A Little Christmas Cheer

ChristmasBeautyIf you haven’t had the opportunity to read The House Guest, for a limited time you can order a Kindle edition for only $.99. Get your copy today! The House Guest

SAMPLE EXCERPT FROM THE HOUSE GUEST:   The gold Lincoln Continental traveled slowly down the snow-covered lane and onto the main road leading toward the school. Jenna sat in the front seat between Noah and Maggie, dressed in her sheep costume and rehearsing her play lines under her breath.

“No need to be nervous, Miss Jenna.” Noah knew instinctively that she was uneasy about the upcoming performance. “From what I’ve heard, sheep have very good memories,” he said, reassuringly. She glanced up at him and smiled, black felt nose firmly in place.

Maggie placed her hand on Jenna’s. “You’ll do just fine, sweetheart.”

Anna echoed encouragement from the backseat. “Above all, relax and have a good time, dear.”

“I’m just wondering if they’re providing refreshments for those of us who will be subjected to sitting through a two-hour program.” Lee gazed out the side window, already restless.

Within a few minutes, they were parked in front of Tilden Public School and making their way into the building to locate seating in the large auditorium.  Once everyone was finally seated, the sixth-grade band began playing a slightly familiar Christmas carol while the other students quickly assembled on risers for the performance. Jenna anxiously scanned the audience, and then waved shyly when she spotted her family. Following suit, Lee waved while simultaneously leaning in Anna’s direction to whisper, “Lord have mercy, that sounds nothing like Joy to the World!”

During a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells, Lee began shifting back and forth in her seat. She leaned again to whisper to Anna, “These chairs are terribly uncomfortable.” Shifting to the side once more, she added, “Besides, a person shouldn’t be expected to endure much more than about ten minutes of a program involving children.”

“Lee, try to stay focused for heaven’s sake,” Anna whispered, annoyed that Lee was such a distraction. “You’re worse than a fidgety child.”

The final song couldn’t have come any sooner as far as Lee was concerned. O Holy Night was performed by the combined grades and received a standing ovation. As soon as the program was over, and the crowd officially dismissed by Mr. Donovan, Lee marched directly for the refreshment table with the hope of soothing her irritation – and her weary behind. The long line that had already assembled didn’t deter her – she cut in, snatched two coconut macaroons from a plate, and turned to find Anna. “Pray till, there was a child in the choir that couldn’t carry a tune in a blessed bucket!” She tried, albeit a lame attempt, to keep her voice down. “Why is it that the ones who can’t sing are always placed right smack dab in front of a microphone, for crying out loud?”

“It was a wonderful program, Lee. They all performed well, and Jenna didn’t miss a beat.” Anna was determined to be the positive voice between the two, as they made their way out the front door and to the parking lot.

“Lord have mercy, it was an assault on the ears,” she complained. “Again, it’s why children should be seen and not heard.” She sighed loudly. “I don’t drink, but if I did…” Lee trailed off, still shaking her head as they walked toward the car to join the others.

 

Review of The House Guest

5star-shiny-webWhen Maggie Anderson Davis inherited the Victorian home where she grew up, it was with the anticipation of continuing the family legacy of mingling the familiar with the unexpected. Small town Tilden, Nebraska, becomes ever smaller at Maggie’s kitchen table where stories grow, memories are rehashed, and gossip fuels minds. With a neighbor like Lee, the opinionated and brassy outspoken voice of reason, there is always lively fodder for conversation. From homespun advice to openly chastising the traveling salesman famous for reneging on his room and board when he appears on his sporadic visits to Maggie’s bed and breakfast, Lee offers comic relief in this beautifully written tale. Though Maggie is the rightful owner of her home and business,  William Bouchard is determined to acquire sole ownership of the family home. In her fight to maintain the dignity and history of the property, Maggie is thrown into a battle of wills and the reality of greed.

Some people obviously do not understand the importance of tradition and customs. Unfortunately those people are often family. Deborah Norris has created a lovely tale of family and community in her novel The House Guest: Persuasions, Perspectives & Prejudices. This story is a reflection of old time grace and nostalgia. I enjoyed the author’s voice and colorful connections with the many visitors who came the way of Maggie’s table. The House Guest is the perfect novel to compliment a hot cup of tea on a rainy day. I loved this novel. ~ Reviewed By Lisa McCombs for Readers’ Favorite

Tell Me a Story

Fairy Palace against sunset sky / Panorama of Pena National Pal

Imagination opens the door to a world we never knew existed. ~ Deborah L. Norris

My mother loved to read, and I was often the happy recipient of her uncanny ability to bring a story to life. I would sit comfortably on her lap or plopped cross-legged on the floor in front of her chair to be whisked away to a faraway magical land.

