I apologize for the break in posts. I have had a hectic holiday season, spending time with Nick and Harper and Nick's parents as well as my parents. Currently I am in Harrisonburg, VA visiting my mom. All of this travel has provided me with lots of time to think about Christmasses past and great memories of family gatherings.

I was thinking that one of my very favorite Christmases was the year when I was 8 and I was presented with two giant boxes. This was still when I was pretty sure that the best packages came in the biggest boxes. (Not always the case, especially as you get older, but in this instance it was definitely true.) I remember walking into my grandmother's house, and being greeted by the same Christmas tree she used every year, covered with tinsel and those large colored lights that I am not sure are even made anymore. When I was young, I remember Granny would dig the small Frasier Fir my dad replanted following one Christmas and bring it inside, roots sitting in the old metal bathtub in which my family used to bathe once upon a time. Impressively environmentally conscious, Granny would bring that tree in each year and then replant it back in the front yard following the Christmas festivities. I also remember that my parent's dog Bo, who was adopted by Granny following their divorce, would pee on it in the interim between Santa's visits.

Currently that tree stands taller than the house, with a significant bare patch (I would guess around 3 feet in height) thanks to Bo's urine and it's impact with the tree's biological functions.

The year I turned 8 just 5 days prior to Christmas, I was presented with two boxes. Of course, Santa brought other stuff too, but I can't remember any of it other than these two presents. I excitedly unrwapped the first present, revealing a cardboard box stamped repeatedly with the word ECLAIRS. I had never had an eclair before, but I knew it was sweet and chocolatey and probably delicious, so my curiosity and excitent grew. To my surprise though, what spilled from the box was not enough eclairs to smother an eight year old, perhaps physically stunted, little girl. (I was born three months early weighing in at two pounds and it took a while to make up such a significant amount. That is a story for another time, but I have achieved a normal weight and then some now, so don't worry.)

As I opened the flaps of the box, red and black and white squares emerged from the side. I saw Dalmatians, black and white squares and white yarn knots making up a quilt my grandmother had stitched for me. Growing up, my mom and I shared our house with a Dalmatian called Oreo. To me he was a brother, as he surely tried my patience time and again, but was always there when I needed a playmate or someone to hug. He also used to drag me around the yard by my shoelaces, which is a task I feel is something a brother might do to a smaller sister but I am willing to overlook it as he is not currently around to defend his actions now. Again, I was tiny when I was younger...and I probably just looked like a super awesome, challenging chew toy to him.

Anyway, while I might not have fully appreciated that quilt at the young age of 8, I definitely do now. Many times, especially since my Granny's death, I have curled up in its warmth, remembering her and the time she presented me with this amazing gift in an oversized eclairs box. "To Jayne From Granny 1992" is stitched in red thread in one corner. I am so so grateful that she did this for me, now as I snuggle under the quilt and write this story for you, and I thank my mom for guarding it with care while I went to school and pursued my own interests. Now I am able to remember my Granny and her kindness and unconditional love for me.

The other large box under my Granny's tree in 1992 held another currently priceless, handmade gift. As I removed the layers of tissue surrounding a small, size 5 28 guitar with heart inlays gleaming throughout the fingerboard and on the peghead labeled Henderson, I was filled with excitement. My dad had made me a guitar! I knew he loved to make guitars, but I had never considered he might be working on one for me. I now know that the back and sides are constructed of Brazilian Rosewood harvested from the bar on Truman Capote's yacht. Several years after receiving this guitar I read Breakfast at Tiffany's and then a bit later In Cold Blood because I figured I should learn about this fellow who's bar now serves as the majority of my guitar. Now knowing what I do about ol' Truman, I marvel at the amazing stories I am sure that wood would tell if it could speak...(Sidenote: I love his writing, even though In Cold Blood scared the wits out of me and anytime I sleep alone now I make sure to prepare my surroundings with ample protection, usually in the way of some sort of bludgeon divice wearing a disguise of a huge flashlight, on the advice of one Susan Trianosky.)

I never learned to play the guitar well, as I have pretty small hands and it never came easy to me. I could go ahead and blame that on my premature beginnings as well, but it is just a fact. And, the length of my fingers unfortunately does not increase with my growing culinary arts interests. I plan to work at it more now though, especially since I am learning to construct similarly awesome instruments and need to know how to tell when they sound good when my dad isn't there to help me. Someday, hopefully close to never, my dad won't be around for me to talk to and get guitar advice when I need it. When that day comes, I will probably sit wrapped in my quilt and play my guitar. For these gifts, and allowing me to keep my family near when they physically aren't, I am so thankful.

Happy Holidays from Wayne, Sylvia and Walter (circa 1954)