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 Parlor.

It was not decorated in the style of the day( which was the early 1970’s) , it was arranged tastefully, elegantly,  planned to encouage 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  family quote) 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?

No. I Never Did Wonder About That.

 

Photo by Ruvim Miksanskiy on Pexels.com

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 

The Tastes of Winter

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiced apple cider

sweet chocolates with sprinkles

freshly baked cookies

just out of the oven.

 

We delight in it all

bite by bite

sip by sip

with our eyes closed in bliss.

 

Winter is a monster who nibbles at your bones

because

now

more then any other time of the year

you smell so delicious

and you probably taste like it too.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Inpspired By The  Winter Creative Portal Prompt: The Tastes of Winter

Confectioner On Deck

A few years ago I stopped baking and I stopped cooking full meals.

It just seemed easier to toss things in the microwave or to order pizza or to just go out and have someone else do the work- and I’ll put it out there with all of my heart- teachers and cooks and chefs do NOT get paid enough.

My point is this: after years of cooking for my family I am OVER the experience.

Sometimes though- when it snows or the weather is bad and I look out the window and wonder what to do, I turn an eye to my kitchen and I bake.

Sometimes I bake from scratch – whichto me feels like I’m working in a lab with dangerous chemicals or test tubes full of malicious life forms just waiting for you to make one false move, to add just a smidge too much of this or not put in enough of that and by that carelessness – kaboom.

Yes.

I do love baking from scratch.

It appeals to my inner Abominable Doctor Phibes.

What I love about baking and what I miss about baking are the smells- the scent of vanilla and cinnamon,the beautiful aroma of mulled spices that make their way into warm apple cider and the intoxicating  aroma of cooling pies and cookies.

I made a deal with myself- if the sky is gray and there is a bite in the air this weekend I think I might go a little mad scientist and do some holiday baking.

I have some standby recipes like shortbread- I make a mean shortbread and if it involves fruit and white chocolate I’ll give it a try. And of course I guess I’ll do some Christmas cookies because I’m not a total wet blanket.

Besides, I like to listen to Christmas music when I bake and to double the fun ( for me and to the deep concern of my dog when I do this ) I wear a Christmas Sweatshirt and make my dog wear his Christmas Tree Tiara and I sing along  at the tops of my lungs

Photo A.M. Moscoso

For some inspiration I might try a few of these from The Soul Food Café 2003 Made in Australia Calendar because there is a recipe for a treat where Rice Krispie cereal is called Rice Bubbles.

Rice Bubbles.

Like I’m going to walk away from that!

This month is supposed to be about adventure and experimenting with new ways of doing things and creating things with my own two hands ( as opposed to clicking an icon on my laptop with my own two hands that looks like a shopping cart and sending for it )

I suppose my kitchen is just as good as any museum or symphony hall or poorly lit icy street to embark on this quest.

I just hope I remember to pull the battery out of my smoke detector first.

Kidding.

I’m kidding.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

amm

Inspired By Made In Australia 2003 Advent Calendar: Six White Boomers

26 Reasons

Photo: Bob Doerr

At this time of the year, for various holiday related reasons, we are reminded that we should take the time to reflect on the things that we are grateful for.

That’s a great idea, so I’m going to do that right now.

Today’s prompt in the writing adventure calendar that I am working on each day suggests I identify 45 things that I am grateful for, 45 things worth life itself, but no matter what I write down these 45 things are actually tied to 26 things in my mind.

Of course I mean the alphabet.

( English Gothic Alphabet )

Greek Alphabet

( Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics )

Without the alphabet music couldn’t be written down, recorded and performed.

Without the alphabet, our ideas and stories and thoughts might be memorized, but the voice of the person who brought those things to life would be lost.

Without the alphabet I wouldn’t be able to write- I wouldn’t be able to do the one thing that I was ever good at.

So tonight when I settle back and read a ghost story or two ( it’s winter time- it’s perfect for that sort of thing ) I will be reminded of what I am most grateful for- 26 things to be exact-and I shall cherish each one of them.