The Velveteen Rabbit. I was completely engrossed in every word of Margery Williams’ delightful tale, allowing my young mind to imagine the well-worn little rabbit snuggling with the boy or his deep conversations with the Skin Horse. “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” Of course, this one quote opened up an entire world of fantasy for me. If this were true, then my entire stuffed animal and doll collections had the potential to become real also. It was a life-changing concept for an imaginative seven-year-old.

And then there was The Ugly Ducking by Hans Christian Andersen. Tears would quickly well in my eyes when my mother read of how the little duckling was ostracized by his siblings and other farm animals simply because he was different. The redeeming finale of ugly duckling transformed into beautiful swan never failed to bring a round of cheers.

Of course, Cinderella was my hero, both while she was a mistreated young step sister and later when she became a lovely princess. I knew that all things were possible when one simply believed, because Cinderella said so. Besides, she had Gus the mouse to substantiate her claims.

There was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and a score of other classics never to be forgotten and first introduced to me by my mother.

Now we fast forward to over fifty years and the same scene between mother and daughter is played out. But, this time the roles have reversed. My mother’s eyesight has diminished to such a degree that she is no longer able to read. At this season in her life, it’s my joy to read to her. She too hangs on every word, smiling as a magical story unfolds. I’m still reaping a blessed return on her incredible investment. The beautiful circle of life ~ it continues on.

Goodbye, My Friend

Roosevelt SchoolWe were best friends right from the start of the fourth grade at Roosevelt Elementary school in Boise, Idaho. It was September of 1962. We lived two blocks apart, so we walked to and from school every day. I lived in a quaint little yellow house shared with my parents, and she lived in a big gray building with lots of other children. Her parents had abandoned their five daughters a year before and now Carrie was a resident of the Idaho Children’s Home.  She always had a smile, her sweet face accentuated with deep dimples. But, her soft brown eyes told far more of a story than her happy disposition ever did. No doubt, Carrie was acquainted with sadness and loss.

Her charming personality afforded her many opportunities for friendship. Teachers adored her. Despite several attempts by classmates to befriend her, she was my shadow and stayed close by my side. Carrie spent many a weekend at our house, and gravitated to my mother for the maternal affection she craved.  I was always more than happy to share the blessings of my family and home life with her. She went to church with us frequently, and we even attended a week long summer camp together. She accompanied us on weekend camping trips along the Payette River and in the Idaho mountains.

Just before the beginning of fifth grade, Carrie sadly informed me that there was a family from Texas that was interested in adopting her. Unfortunately, their interest did not extend to Carrie’s sisters, the youngest of which was only two-years-old.  We were both frightened at the prospect of her being taken away – especially to Texas. I promised her that I would talk to my parents about adopting her so that she wouldn’t have to move and live with people she didn’t know.  Neither of us was aware that the adoption process was well under way, and that we had very little time to spend together – or very little to say about her eventual destination.

A couple of days passed and I walked to the Children’s Home to see if Carrie could come to my house and play. A social worker met me at the front door and said that she was already gone.  What? How could this be? I would not be able to write her or have any contact, she said. Carrie had moved to Texas to start a new life. I cried all the way back home.

I never had the chance to say goodbye to Carrie. I still miss her – after 54 years I think about her and wonder where she is. I can only pray that she found all the happiness she sought.

Saturday Morning Glory

WafflesBaconIt was pretty much the same routine every Saturday morning, but, believe me, it never grew old. Really. The kitchen always smelled of waffles and warm maple syrup. Bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. The wonderful aromas, along with gospel music from the record player drew us all to the table for breakfast and happy conversation. Sometimes my Grandpa would walk the ten blocks from his house to ours and join us. He loved bacon, and I loved to hear him pray.

Saturday morning household chores were a family affair and everyone was involved – even the dog. Princess was our miniature black and tan dachshund. She had learned very quickly that she could earn a special treat if she gathered up our slippers and delivered them to their respective closets.

