The Day After Christmas

In keeping with an old tradition, I bring you Part 1 of the serialized story of The Day After Christmas.

Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Pawtucket Times would publish a story over the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

I, along with many others, anxiously awaited the arrival of each new chapter, culminating in the ending on Christmas Eve. So, over the past few years, I have started my own version beginning with today’s opening segment. We will read this story together as I have no idea where it will go or how it will end. My only advantage is I will read it as it is born, while you my dear friends, will see it just moments after its arrival.

Growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island back then seems, at least in my memories, to have been a place of magic; making those Christmas seasons, and the spirit that infused them, all the more special.

I will just tell the story, like Charlie Brown and Linus, of something worth holding onto. Let it take us where it will…Merry Christmas!

The Day After Christmas

December 26th is the slowest, and laziest, day in the North Pole. Everyone, I mean almost EVERYONE, sleeps until noon. But for one tiny—even by elf standards—elf, the day after Christmas is the busiest day of the year for her.

Emily Louise Frazier—her family is famous for growing the Frazier Pine one of the most popular Christmas trees in the world—held a critical, if almost completely unknown, position within Elfdom…she was the Monitor of the Christmas Spirit. Or as she liked to call herself, Santa’s accountant. And not just any ordinary add the numbers and balance the checkbook accountant. On no, she was the Christmas Spirit Accountant.

He job was to track the level and growth of the spirit of Christmas, for that spirit wasn’t just something one felt as Christmas day grew near. It was something that lived among the people all the year round. Bringing the joy of giving to others, the pleasure of spending time with your family, and the warmth of a good heart to all the world.

But Emily Louise Frazier was worried. More worried than she had ever been in her entire life. She stared at her little Elf laptop and shook her head. Numbers never lie. The trend was not good and now, on the day when all of Christmas Town enjoyed their one day of uninterrupted rest, she had to rouse them from their slumber and give them the bad news.

Christmas spirit was dying, a slow yet undeniable descent to a level never before seen in the history of the world and she had no idea how to fix it, or even if it could be fixed.

Making her way to the main house, she stood trembling at the door trying to force herself to ring the bell and bring such terrible news to the nicest people on the planet, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Reaching up on her tiptoes, she managed to reach the lower of the two bells, the one placed for the elves. The opening notes of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Theme (Mrs. Claus is a big jazz music fan) echoed throughout the house.

Soon footsteps followed, coming closer, and for a moment, Emily thought of running away. But she had a responsibility and prepared herself. The door swung open and Santa and Mrs. Claus stood there, rubbing their eyes trying to focus, looking over Emily to the vast, yet sleepy town outside the door.

“Down here, Santa,” said Emily.

Santa and Mrs. Claus looked down at the now shaking little Elf.

“Emily, my dear,” said Mrs. Claus, “come inside dear, you’re freezing out there. Come in, come in.”

Emily hesitated a moment, then stepped inside. “I’m not cold, Mrs. Claus. But I have some terrible news I need to share.”

Santa closed the door behind her, then knelt down to bring his smiling face to Emily’s level.

“No worries, Emily. There’s nothing you can say that we can’t fix. Now what is so terrible that you had to wake us on our one day off?”

Emily swallowed hard, took a deep breath, then said, “Santa, I’ve been studying the charts, going over all the data, looking at the trends, and it’s clear that Christmas Spirit is in decline. The usual burst of spirit just before Christmas fizzled. I’m afraid it will fade completely over the next few months and be gone by next Christmas.”

Part II The News Spreads

As We Descend toward Winter…

Today, June 20, 2021, at 11:31 PM, we will begin the long descent into winter by reaching the summer solstice. The longest day—actually the longest period of sunlight—will end, and the days will grow shorter.

While this extended period of sunlight and our position riding on this earth in the northern hemisphere will bring us warmer, sometimes scorching days of summer heat, the inevitable progression of the earth’s axis tilting away from the sun will drive us inexorably toward winter darkness.

