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.
The days after the gathering on Monday, have been very quiet. I woke early on Christmas morning and sat while light came to the rabbitpatch. Time changes things . . . even Christmas. Long gone are the days of commotion on Christmas morning, for the rabbitpatch. I am glad I had them. Now, here I am with a "silent Christmas " morning. . . and so I forge on, with coffee in hand, watching Christmas bloom over the woodlands, til at last the light falls on the territory. Dawn is always a holy time for me . . . and most especially at Christmas.
If we are only "happy" when things are a certain way, we are destined to be disappointed . . . a lot. The only dependable notion . . . is that things change. In that case, we must adapt and seek happiness with great fervor. You needn't go far, but you must sometimes go deep. Solitude is not loneliness and peacefulness is not dull. . . and so I embraced this unfamiliar Christmas joy . . . and deemed it, beautiful.
Afterwards, I started peeling potatoes. I prepared chicken to be roasted in Jo Dees' sauce recipe and got the fixings ready for macaroni and cheese. I would later, pack my wares and head to Mama and Daddy's, for a new memory was in the making. My first cousin, Chris and his wife, Aino, were coming to Christmas dinner . Chris and Aino were in the same predicament as me - for their children are grown with families and so they too, had celebrated Christmas early. Tres and Kyle would be there, so the dining room table would be full and every chair filled, which is always a good thing.
We ate after the noon hour. The day was so mild, we could have had a picnic!I have seen one white Christmas in all of my life. It was 1989 and it was an icy snow. The temperature was unbelievable for southerners. Nobody had water as pumps were frozen. Roads were impossibly covered in ice. But this year on Christmas, it felt like April.
When the sunlight fell in long slanted rays, we ate cake and then left with some new and happy memories.
I left for Elizabeth City on Friday. It was another unusually mild day. There was just enough sunshine to cast only the faintest shadows. If this continues, the peach tree, is liable to bloom! The peach is so easily deceived, after all.
The days after Christmas are apt to be gloomy, if precautions are not taken . . . for me, at least. My dearest loved ones have returned to their own homes which takes the biggest toll, of all. Many folks turn off their holiday lights and the beloved tree now seems like a nuisance.
When I was a child, there was "Old Christmas". ( I had never heard the word epiphany) I think we stopped that celebration when Grandmama passed. When I moved to Farm Life, "Old Christmas" was kept by Miss Sylvia. She had a party every year and we were all invited. There was a table full of pretty dishes of all sorts of holiday food. The yard was decked with Christmas trees and reindeer and lights were everywhere. Those of us who lived close by, kept our lights up and so Christmas remained in Farm life til January sixth. This is when Miss Sylvia gifted her family. I like the tradition that honors the visit of the wise men, and declare when I do retire, for the date can fall on days like Tuesday, that I too will have a gathering in observance of "giving" as the Three Kings
Of course, just looming ahead is "New Years Day" and I do not know why, that holiday has just never been "all it is cracked up to be" to me. Very few years have I stayed awake to see the new year ring in. The dropping of "the ball" has never stirred me, in any fashion. We do eat the traditional black eyed peas and greens on January first and that has been about the extent of our celebrations . .. and then there are the "resolutions". I have never yet had the fortitude to adhere to a single one, for any length of time. Several times, I have changed a way of doing things and even a way of thinking-which is not for the faint of heart, but such an endeavor was usually the result of a lesson learned the hard way . . . and were more likely to be made in the twilight of September or a morning in May . . . than on New Years Day.
Now Lyla, on the other hand, loves a holiday . She wants decorations and some sort of commemoration for each one. She has decided that at sunset on New Years eve we are all to conjugate on the back deck with lanterns and candles to bid farewell to the past year and welcome the new one. Jenny and I will try to find sparklers tomorrow to surprise her.
There are also plans to make several dishes-enough so, that we will need an early start to accomplish everything. Tomorrow, we will pack it all up and head to the home of "Aunt J" for a noon time meal. Lyla and I had a lot to do before sunset.
It was almost cold on the last morning of the year. There was a brisk breeze that rushed the "laughing river" along its' course. Will got home when the sun was casting long slanted rays. The pot of chicken was cooling and there was pimento cheese, chicken salad and a dish of oranges and coconut, on the counter. Lyla and I made a mad dash to deliver some of it to Miss Thelma before our "sunset service". I felt awful about my hasty departure from my ninety five year old friend, but alas the sun was not going to stand still on this day.
We made it with a few minutes to spare. The sunset was a beautiful grand finale to the day . . . and the year. Lyla and Brynn ran about bundled in little hats and coats, under a dazzling apricot sky. We all took a short walk together on a boardwalk over a little creek and suddenly, at long last, the eve of the new year felt very significant and it was worth a tribute. The losses and disappointments seemed a little further away, for some reason.
I remembered the joys of the past year as well. How many wildflowers had Lyla picked for her mama-wilted bouquets of violets and dandelions clutched in her little hands, in the spring. Little Brynn went from her mothers' arms to following Lyla around like a puppy . . . and Ryan was born. The birth of Ryan bound us all again. It was a time of unbridled joy.
Sorrow and joy act as "bonding agents" in a family, I thought to myself.
When the sun was slipping beyond the horizon, Lyla blew a good bye kiss to the old year . . . Brynn followed suit, and so did I.