Mom always made cleaning and organizing fun. She would get a piece of colored paper and list all of the chores to be tackled. Then, she would cut the paper into strips, fold them, and place them all in a round metal bowl. We would each take a folded piece with a corresponding task. Once the job was done, we’d take another strip, and so on until the bowl was empty. Before we knew it, the house was clean and tidy.

Then there was the yard work. Dad wasn’t so much about making the task fun as just getting the job done. I loved working alongside my Dad and being his helper. He mowed the grass and I raked the clippings. We were a team.

Once all the chores were completed, Mom and I would get dressed and walk to the corner to catch the bus to town.  I had my allowance tucked away in my red purse – 50 cents went a long way, even with 10 cents set aside for church the following morning.  A trip into town usually meant lunch at the JJ Newberry counter and then a little shopping in the store. Of course, it never failed that we would have our pictures taken in the little photo booth. I always got a small white sack filled with favorite candy. Something was inevitably put on layaway for the start of school in September or for Christmas. Mom usually made a few small purchases; embroidery thread, crochet needles, and handkerchiefs for Dad.

After a stroll down the streets of town to do a little window shopping, we happily carried our treasures back onto the bus and made our way home. It had been another wonderful Saturday, with memories made that would last a lifetime and beyond.

The Porch Light

FrontporchlightsBelieve me, if I ever had any inclination of jeopardizing the blessed freedom I had been afforded due to my trustworthy nature, it was quickly banished from my thoughts.  I loved being able to run the neighborhood in the summertime, and I knew how to assure that it stayed that way. It was more than easy. Pay attention to simple instructions, and watch for the porch light at night. Nothing else was quite so important in my young life. I already had it down about strangers and looking both ways before crossing the street.

These were days long before the introduction of cell phones, so it was imperative to remember what you were supposed to do before you left the house. It really wasn’t that difficult. Usually, it was to be home in time for dinner. That left the whole day for a myriad of fun times.

Most of my summer escapades involved a friend or two that lived nearby, and our adventures were endless. We especially loved riding our bikes and screaming to the top of our lungs as the neighborhood dogs chased us down the street. Everyone had a dog, but none of them were even remotely purebred. In fact, most of the dogs in the neighborhood were related to each other. When we got tired and hot, we’d stop for a drink of water from someone’s water hose and a quick run through their sprinklers.  Of course, we’d always make our way to the little neighborhood market for a Popsicle and some penny candy before riding to the pool – we had our swimsuits and plastic swim caps in our bicycle baskets. After several hours of swimming and jumping off the high dive, we’d ride to the school playground for awhile before heading home. According to the watch I got for Christmas the year before, it was almost time for dinner – and I wasn’t about to be late.

Once dinner was over and dishes were done, there was always more playing outside – usually until it was dark. Fireflies, hide n’ seek, and sips of water from the spicket.  Finally, I’d see it. The porch light came on, and I knew exactly what it meant. Good friends exchanged goodbyes and promised more adventures the next day. Ah, memories of summers gone by.

Let’s Have a Picnic!!

ParkMy memory bank is overflowing with happy childhood recollections during the summer season.  Steeped in rich tradition, picnics were celebrated with enthusiasm, good food, and lots of family. There was a peacefulness that surrounded each gathering, a contentment that made you feel good to be a part of a family that had such a great love and respect for each other.

Picnics were a constant, sometimes nothing more than putting a little of this and a little of that together and then making a run to a favorite park.  Of course, there were those special culinary creations that only certain family members could make; these were not to be messed with, and by no means replicated by someone else. All but sacred, they were; Aunt Maggie’s Banana Pudding and Strawberry Shortcake, Aunt Betty’s Potato Salad, Mom’s Baked Beans and Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake, Aunt Johanne’s Macaroni Salad.  Uncle Floyd was the trusted grill master and insured that even a hotdog was cooked to perfection. Dad was the king of homemade ice cream.  Grandpa Gunderson didn’t let too much time go by before he threw out a challenge to a game of horseshoes. When it got dark, there were fireflies begging to be caught in a jar, and game after game of hide n’ seek played until we dropped with exhaustion.  But even then a glass of sweet tea or red Kool-Aid was the fuel needed to start again. Grown-up conversation was rich and could often be heard long into the evening.  And always, there was the sound of laughter.