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It is amazing how a split second occurrence can alter a person’s life. Two days before Christmas, I was looking forward to Christmas Eve and our 59th anniversary. Also, I was running through my mind the menu for Christmas Day and the various relatives that would be there.

You know that satisfied feeling that comes before Christmas when the house is clean and decorated, the gifts all wrapped and ready and the holiday food ready to be prepared? Well, I hadn’t quite reached that apex yet, but I was working on it. All at once I turned from the refrigerator, lost my balance and fell headlong on the tile floor.

Ah—the best laid plans of mice and men—it was almost a comedy of errors. The ambulance got stuck in the neighbor’s yard, and Criss had to pull it out with the farm tractor. The next few hours were sort of a blur, but I remember speeding toward Charleston with my ribs feeling every jolt and curve. I don’t remember being in the ER, but I heard someone say, “Yes, she broke a rib all right—four ribs!”

Of course my COPD acted up and I had some trouble with my lungs. To make a long story short, I spent 12 days in CAMC General and am recuperating at home now. What a blessing it is to have a big family—my daughter-in-law Sarah stayed with me two days and nights, and granddaughter Miriam Abigail stayed the remainder of the time. I will have to say that I have never been treated any better in any medical facility as I was on the Fifth floor. The nurses were great—compassionate and caring. I had a great doctor too, Dr. Shane Monnett, for whom I have the greatest respect.

When I got home from the Trauma Clinic today, I found this letter from my daughter Patty. “Mommy, it just feels like a few seconds, days or years ago that you were fixing my hair, fixing my breakfast and dressing me to go out. Now the roles are reversed. Today I dressed you, braided your hair, tied your shoes and buttoned your coat. I proceeded to ask all the necessary questions, do you have your tissues, your glasses, billfold and walker?

“I always hated that kid’s book where the Mama was rocking her child and it ended with the grown child rocking his mother. I can’t escape the reality that you are now old. Moms’ and Dads’ never grow old and feeble in our minds. They are the strong, capable ones that we always go to with everything.

“Life doesn’t always seem fair and old age is very cruel. I know it is God’s plan, but when will I ever be ready for ‘The Plan?’ Maybe I don’t tell you enough, but Mom and Dad, I love you very much and I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thank you for everything you do.”

Patty doesn’t have to tell me that she loves me. She proves it every day by her actions. She’s always there when I need her, and helps me with everything that I do.
It’s a winter wonderland everywhere you look today, with snow piled wide and deep, and still the snow keeps falling. The leafless trees are outlined in white, while the pine boughs are drooping under their burden of snow. Pilot Knob is almost obscured by a curtain of white, and the shrubbery is capped by peaked cones.

Birds are blooming all over the Rose of Sharon bush where the feeder is hung: male cardinals flashing their bright colors against the snow, and their more modest wives pecking at the birdseed. The wind is picking up now, dislodging clumps of snow from the trees to fall on the snow-covered ground. And the snow keeps on falling . . .

It’s a good day to stay snuggled up in the house beside the fire, with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate. How thankful we should be for warm homes, heat and plenty of food. The good Lord has abundantly blessed us, and we don’t take it for granted. Wildlife is hungry; with the snow covering the ground they can’t find anything to eat.

We have a herd of about a dozen deer that come down in the meadow every evening for the corn that Criss brings them. We can’t stand for anything to go hungry.

This quiet time, with roads impassable and no one visiting, is a perfect time to clean out clutter (though I seem to accumulate more—I’m not really a pack rat. I just collect “things.”) I like this lull, after the rush of the holidays are over and the chore-laden days of spring arrive. It is an ideal time to “redd up” (Criss says the correct term is “rid up” cluttered drawers, sort out junk and clean out closets. Actually my housekeeping skills consist of moving things from one room to another.

If cleaning doesn’t appeal to you, maybe trying out a new recipe might. Nothing brings out the urge in me to cook like a freezing, house-bound day. Bring out the stockpot, simmer the meat from some soup bones and chop the vegetables. Make pie crust, slice some crisp Granny Smith apples and sprinkle on the brown sugar and spices—this is the best part of winter.

We received a recipe from Rene Fletch some time ago, and she added that this is very good when it gets cold. (How much colder can it get?) She says to add a pan of corn bread and you have a meal.

2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup sliced celery
¼ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1-16 oz. can tomatoes
1-8 oz. can kidney beans
2 cups sliced cabbage

Cook onions and celery in butter until tender. Combine flour and seasonings; blend into onion and celery mixture. Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans and then cabbage. Cover and cook slowly, stirring every 15 minutes. If desired, add chopped wieners and cook 10 minutes longer. Makes 5 servings.

There’s nothing that cheers up a cold winter day than the seed and nursery catalogs that arrive this time of year. It might be snowing and blowing outside, but to browse through one of these magical catalogs is to be instantly transported into spring. The ice and snow melt away, and the mud dries up in my dream garden, where the sun shines on rich soil and vegetables and flowers flourish.

Sweet and juicy tomatoes hang red on their vines, and crunchy cucumbers hide beneath lush vines. I can smell the unique sweetness of the corn silks, and see the fat ears of corn that are ready to be pulled off, plunged into a cooker of boiling water and spread with butter.

The gardens that we plan and dream about are always so much more perfect than the ones we actually plant. Seed catalogs can sow new hope into a dreary winter day.

When I was a kid, we daydreamed about seeds also—but it was the packets that were advertised by the American Seed Company. Remember those colorful ads that were splashed on the pages of comic books and other catalogs? “Sell seeds! Make money! Win prizes!” We drooled over the prizes that were offered—bicycles, radios, wristwatches and other things. We had about as much chance of winning one of their bicycles as we did selling all their seeds to a village of Laplanders. That didn’t keep us from trying.

When the box of seed packets arrived at the post office, we were off to make our mark in the sales world. Donning our rubber galoshes, toboggans and winter coats, we trudged down the muddy, ice encrusted dirt road to hawk our wares. The neighbors were kind, and most of them invited us in to warm our hands and feet. After all these years, I remember Mrs. Evie Brown (Olive White’s mother) and her sweet kindness taking us in and making sure we were warm.

Somehow though, when the day was over and we had knocked on every door, there were invariably some packages of seeds left over that everyone had culled. Poor Mom! She always ended up with the rejects. I can’t ever remember winning a single prize, keeping instead a small percentage of the hard-earned cash. Hope springeth eternal—next season found us back on our sales route.

This is part of the good old days that I don’t care to repeat! Even growing older, it is good to be able to rock by the fire and let the winter winds blow. I feel blessed. Blessed are the mothers and grandmothers who can stay inside and let winter do his worst. We are the keepers of the hearth, making the home a warm and secure place for the chilled members of our family to find refuge. We are the makers of the soup, the bakers of the pie. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

Thank you, friends, for praying for me. The Lord has brought me through again. He is greatly to be praised! For those who have inquired, I am up on a walker now.


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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