For those of us in New England, our weather within each season is as variable as it is throughout the year. The first hints of Fall coolness are often interspersed with almost summer-like warmth. Still, they inevitably yield to frosty nights, cold-desiccated gardens, and falling leaves—a sort of technicolor version of a snowstorm.

The progression toward howling blizzards, bone-chilling wind, and the palette of summer color replaced by the white- gray hazy shade of winter soon dominates the scene outside our windows.

Sitting outside, fishing in a stream, walking on a beach, or hiking a mountain path bathed in the summer’s warmth are such pleasurable, if fleeting, moments. It would serve us well to embrace them.

Seasons change with the scenery;
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me
Look around,
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hazy Shade of Winter, Paul Simon

The progression of the sun through the seasons has always fascinated me, even as a young boy. In winter, I always noticed the sun would be far to the left of a large tree in the woods behind my house. Magically it would seem to the six-year-old me, I would see it move first behind the tree, as winter faded and spring arrived, then appear again to the right of the tree, marking the start of summer.

Through the fortunes of birth and my growing up in Cumberland, RI, the window of my room always caught the first rays of the summer solstice and the last rays of the autumn equinox—when the day and night were of equal length.

In the summer, the sun’s rays would wake me in the morning, inviting me to another day of freedom. As summer faded, the sun would disappear from the window, first hidden behind the tree through the first days of autumn, then move, so I had to look out the window to see it.

While the two solstices and equinoxes mark the passing of time—each event deducting from whatever allocation we might have—they are also comforting. I may complain about the winter, yet truth be told, I think I would miss never seeing it again. While living in a winter-free part of the world has its attractions, I sometimes enjoy sitting in a warm house looking out on a blustery New England winter storm. Knowing, even if I cannot see it, the sun is working its way back toward summer while I look forward to seeing it.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

The Circle of Christmas Memories

As this, my 64th Christmas, approaches, the usual string of memories stir from within the synapses of my brain.

With the first few notes of The Little Drummer Boy, or the words “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” from The Christmas Song, to the rousing music of Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus, I am transported back to so many moments.

The anticipation of watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were more meaningful when they required planning. Once a year made them memorable, on demand makes them seem less so.

Vague, shadowy memories of my first few Christmas mornings to the fuller, if time-altered, memories of Christmases in Cumberland, Rhode Island where I’d share the latest in G.I. Joe accessories with my friends, to the all-too-rapidly passing moments of our daughter’s first Christmas, come weaving and dancing in my mind’s eye.

These moments, precious and joyful, all seem to pass so quickly. Every year, as December 25th approaches, even to this day, I want the moments to slow down, to linger, to hang in the air like the aroma of freshly made cookies, so I can savor each one.

But it seems each year passes faster than the one before.

And yet, there are things look forward to in the times ahead. Like the Spirit of Christmas Future, we’ve an opportunity to make new memories.

This will be a last Christmas for me in this stage of my life and next year will be my first Christmas at the beginning of a new stage, as a grandfather. I will have the opportunity to create those lasting memories my grandson will someday hence think back over as he winds his way through his own life.

Here’s hoping they are as vibrant and meaningful for him as those I’ve held close to my heart all these years.

Free Christmas Gift Picture, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on  Clipart Library
Blinking Christmas Lights Gif GIFs | Tenor

Stay tuned (a saying also imbedded in my memory although possibly confusing to some) here for a Christmas Surprise. On December 12th, I will publish this year’s special Christmas story in 12 parts.
Hidden within the words is a secret message. The first five people to figure it out and email me with the correct answer will win a copy of every book I publish in 2021.

To make sure you see the posting, subscribe to this blog by adding your email and clicking the subscribe button on this page and then share the blog with EVERYBODY.

Merry Christmas and may all your memories stay with you forever.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Signup here for our mailing list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

Noticing Things

I grew up in Cumberland, Rhode Island, where we were fortunate enough to have a world of fields and streams and woods to explore to our heart’s content—or when we got hungry, whichever came first.

