Tag Archives: Childhood Memories

The 11th Blog of Christmas

12 Blogs of Christmas (2)

When I was asked to participate in 12 Blogs of Christmas, I was thrilled. Not because it was about Christmas–which is awesome, but because I would be motivated to share a story each day. I hope you enjoyed all the posts by other writers and have a wonderful Christmas Season!

Here is my contribution for December 23rd, the 11th Blog of Christmas. And before you ask, there’s nuthin about 11 pipers piping!..

12 Blogs of Christmas (3)

My Christmas Mystery Man

There is a certain magic I experience right at midnight every Christmas Eve. The entire world seems to pause and the air is different somehow. I relax completely, despite the recent whirlwind of activity over the past few days and the maelstrom which is to come Christmas morning and continue until New Year. My spine tingles with anticipation as the hour and minute hands join; I almost want to cheer, “It’s here, it’s here!” I look forward to it every year. I cannot recall ever going to bed earlier than midnight on that auspicious night— especially as a child, as I waited for sounds of bells and scraping hooves on the roof.

When my son and daughter were young, it was the same performance each Christmas Eve; I knew my cues perfectly and waited until I heard regular breathing through my daughter’s bedroom door. She was always last to fall asleep. Her father had been the first.

I collect the presents hidden under my bed, in closets, above bookcases and wedged between storage containers. I tiptoe towards the tree with an armful of brightly papered boxes with colour-coordinated bows (and extra tape) . . . then freeze as the ball of my foot puts pressure on that squeaky floorboard I’d forgotten about in my excitement. I imagine the cracking of wood sending shudders through the hall, and under the beds of my sleeping children, jarring them awake.

“Mama? What are you doing? Did Santa come already?” they would whisper as they rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Christmas ruined! But my racing heart slows and I let out a breath as I chase that image from my head. The children sleep on.

I lay each present just so, hoping the end result looks haphazard and not carefully strategized so the best gifts are near the back of the tree.

I finally ease myself quietly into my chair, sip on a glass of something laced with alcohol and breathe in the air which is almost vibrating with energy; and yet, there is a peace and eternal stillness about this evening that reaches on forever and as far back as I can remember.

There is one particular Christmas Eve which might have sparked the reverence I feel for this special night. I was about five years old and was jarred awake from dreams of being smothered by Christmas crackers and paper hats.

I crept out of my room and down the darkened hallway to use the bathroom. As I began my journey back to bed I heard something in the hall below.

I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for my blinking eyes to adjust to the darkness of the pit before me. There, at the bottom of the stairs, I noticed two glowing lights. They were still one moment, then danced about and made me jump. I was terrified and if I hadn’t already emptied my bladder I think I would have done so then.

A faint jingling sound made me giggle with relief when I realized it was my grandmother’s dog, Wimpy, shaking his head and collar. I could almost make out the outline of the black mutt down there on the rug.

I was contemplating creeping down the stairs to snuggle him when I heard another noise, this time from the kitchen. The house was as quiet and dark as could be, so I knew everyone must be in bed. I shivered in my nightgown and gripped the wooden spindles of the railing.

The door to the kitchen swung open slightly and the figure of a man emerged, lit from behind by a street light shining through the kitchen window. I gasped. The man turned his head slowly to face me and by now my eyes had adjusted well enough to see him give me a wink and a smile. He raised his finger to his lips to silence me. His other hand gripped a bag slung over his shoulder.

As the man moved below me towards the living room, I heard a low growl from Wimpy. We all froze for a moment: child, man, dog. Then the jingling sound again—Wimpy was wagging his tail! So, this midnight intruder was not a danger after all.

I relaxed and sat at the top of the stairs, and observed the man as he entered the living room. He was an older fellow, with a scraggly beard and a shuffle in his walk. He was dressed in a long coat, dark in colour, but not red as I had seen in the images on the front of Christmas cards. He wore a cap, but it did not have a white pom-pom on the end. His shoes were plain—not boots at all. And he definitely had not come down our chimney.

When he was done, he closed the door to the living room and left . . . just as silently as he had arrived.

I felt suddenly cold and I scurried back to bed and huddled under my covers, squeezing my eyes shut and wishing for sleep so I could wake up Christmas morning and see what the man had left for me.

As I drifted off to dreamland I heard the faint sounds of jingling bells . . . and was that the sound of hooves scraping the roof tiles above my head?

I will never forget that night. When we gathered around the tree the following morning, everything was just as it should be. No one believed my story. They all laughed and continued to nibble on chocolate caramels and dates.

This is a real memory to me—as real as any other memory I have of my childhood, so how can it not have happened? My children are almost grown . . . the magic of Christmas has dulled in their eyes, but not for me. Perhaps that is why I look forward to staying up late by myself every Christmas Eve, sitting in silence, waiting.

To read the 12th and Final BLOG OF CHRISTMAS, CLICK HERE

To read the 12 Blogs of Christmas from the beginning, CLICK HERE.

Smells Like Success!

Smells invoke memories…and produce emotions…and affect our bodies, minds and spirits. I’ve always believed this and it took colourful wax and a guy with a penchant for sniffing stuff to help me remember how important our senses are to help us connect! Our senses can create such powerful memories and reactions that using senses in writing will strengthen a story and round out characters, and help you plug back into your creativity. Allowing your senses to guide you in any business venture might produce effective results.

