by Mary Manners
The older I get, the more I reflect on the earliest Christmas traditions of my childhood, instilled with the love of my parents. Not the big things, but those little things that lay nestled in my heart like spoonfuls of warm chicken noodle soup. As a child, the holidays were carefree and easy (at least from my perspective--I'm sure my parents felt differently). Memories laced with kindness, laughter, and sharing live on.
Weeks before the blessed day Mom commenced to baking mounds and mounds of cookies. Sweet and flavorful ingredients, pans, mixing bowls and spatulas spread across our small kitchen table like platoons of toy soldiers ready for battle. Decorated tins were carefully filled with macaroons, thumbprints, peanut butter balls and sugar-sprinkled cut-outs. My siblings and I reveled in the sampling. The entire house bloomed with a fragrant warmth that remained for the season.
Dad's job was Head Tree Decorator. Not an easy task with five young, excited, and restless children in tow. No matter how cold or snowy, we always piled into our 1967 Chevy station wagon and ventured to the local tree lot to find the perfect spruce. Nearly five decades later the scent still lingers in my mind. After returning home with the prize, ornaments from age-old boxes were divided among our eager hands. We fidgeted as Dad strung the lights. Mounds of tangled strands never deterred. As a child, I believed Dad could untangle anything--both literally and figuratively. Following the hanging of the ornaments (one or two typically shattered as we placed them) came tinsel (yes, good old-fashioned shimmery strands) that floated like liquid silver as we tossed it at branches. Oftentimes it proved more fun to decorate each other than the tree!
For me, Christmas is filled with light...the crisp white luminaries that lined our front walk, a blinking plastic Santa peeking into the night through the living room window, scented votive candles. Even now, each time I light a candle I am transported back to those earlier days.
Through the years my family's traditions have changed. Children have grown and moved on; Dad has passed to his heavenly reward. The holidays are less hectic while memories sustain. Gone is the chaos of youth, replaced by a gentle peace that chases away the chill. Old traditions merge with new, creating new blessings and memories. It's at once the beginning and the end, bittersweet and beautiful.
When Emilee Lancaster’s aunt calls her home to Hope Creek for the holidays, Emmy readily agrees to assist with a charity event at the family theater—until she finds herself front-and-center stage with her high school flame, Jayson Taylor. She’s not thrilled about the pairing, but she’s made a promise to her aunt, and unlike Jayson, she keeps her promises.
Jayson Taylor makes his living building sets for Dahlia Brewster's Family Theater. When the Christmas show's emcee falls ill, Dahlia asks Jayson to step from the backstage and into the limelight. He's more comfortable working behind the scenes, but the country-singing superstar has always treated him like a favorite son, so Jayson reluctantly agrees. Center-stage at Christmas—especially beside dream-chasing Emmy Lancaster, who once ran off and broke his heart—is not where he planned to be.
But God has other plans, and what happens when the curtain falls and the stage lights dim truly reflects the heart of this holiday season.
Mary Manners is a country girl at heart who has spent a lifetime sharing her joy of writing. She has two sons and a daughter, as well as three beautiful grandchildren. She currently lives along the sunny shores of Jacksonville Beach with her husband Tim.
A former teacher as well an intermediate school principal, Mary spent three decades teaching math and English to students from kindergarten through middle grades. While growing up in Chicago and as a student at the University of Illinois, Mary worked her way through a variety of jobs including paper girl, figure skating instructor, pizza chef, and nanny. Many of these experiences led to adventures that may be found between the pages of her stories. Mary loves long sunrise runs—she’s completed three marathons—ocean sunsets and flavored coffee.
Find out more about Mary on her website: www.MaryMannersRomance.com. “Like” her author page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.