Easter then and now

Growing up, my family had a little blue and white camper at Ocean Lakes Campground in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. It was our go-to place for every vacation. My sister and I slept on bunk beds built into the side of a wall. We had no phone or TV, but we ate a lot of watermelon and played board games for hours. 

This must be the place: There’s too much in this world I can’t seem to shake

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Waynesville. Been here going on eight and a half years. Aside from my shelves of old books (many already read, most to get to, someday) and vinyl records, there are a handful of old guitars in the corner, of which I’ll pull one or two out around my third beer of the evening, usually strumming some uplifting chords, either through memory or by way of simple curiosity along the fretboard.

This must be the place: Turn your head to the cries of loneliness in the night

Stepping out of my truck, it was a cold wind rolling off the nearby mountains late Monday afternoon. A stiff breeze pushed across Lake Junaluska as I took the first strides of my four-mile run around the manmade body of water. Heavy snowflakes hit my face. I zipped the jacket closer to my chin. 

The bright spots of a pandemic holiday

I’ve started listening to Christmas music and it’s not even Thanksgiving, but you know what? It’s 2020 and anything goes. Whatever makes the world feel less heavy is allowable. 

Because one day they aren’t there

The hardest thing to get used to is the stillness. The quiet. The absolute absence of any movement at all. Day after day, everything is just as it was the day before.

His old Ford pickup is backed up to the garage, with the headlights pointing straight at our deck like a pair of eyes keeping watch. His late wife’s Subaru — which he could never bring himself to sell after she had a heart attack and passed away on the first day of their tropical vacation 10 years ago — is on the other side, nosed up to the garage door, as if hoping to gain entry. Between them is the golf cart he rode every day down the steep driveway, and then up the road to fetch his mail, with our chihuahua mix keeping pace and barking furiously as he chased along inside our fenced-in yard.

Children’s books and thoughts for the holidays

Time to head off to Santa’s workshop and see what Christmas books he and the elves have in mind for the kids.

First up is Carol Matney’s St. Nick’s Clique (Page Publishing, Inc. 2019, 25 pages). Matney, a North Carolinian I’ve known for nearly 30 years, whisks us off to the North Pole for a look at how Santa Claus teaches his reindeer to fly and how he names them for their personalities. Cupid, for example, receives his name because “I am happy when we all get along and are kind to each other, and we help one another.” The largest and strongest reindeer is “lightning fast” and so named Blitzen, from the German word for “fast.” At the end of this charming tale, we meet a little reindeer with a glowing red nose, and Santa wonders “if … somehow, someday, there might be some way to include him in St. Nick’s clique.” Watch for the sequel.

This is my family, and yours

Except for the year our daughter, Kayden, got the flu and we had to make the best of spending Christmas at home with one of our youngsters battling a fever of 102, our kids are accustomed to hitting the road pretty early on Christmas Day. Ordinarily, they have no more than a couple of hours to marvel over their presents from Santa before they have to strap in and nestle in the backseat of the car for a long winter’s nap of three hours or so, about the time in takes to get to my hometown of Sparta.

Holiday traditions are worth their weight in gold

Growing up in Weaverville and living in Waynesville, I’m very comfortable with small town Christmases. I wouldn’t know how to do Christmas in a big city, although I love the thought of trying. Traditions are a big part of anyone’s holiday, but in small-town America where visions of Norman Rockwell permeate the psyche, traditions seem paramount.

Lake Junaluska decorates for Christmas

A crew of more than 50 volunteers from the community decorated Lake Junaluska for the holiday season, including the Rose Walk, the Bethea Welcome Center, the gazebos along the walking trail, the Inspiration Point garden and more.

Come Saturday, remember: local, local, local

I don’t like following crowds and have a naturally occurring cynicism of trends. That said, there’s one holiday promotional movement that strikes a real chord with me.

I’m talking about the “Small Business Saturday” or “Shop Small Saturday,” whatever name one chooses as a label. It’s this Saturday (Nov. 27), and the concept is to shop at the privately owned businesses in large and small towns across the nation as a way of supporting all they do to help their local communities.

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