a Christmas tree on the cover and took a seat near the fireplace.

Nan had allowed me  to mark up her old magazines that she left on a particular table with a red and blue ink pens- it was a reading game.  I circled the vowels in red letters and underlined words that told a story about what was on the cover.

I was excited- being the geek I was because there was a Christmas Tree on the cover so I was going to ‘hunt’ for words about Christmas.

I allowed myself one piece of hard candy, took my seat and got to work.

I was so engrossed by the task at hand that I couldn’t tell you how long the Christmas tree had been shuddering like it felt a chill or when a few of the ornaments had fallen off the branches.

I got out of my chair and set my magazine and pen, carefully upon the table next to it and not like a Pirate diving for the last bottle of rum on the planet Earth ( yeah, that one is really from my childhood too.)

I picked the two ornaments- which were very old and light as feathers and carfefully hung them back on the tree-  between shudders of course.

” Hello Anita Marie ” said many deep voices from the branches of the tree ” we’ve come a long way to ask  you a question.”

” I hope it’s not about math. I’m not good at math, but I am very good at reading and climbing trees.”

” You seem, ” said Nan’s shuddering tree ” to be a very well behaved and polite young lady.”

” This Nan’s Parlor and one does not act like a crazy person running from the funny farm when one is inside of it.”

” We see. So you will answer this question, honestly of course.”

” Of course.”

” Is there any reason why we should not take you off to the darkest, coldest corners of Hades only to let you out on Christmas Eve to help us collect the worst, the most vile and disobedient children to ever curse a family instead of letting you wake up safe and  warm your own bed on Christmas Morning? Why should you find gifts waiting for you wake instead of beasts with terrible white eyes and enormous teeth?”

I stood at the tree with my hands behind my back and thought about it.

” First of all, I am a very good girl. I do my lessons and I always listen to my Mom and Dad and  especially listen to Nan.”

” And why is that.” The many deep voices that sounded like one voice said. ” Why do you choose to be so obedient and such a thoughtful little girl when you don’t have to be. You’re very clever and if you wanted to I am sure you could do whatever you wanted and get away with it. For example, have more candy, play with an ornament or two. Maybe jump from chair to chair. You know you want to. Why don’t you have a little fun. For once.”

“Because. ”  I said as I leaned towards the tree and moved the branches to the side so that I could get a better view of what turned out to be  tiny little creatures that were no bigger the mice with horns above their tiny yellow cat’s eyes.

They were dressed in red and their faces looked like spoiled little apples.

” Whey I grow up I want to be just like my Nan.  And what she does to disobedient children is much more fun and tasty then what you do to them.”

The tree was flooded with a pale red light, probably from my eyes-which I am told looked like Nan’s. ” Now scoot before I tell her something that would look great on a Christmas cookie is here and messing with her tree.

Nan’s tree shuddered and shook and I heard hundreds of tiny little feet escape up the chimney to the snow covered roof.

I took one more piece of ribbon shaped candy from a little bowl near the tree and picked up my magazine and pen and sat down, carefully, primly to complete my task at hand.

Like a proper, very well behaved young lady would do.

 

Creativity Portal: Writing Prompt 3:
What is your favorite winter or Christmas memory?

Before It Gets Dark

 

” This road looks dangerous, doesn’t it. ” he said.

She was walking slightly ahead of him, a woman in long fitted  black fur jacket trimmed along her collar and wrists with light gray lace shaped like  feathers.  Her head  was protected from the cold and the fog by a fluffy brown scarf.

” I mean, it’s a good thing there’s still daylight. Wouldn’t want to be out here when it’s dark. Look at the shape of this pavement, broken to bits and full of ice. It’s dangerous in full daylight. In the dark, well, one false step and whump. Down you go.”

“I’m wondering.” he asked without expecting her to answer, in fact he preferred she keep quiet- for now. ” Do you know  there’s a lake off the path here. It’s pretty deep, I’ve heard. Nobody knows exactly how deep it is. Anything could be down there. You could hide anything down there and keep it hidden pretty much forever.”

She continued to walk in the same measured stride and she continued to not pay any attention to him.

” Yes, daylight is the time to be out here. Before the temperature  drops and the fog rolls in and not only can’t you see but you can’t even walk fast let alone run if something came up on you. Something not friendly. Because. Whump. Down you go.  You could be hurt and alone all night- providing you lasted that long.” He paused. ” In this cold. Well. ”

To his satisfaction- no- to his pleasure he saw her adjust her scarf and she slowed down. Just a little. But that was enough, that was all he needed. He felt positively warm inside and it made the palms of his hands sweaty.

” This little park is no where to be walking alone, especially when it’s cold and the dark and the fog rolls in fast like it is right now. Once daylight is gone, that’s when it’s worse. That’s when the ground opens up and the monsters come out. At night when  you’re all alone.”

She stopped and he saw her drop her scarf  back with shaking hands on either side of her head. He was delighted to see little puffs of her nervous breath frozen and drifting over her shoulder towards him because they had nowhere else to go.

Those small gestures excited him to the center of his bones.

” Are you sure about that? That the monsters only come out at night.” she asked as she turned around carefully so as not to slip on the icy path. ” Are you absolutely sure about that?

 

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Inspired By The Australian Advent Calander: The Bunyip

The Touch of Winter

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The first time he ever held her hand

it was at night

and it was freezing outside

a blizzard was on its way, the weather reports said.

 

The first time he kissed her

it was just after noon

it was snowing that day

the sky was blue and gray.

 

On the night he asked her to marry him

the roads and trees were covered in verglas and frost

from storm that fell upon them as silent as snow

stay inside the weather reports said.

 

On the night he left her

it was warm, it was raining

and the sky was full of mosquitos and stars

but

within the walls of her heart

in the marrow of her bones

was ice.

 

 

Inspired by Creativity Portal Winter Writing Prompt: The Touch of Winter

 

No. I Never Did Wonder About That.

 

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I wonder if snowflakes

scream as they fall

from the sky

to the ground

do their tiny icy little bones snap and crack

as they are driven to the Earth

by the merciless winter wind?

 

I wonder if snowflakes

scream in their dreams

when they see themselves falling

and drifting

slowly

to their icy deaths

to the ground down below.

 

 

Inspired By The Winter Creativity Portal Prompt: The Sounds of Winter