The streams offered us the chance to catch sun turtles, snakes, crawfish, and frogs. The ones we called Leopard frogs—because of their color, we didn’t know their proper name—were the most difficult to catch. Shaped like an arrow, only the most stealth-like approach allowed you a chance. The slightest movement drawing the frog’s attention, and they shot across the bank in what we saw as prodigious leaps. Or they would dive beneath the green water plants and hide in the mud.

Sometimes, we would work up the courage to reach into the mud, usually on a dare. More often, one of us would point out the myth of poisonous water moccasins—also known as Cottonmouth snakes—lurking just below the surface, waiting to kill us. There were none, but the common water snakes were close enough to make us wary of dying a horrible death on the banks of the stream. 

Plus, we couldn’t be late for dinner.

But the interesting thing is it seems I notice more wildlife here in Cranston—our new home — then I ever did in Cumberland. Back then, we had the usual rabbits, skunks, and squirrels. I don’t recall ever seeing a deer or a raccoon. Now, I see them all the time along the bike path winding through this semi-urban environment.

We even have turkeys wandering in and around the houses on the street.

In Cumberland, there were robins, blackbirds, and sparrows in the woods and the occasional pheasant. We feared the pheasants. They had a habit of waiting until you were right upon them before bursting into flight, the wings thumping like machine-guns as we scattered and ran in the other direction.

The pheasants left as they filled the fields over with more homes, doubling the population of the town. The Cumberland of my memory was a small town where everybody knew everybody. I’m not sure if that is true today.

But in Cranston, the species of birds and wildlife seem limitless.

I put out a bird feeder. It serves as entertainment since I’m not much of a TV watcher. To be honest, we watch a few Netflix or PBS series, but only at night and just for a couple of hours.

I’d rather watch the varied species of birds, looking for the new and unfamiliar. Cardinals, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays, Robins, Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Pileated woodpecker, Bell’s Vireo, Gold Finch, Common Raven all these and more flit between the trees, the ground, and the feeder, competing for the seed.

I do not discriminate against any creature—feathered or otherwise—gathering seed from the feeder. But I confess to engaging in interspecies schadenfreude, that delicious German term for taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune. Here, it is watching the squirrels’ frustration, unable to penetrate the brilliant squirrel-resistant (nothing is ever squirrel-proof) design of the bird feeder.

I enjoy watching their gyrations trying to get at the food, then surrendering to defeat. It reduces them to looking up from the ground like common street beggars, gathering the scraps of seeds knocked loose by the birds.

It is these simple things in life that give me the most pleasure.

We also host a resident rabbit family. Two fat adults and at least one small baby. There are likely more babies—these are rabbits after all—but I’ve only seen one at a time.

I go between watching the rabbits and glancing skyward for the many hawks—Red Tail and others. I have mixed feelings about what I might do should one make a dive for the rabbits. It is all part of nature. Who am I to interfere?

I wonder if it is just the stage of life I am at because I now notice these things? Perhaps back then, I didn’t notice the things that surrounded me because I hadn’t learned to see them. Perhaps it’s more a matter of gaining insight into all the world offers that has opened my eyes.

Since you are under “house arrest” anyway, now might be an excellent time to turn off the computer and the TV and watch the actual nature show in your own backyard. You might be surprised what you see.

Stay well.

P.S. For those of you who’ve enjoyed reading my books, stay tuned for some exciting new releases coming this summer. And for those of you who haven’t read my books, what’s keeping you? You’ve got plenty of time on your hands. Click the link and read away.

http://amzn.to/2cyabM9

Passages

William Shakespeare said life is an “uncertain voyage,” and, as I add more days to my past, it seems the uncertainty grows.

Except for one thing.

timeThroughout this uncertain voyage, we share experiences. Often, we experience the most meaningful ones with good friends. It is in this friendship that life’s uncertainties can be managed and endured.

I have been most fortunate to have a group of friends I have remained close to since we first met in the 8th grade almost fifty years ago. The warranty on most things doesn’t last that long, yet we have.

Ralph Ezovski, Tony Afonso, Cam Nixon, Clyde Haworth, and I have almost five decades of being friends. During those many years, we’ve experienced the many stages of life.

High school with all it’s cusp-of-adulthood explorations of the trappings of life; girlfriends, surreptitious beers, parties, driver’s licenses, and graduation, followed by college and jobs and marriage and children and all the highs and lows of being human.

The one consistency of life is change. Nothing, no matter how permanent it may seem, remains the same.

The passing of one’s parents is one of those shared elements. For some, that experience came way too early. For others, it was spaced over the course of our friendship. Yet these shared experiences, whenever they occur, are the threads that hold the fabric of our lives together and bind us to each other.

One of the other realities of life is that parents of friends influence our lives even when we don’t realize it. How they raise their children, the expectations they set and the character they mold, affects us all. It is one of my great fortunes to have friends raised by kind, intelligent and most of all caring parents.

Firm when necessary, gentle when possible, and caring about us all.

One parent, Clyde’s father, recently passed away. He enjoyed a long and plentiful life enriched by his family and friends. His manner and example having an untold influence on this group of friends.

For that, we are all the better for it,

It is at these moments we reflect on such things. While no one can alter the passages of life, we can take time to appreciate how fortunate we are to experience them.

Friends are not something one collects or counts. Good friends make this uncertain voyage worth the journey.

LFL (not ROFLMAO) The Little Free Library: Preserving the Art of Reading (and thanking a teacher)

On Sunday, April 24h, I had the pleasure of donating copies of my novels to Cumberland’s Awesome House of Books. (https://www.facebook.com/CumberlandLFL34034/)

This is one example of the growing phenomenon of small, volunteer-run, free-standing places where one can borrow, read, and return books. There are no library cards (who remembers those?) No late fees. No time limits.

It harkens back to a time when people trusted each other and accepted the responsibility of that trust. Meeting Arlene Griffin Smith and her family, the caretakers of the library, was a pleasure.

In a world where “Brevity is the soul of wit” is twisted, corrupted, and compacted into a 140-character assassination of writing, preserving the art of words and books is a worthy goal.

At a time when HD TV putrifies imagination, books serve as the last defenders of our ability to use our mind’s eye.

For a writer, people who read are our most precious commodity. Without them, our words remain just symbols on a page. The act of offering books to preserve the joy of reading is one dear to my heart.

I want to thank Arlene for devoting her time to such a worthy cause and encourage all to stop by, visit, find a book, and lose yourself in an author’s world.

There was also an unexpected bonus to my visit. A teacher I first met in 1969 at the brand new (at the time) McCourt Middle School (Cumberland, RI) was there.

Dan Walsh, a teacher I had for quite a few classes, and I spoke of those very different times in school. Both of us had the pleasure of growing up in Cumberland, Rhode Island at a time quite idyllic. We shared the nostalgia of a Cumberland from a different era.

As I progressed from middle to high school, Dan moved up with us. He was among several excellent teachers my fellow CHS class of 1974 members were fortunate enough to experience.

Dan taught English. He offered many classes in subjects such as Elizabethan Poets, Composition, Writing, American Literature. I took as many of them as I could.

I sometimes cannot remember what I had for lunch, but I recall the beauty of the words of William Blake, The Tyger,

Tyger, Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night; 

What immortal hand or eye, 

Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 

Or William Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn,

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness!

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time

I have always enjoyed writing and reading. The joy of taking bits and pieces of imagination, mixing it with twenty-six letters and assorted punctuation and producing a character, a story, or an entire world is as close as one can get to being a magician.

Teachers like Dan Walsh gave me the magic. They unlocked the power of words. They taught me to think.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

Sometime in 1974, I walked out of my last class with Dan Walsh. But I thought he might like to know that those classes never walked out of me.

(Now I must go back and make sure there are no grammar errors in this piece. Forty some years later and still apprehensive of the critical eye of Dan Walsh.)