Speaking of:

Below find some great short stories that are PERFECT for reading on a dark and chilly night:

Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad by M. R. James (1904)

A Strange Christmas Game by I. H. Riddell (1863)

Between the Lights by E. F. Benson (1912)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

“The Mummy’s Foot” by Théophile Gautier

 

For your edification:

Ghost stories: why the Victorians were so spookily good at them

Inspired By Made In Australia 2003 Advent Calendar: Eureka Stockade

It Was The Best Ghost Story EVER

Photo A.M Moscoso

I ‘ve done a few posts about what my favorite Christmas films are- so what I’d like to share with you is how one in particular became my absolute  favorite and how it went on to inspire me in my own writing.

That film is  A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sim.

I saw A Christmas Carol for the first time when I was a little girl. Very little. I was about five or six years old. So this would have been around 1969

I remember sort of catching bits and pieces of it, but the part I zeroed in on, the part that got my attention was when Scrooge came face to face with the  The Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come .

I was a scary movie buff by this time ( one of my favorite TV shows was called ” Nightmare Theatre” ) and it had recently brought me into the universe of spooky movies and  educated into the world of Ghosts, Witch Doctors, Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Mad Scientists and things from Outer Space.

So when Scrooge ran into this dark, faceless obviously merciless apparition I was impressed beyond words-enchanted and pulled into the story right then and there with my blanket over my head and my arms wrapped around my dog who was NOT into being squeezed to death by his young mistress judging by the way he desperately tried to get out of my arms.

Not to worry. I was not defenseless.

I just ran after him and dragged him back to the front of the tv with me. It took some doing because I refused to turn loose of my blanket and that was one strong little dog. He was fond of taking lungfuls of air. What can I say?

Anyway.

I was terrified and falling in love with this movie scream by silent scream on that Christmas Eve.

It was a magical experience and from then on not only had I become a life long fan of the movie I went on to read every single book from Dickens that I could get my hands on.

To this day I read those books slowly- I savor each word. I only allow myself a chapter a night so that I can prolong the experience.

A nod to that Christmas Eve when I discovered one of the best ghost stories on film EVER

Favourite Christmas film (Christmas Special 2017 Writing Prompt #21 answer)

Thank You Hamish Macbeth

Photo A..M. Moscoso

This is Hamish Macbeth- I was lucky enough to become his Mommy  just before Halloween in 2014.

I almost named him Boris Karloff in honor of the season and one of my favorite actors but he actually responded to the name Hamish Macbeth- so Hamish he is.

Photo: A.M. Moscoso

2014 was not a good year for me for a variety of reasons- one being I suffer from depression and even though I had begun counseling and medication that stuff doesn’t kick in right away so I was struggling.

And why not throw the Holidays into that mess just to make things a little bit harder?

I was lucky. I had help swoop in just before the first fake trees hit the Mall.

The thing that saved me from really having a hard situation become an intolerable one was my  dog.

He was a  12 week old Chocolate Lab Puppy with ( then ) yellow cat’s eyes.

Hamish was this very serious little puppy when I first brought him home. But within a month his personality exploded and he became outgoing, friendly, engaging goofy and scary smart.

He just couldn’t get enough of the world and the people and things in it.

So I got to watch this little bundle of joy take to the world around him with unbridled enthusiasm and energy and curiosity- and I was lucky enough to be there when it happened.

So I went along for the ride an it was just before Christmas.

Here are some of Hamish’s first Christmas pictures- it just seems right to put this post and these pictures up now because I think Hamish is what the holidays SHOULD be about.

Puppies make Christmases perfect!

Hamish wanted in on the Christmas Wrapping fun, so my nieces wrapped him up- which he proudly wore until the tape got warm and the paper fell off.

My niece, my Mom and ” Baby Hamish”

Luis and Hamish- quite the handsome pair!

 

amm

Christmas Special (2017) Writing Prompt #14 – Best Christmas present