Our sense of smell might be our most powerful, and scents that take us back to childhood are particularly emotionally charged. As children we are influenced by our environment and our reactions are more honest. When something takes us back to those moments when we were more open and vulnerable, it connects us with our real selves–our more creative selves.

When I am writing about a character and describe a scent or how a character reacts to a scent, it helps to create a deeper connection for the reader. It makes the “character” more real.

Try it for yourself: try and connect with the younger, more creative you–you will relax and find answers. And if you are writing about a character, help the character connect with his past and you’ll find that the character will guide you and surprise you with how he reacts to the imaginary world you are building around him.

What smell brings your childhood memories flooding back? How does connecting with your childhood help you create in business and in your writing projects?

To watch the inspirational video that will get you sniffing a box of crayons: https://youtu.be/p5kMHXuO_kg

Friday the 13th: A Good Day in My Book

November the thirteenth is a special day to me, and though it does not fall on a Friday this year, I thought I would share my musings about this auspicious day and Friday the 13th in general. Someone I care about was born on Friday, November the 13th and because of this, I have never thought the day to be unlucky…though some certainly do!

Friday has been considered a doomed day since Chaucer wrote “The Canterbury Tales” in the 14th century. Friday has long been regarded as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. The number 13 is always thought of as extremely unlucky and almost every religion and culture regards it as an evil, sinister digit. For Christians, this is most likely because of its association with Judas Iscariot, the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. The superstition surrounding Friday 13th could also be linked to Norse mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet at Valhalla when Loke, the demi-god of mischief who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the other gods.

Friday the 13th facts:

  • Just as many people are born on Friday the 13th as any other day, but there are slightly more people who die on Friday the 13th.
  • It’s a good day to travel, as many people avoid this day.
  • Friday 13th in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13th in Brazil, especially as agosto (August) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

People born on Friday the 13th must be born under an unlucky star–You’d think…

But several blessed celebrities cut into cake on this unholy of days: Mario Andretti, Kat Dennnings, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Feist, Margaret Thatcher, Kate Walsh, Darius Rucker, DiDi Conn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steve Buscemi, Max Weinberg, Christopher Plummer…did I miss anyone?

Oh, yeah…and my gran.I think of her fondly on November 13th; and, in fact, on every Friday the 13th.

She may have had pause to wonder if she was in fact born under an ‘unlucky star’ as she had quite the life of turmoil. Raised in wartime England with memories of diving behind a couch when bombs blasted the street outside, and sharing the affections of her mother with five other siblings, and some who didn’t make it. Her life was filled with death and loss. She later lost her husband at a young age, leaving her to raise two children on her own.

At 4′ 11″, she took up more space in a room than anyone else. Her presence was palpable. You had the feeling she knew what you were thinking at all times, so of course I always felt guilty about something when I was around her. She was a stalwart woman, not given over to emotion and superstition. She would have none of it. Many thought her cold and distant, but I think her hard-nosed attitude evolved over decades of hard work. She was practical, strong, and spoke her mind with a wit like a pistol butt to the back of the head.

She was not a woman of many words–I would never have called her chatty; so when she did speak, her words had weight. I remember her observations, not as criticisms, but just how she saw life. Open and honest, she was, with no time for dressing up her words.

Before my mom, dad, sister, brother and I moved to Canada when I was twelve, we lived in my gran’s house for a while. She was even more brusque and distant than usual, and I could tell it was because her heart was breaking. She was going to miss us, but she couldn’t tell us that. When it came close to the day we were to leave, she grabbed me as I passed her one day and hung onto me for a few gut-wrenching moments, her fingernails digging into my back. She did not know how to hug, but I felt more love from her in that moment than she’d ever shown me before. We did not speak.

Years later, just before she died, she made the long trip from England to Canada to visit me and her first great-grandchild. She was awkward holding my baby, but would watch her like a hawk, perhaps trying to see a resemblance in the tiny doll-like face. Gran softened around the baby and after the first few days she relaxed and started sharing more and more stories about her childhood and life, and eventually began discussing her inevitable death. I think she knew. Only a few weeks after returning to England, she had a stroke. She was found sitting in her armchair, a crossword on her knee and a cup of cold tea at her side. English to the end.

I picked up the phone on November the 13th of that year and dialed her number. The phone rang a few times before I slammed it down into the receiver, suddenly remembering she would not be on the other end to pick up.

I hope she is happy wherever she is, and looking down on us all with pride. She would be delighted to see her little great-grandaughter growing up into a strong woman, and her other descendants she never got to meet, unknowingly carrying around a little part of her within them.

Happy Birthday, Gran.

Friday the 13th falls next in February, 2015 for all you superstitious folk. What are your thoughts on whether or not it is an unlucky day?

Childhood Memories

I found these wonderful images on FB (Ormskirk Bygone Times) and spent an afternoon reminiscing about growing up in England. The quaint market town were I spent most of my time hardly changed over the years. I still recall cobblestone streets, the butcher and the fish and chip shop, corner sweet shops and double-decker buses.
I walked through a graveyard on my way to school and climbed up a tower to my English class wearing my school uniform and polished shoes.
I remember the sights and sounds of the Saturday market and playing in the magical woods.
All these memories were vague until I stared at each photo, unlocking times gone by.
Enjoy the slideshow of Ormskirk, Lancashire, England…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.