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A half-hearted sun is trying to break through the clouds today and shine upon ground that is encrusted with snow. Cardinals are visiting the bird feeder, making a colorful spot of red in an otherwise bleak landscape. Trees lift bare arms to the sky as if in supplication to the sun for its warming rays.

The frigid breeze blows through the dry hydrangea stalks, making a rustling noise and rattling the dried blossoms. There is not much stirring today as the wildlife seems to have found shelter in the barn, or snuggled up in the hay.

What a pleasure it is to come in after doing the farm chores, with red nose and tingling fingers, to a glowing fire and the fragrant smell of cinnamon coming from the oven. What a contrast to the icy outdoors and frozen ground. There is nothing like a blazing fire to warm the body and spirit.

I remember coming into the schoolhouse one wintery day, and my eye glasses fogged up when the warm air hit me. I took them off and held them over the open gas heater, and the flame licked out and set them on fire. “My glasses are on fire!” I exclaimed in horror. I threw them down on the floor and started to stomp the flame out. “No, no,” shouted Mr. Hinkle, and he grabbed a wet mitten and smothered the flame. I guess I wore scorched frames the rest of the year.

I was pondering over the mishaps our family has had over the years, and some stand out in my mind. One time just before Christmas, Daddy was decorating the tree while Mom and I wrapped gifts in the junk room. Oh yes, we had a junk room! It was the room where Mom stored her home canned goods on three long shelves, plus storing various boxes of clothes, etc.

There was wire strung across one corner of the room, crowded with hangers of clothing. We never had a closet; in fact, a “closet” was what Grandpa called a Johnny-house. In the other corner stood a big feather bed, where the boys slept. (I digress, but I went to the hospital with my sister-in-law when she had her first baby, Lisa Ann. She was groggy with pain medication, and weary with her long labor. She kept telling me, “I just want to go back in the junk room and sleep!)

Daddy was trimming the tree at this time. We had nine-foot ceilings in the old house, and he always got a tree that touched the ceiling. He was very precise with the ornaments, and each one had to be placed exactly so. We kids got to put on the tinsel strings if we placed each one individually. Mom and I were engrossed with the gift wrapping, when all at once we heard this thunderous crash. We rushed into the living room to find Daddy stretched out on the floor. He had fallen out of the Christmas tree! No, he wasn’t hurt—just his dignity.

There was another episode concerning the junk room that I had almost forgotten about. Mom had baked several pies for Christmas dinner, and placed them on the shelves to cool. For some reason, little brother Ronnie climbed up the shelves and managed to step in every one of them! I can’t remember the outcome—I just remember Mom mourning her pies.

I don’t suppose we had more accidents at Christmas, or more than any other family—it’s just that in our large family, there is always a crisis. The first Christmas that daughter Patty and her new husband Bob enjoyed together, they put up a beautiful tree. They trimmed it carefully, stood back and admired the shiny ornaments and sparkling lights, and then retired for the night.

Along in the middle of the night, there was a tremendous crash, and they jumped up to find their lovely tree fallen over in the floor. (You know, pride goeth before a fall.) They just went back to bed and left it until morning.

Sometimes I think there is competition among the young folks to live on the edge. Back in the summer our granddaughter, Miriam Abigail cut the end of her finger off on a folding lawn chair. She was properly consoled and comforted by the rest of the family until it healed. I don’t know if my niece Julie felt left out or what, but a few days ago she cut the end of her finger off on a mandolin while slicing vegetables. (She was showing her son Geordie how to do it.) The doctor thought she may have to have a skin graft, so I think she won.

The days are swiftly passing by, and Christmas is almost upon us. People are shopping frantically, housewives are baking cookies and delicacies for the holiday and folks are looking stressed. That’s not the way it is supposed to be. It should be a season of peace and joy and thankfulness, and love for one another. In fact, that is the way it should be all the time. In an ideal world, it would be that way. Sadly, this is not an ideal world. So, we do what we can to brighten the little corner where we live.

This Christmas season will soon be behind us, and winter will begin in earnest. There has been some discussion concerning what kind of weather we are to expect this year, but it is hard to say. With the unusual storms and erratic weather we have had in the past, we can expect almost anything.

Ray Huffman of Point Pleasant sent in a couple of country sayings pertaining to the winter weather. “If you see a hornet nest high in a tree, it is going to be a hard winter.” Also, “If the sycamore trees shed their bark, it will be a mild winter.” I did find a wooly worm in the yard a few days ago, and his front end was brown. There was an inch or so of solid black, and the back end was brown. I interpreted it to mean that the beginning of winter would be mild, the middle of it harsh, and the ending of it mild again. Who knows?

I do appreciate the Christmas cards that I have received, and love you for sending them. I hope you understand that I am not sending any this year. The task is too big for me now, but I wish for each of you a blessed and holy Christmas. I do love my readers.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer