Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming Author Michele Rhem, who presents us with her poignant memoirs of the Rabbit Patch, where her diaries weave tales of a simpler, expressive life lost to many, but gathered together in her most familiar environs -
the Rabbit Patch.
School is officially out . . . not just for me-but for everyone now. I did go back to work on Wednesday. Afterwards, I went straight away to the large department store, I try to avoid at all costs. It was a necessary evil, this day. Mama and I were both dreadfully behind on on holiday shopping, and groceries -and the boxer would have gone hungry, after all.
That huge store was filled to the brim. with shoppers. I needed gifts, dog food and things like cabbage. It was all there. So were poinsettias -and pajamas! Hence, a crowd formed of folks who needed anything, for it was all there. Everything moved in a slow motion. There wasn't a single bar of fine soap in the place, nor a suitable gift for the people on my list. Christmas carols did not chime as I shopped and the scent of soy Christmas candles did not waft in the air. I left with cabbage and the fixings for ambrosia . . .and the dog food.
On Thursday, Daddy had a doctor appointment. It was a follow up from his recent plight with an infection . Daddy did not come through the ordeal with the infection, unscathed. The thing left him weaker physically, than before but, his fortitude does not waver. Neither does Mamas'.
As difficult as this time is, something I have realized, is that this is an extremely significant stretch of my journey . . . for the life of me, I can't "name" it-but it feels holy. There is so much more to it, than the "care" that both of my parents need physically. now. We are all so accustomed to associate work with money, as our reward or results of our efforts - a pay check or a clean kitchen, something mended . . .but there is a work that does not offer such tokens. There is a time, when all else dims but the authentic purpose before us. I must confess how the "revelation" came about.
One day, I was sitting with Daddy, while Mama attended her appointments and errands. I read a lot as he slept. As the hours passed, I felt restless to "do something". The house was tidy without a chore in sight. I wondered how my classes were going at school and almost immediately felt ashamed of wondering what to do. I was doing something-and something more noble than anything. Of course, I chided myself for not recognizing the magnitude of that something, and now the things falling to the wayside, can stay right there . . .where they belong.
Now, my beloved Christmas looms right around the corner. We are gathering at my parents' house on Monday. For years. it has been on Christmas night, but since traveling now involves young children and other families to visit, we opted to gather earlier than usual. Tres come home tonight, in light of that. He will not be traveling light either, as he has rented a moving trailer to begin the task of moving to Elizabeth City. His classes start in January , but in the meanwhile, he will store what he can at the rabbitpatch. There are several vacant bedrooms, after all. I have cleaned the house today and the kitchen smells of roast chicken. There are clean sheets on his bed and Christian bathed the dogs. We always include the dogs when we do a deep cleaning . . .and the cat, Christopher Robin, too . . .but Christopher Robin "high tailed" it, when the boxer got his bath.
Tomorrow, I will spend a good part of the day, cooking and wrapping presents on the kitchen table. . .but tonight I will sleep happily . . for Tres is home.
Sunday dawned clear and cold, just like the days before it. Tres and Christian were up late last night, so only the boxer and I saw the "early service". A dove shattered the silence and startled me! The cry of the dove, always sounds like an alarm to me. A light patchy frost was scattered on the territory, like old lace. The air was as still "as a church mouse". A cardinal came to visit. How lovely his red feathers looked against the silver sky.
Maybe this year, I will attempt one more time to feed the birds. Country birds are not nearly as bold as their town dwelling cousins. The plentiful woodlands are their preference . . unless you grow berries, of any sort. The squirrels here are much the same. I must get up mighty early to see a squirrel in the yard. Once in a "blue moon", it snows here and that is the only time that I know of, that the birds will show up for supper.
Tres left shortly after breakfast, He had errands and a gathering to attend and so, I then, turned my thoughts to preparations for tomorrows' gathering. I could make the ambrosia today, but not the garlic cheese biscuits. I could make the cabbage filling for the egg rolls, but they, like the biscuits must be cooked tomorrow - I could make the Christmas cake, which required a trip to the grocery. All I needed was a small splash of almond flavoring, but the cake would surely suffer without it. . .and it is Christmas.
About mid afternoon, I ventured out. The grocery was less crowded than I expected. I suspected many shoppers were at that big department store. I made good time and upon arrival at the rabbitpatch, went straight away to cooking. The cake was cooling within the hour. Meanwhile the cabbage filling for the egg rolls simmered. We have never had egg rolls at Christmas. Our tradition has always been to serve hearty hors d'oeuvres . (what a fancy word!) There is always a ham and usually a turkey breast and our favorite sides of heavy dips and deviled eggs, biscuits to fill with ham, and Delores' candy . . .well we do take the menu seriously. Most years, I have done a vegetable tray without much success and so I eat salads for days. . .hence the egg rolls, this year. Now ambrosia is an old staple on southern tables and most especially, at Christmas.
By the time Tres came back, the kitchen was almost orderly.
There are many ways to "keep Christmas". As is always true to my nature, I like simplicity . . .even at Christmas. The "world" spends a lot of time trying to convince us that "bigger is better" and that we need more of everything to be happy. I have not found this to be true.
Now, I like wreaths and Christmas trees and thoughtful gifts, that say I understand your heart. I like Christmas cakes . . .and I love carols. I am all for celebrations, but the truth is when someone arrives at our gathering, it will be announced with delight -"Mike and Connie are here!" or "Will and Jenny are here" rings out and folks rush out to greet them. There will be quite a commotion when Brant and Sydney arrive with Ryan, as this is his first Christmas. Mama and Daddy will have a pleased look when we have all gathered. . .and this is the kind of thing, I will love best about Christmas. We will pray together and eat and probably sing later. We will all gather around the tree and everyone will open a gift. Brynn will want the boxes, Ryan will be passed from one set of loving arms to another and Lyla will sneak candy. This is my Christmas . ..my beloved Christmas. . . for I so love the time when " All hearts come home, for Christmas."