Christmas is the time of giving and sharing. I feel especially generous this Christmas season, and I wish to give to readers of this website — scenes from my life, specifically from its past phases. As I move to new stages of my life, I wish to share with you the joy that is the vital spark that moves anyone to a new phase of life. This essay celebrates passages: personal, professional, and emotional — the transitions that are moments to affirm and to applaud and to honor, as well as to share with others. After all, sharing is caring. Christmas is filled with sharing and with caring, but Christmas is also a time of passages: from fear to faith, from doubt to hope, from sorrow to happiness, from darkness to radiance, from silence to song, from the gloom-and-doom of a peevish world to the glad tidings of comfort and joy. These blessed transformations happen because of the Christmas miracle, the Miracle in the manger.
This magically wondrous time of year finds us discovering that the gift is in the giving. Wherever you find yourself along the pathway of life, there is always an opportunity to give of your good will to another human being, as well as to the precious pets, those adoring animals that remind us of our duty to love ye one another, particularly another less fortunate than ourselves.
St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, watches over all of us in the stewardship of the beasts and in our giving to the poor, the vulnerable, and the sick, in spirit as well as in body. There are many poor souls, clad in rich finery, who lack the amazing grace that is the humble simplicity of faith. They cannot hear the song of the lark at dawn, bringing hope to another day.
A smile of friendship, that blessing of agape love, can light the way for someone suffering in spirit. That gift of a heartfelt smile can offer to the woeful person the first step toward the illumination of faith that banishes despair, the torment that wreaks havoc within the heart of those weary souls who have lost faith in themselves, in humanity, in God. If we follow the spirit of our Divine Creator, we will always find a way to smile to make another person’s day brighter. How blissful life becomes when we celebrate and commemorate the small things that mean so much to us, and, above all, to someone who has abandoned faith in the little things.
Oftentimes we can discover the little, silent miracle called “a communion of the soul” with a person lost at sea in this storm-tossed world. Always there abides the uplifting tenderness toward any embittered soul who denies there even was the Miracle in the manger. Even if your charity is thrown back at you, you are blessed for your act of miséricorde. Your spirit is infinitely ennobled for the sincerity of its gift, that act of charity known as mercy. The Christmas spirit comes alive when charity lives and thrives. That charity consists of faith and hope in the journey of life that binds us, heart and mind and soul, with others. God is within each of us, asking us to keep the ties that bind us together, across the miles, across the years, even across the centuries. Some of those ties that bind are the sentiments that touch the heart with kindness; and kindness, straight from the heart, is a magnificent gift for anyone, on any day, not just on Christmas Day.
These holidays in the winter cold are filled with warmth and are gracefully adorned with happiness when the heart is pure in its desire to give more than to receive. Poet John Masefield wrote, “The days that make us happy make us wise.” Those days are indeed the twelve days of Christmas. The happiness that we so richly deserve is often found in the gentle offerings we give to others. We can, each of us, bestow memories of our lingering laughter for the melancholy soul to recall during the long night or an even longer day, especially when that dispirited heart has forsaken heart, and, with it, the pleasure of good cheer, of any cheer.
The gift of delight is immeasurable. The words, “You made my day,” mean so much more than just those 24 hours of inspiration. The gift that gladdens is more than mere encouragement. It is the whispered revelation that someone cares. Such a gift is not wrapped in any fancy package and it has no price tag. It is worth its weight in gold, though such rapture is light as a feather. The widow’s mite is worth infinitely more than the lavish present from the proud. Let your gracious heart grant the loving smile that another soul carries with her, forever.
There is for me, in this very moment, sweet delight in presenting these vignettes from my life when first I was a wife and a mother. These personal photographs are snapshots in time from my years in House #1. It was a two-story house, a house with a second floor comprised of only one room, a hat on the top of the house. My attic! My creative space was mine until Baby #2 came along and we had to move Baby #1 (that would be Dear Son) upstairs. His response was so telling: “Can I have both rooms?”
Mom diplomatically told her firstborn that he could visit his former room, for old times’ sake, but that room would belong to his Dear Sibling. He would be sharing Mom’s Room at the Top of the Stairs with her. In reality, I shared His Room. I kept my drafting table in a nook of that room and I wrote and sewed and sang there, but the room was clearly that of a little boy who, as time went on, greatly needed more space. As I began to store my contract technical writing/editing equipment in the crawl space underneath the staircase, I demanded more space for everyone. And a place for my writing! Scribbling NORTHSTAR at a lunch table in The Ponderosa Deli in Truckee was fun a time or two. The 6th trip, highway-bound-east, into the Sierra Nevada, got to be a bit banal.
So we packed our Stuff to move to House #2. I assisted Dear Little Son with the packing of his toys in His Upstairs Room, but I never did find a couple of carved wooden chess pieces (rooks?) from the set that I loaned to him for play time. The pieces fell somewhere through a crack in the opening to a crawl-storage area of that room. In my mind, those rooks still live in dark anonymity, somewhere behind the door of that roost! At that time, Dear Daughter was a toddler who saw House #2 as her enormous work & play space. I shall never forget the time when she created her own ocean on her bedroom floor by turning all of her books, opened, in upside-down--V formations, on the carpet. “Look,” she exclaimed, “Waves!”
Waves, indeed. I’d not ever considered that formation for the printed word!
In spite of the spontaneous and creative fun which that suburban house promoted for all 4 Milligans, House #2 proved to be my Gilded Cage. Everyone had more space, but I felt trapped by the monotonous arrangements and stifling atmosphere of Tract-Home-ville. And I still did not have my writing space, a Room to Call My Own! With palpable excitement and naive enthusiasm we all moved to House #3, the fixer-upper, Mid-Century house on one acre in the country. The Sierra Nevada foothills freed me from suburban ennui and the pea-soup fog of the Sacramento Valley, but I never did stake a claim to a Room of My Own. I’d planned on allocating some of the interior real estate in this house for my strictly professional use, but plans do not always go as planned!
One plan that did proceed with gusto was the development of my self as The Novelist, or Writer, a project that began when I was, oh, seven years old. Technical engineering writing became a wonderful way for me to hone my creative talents, and I still find engineering editing a marvelous tool for sharpening the literary sword. My writer’s plume, however, is nearly always inked with fictional flair.
During the spring of 1998, when first I set eyes upon this humble domicile, I did not even begin to imagine the fount of creativity that House #3 would become for me. I simply said it had “good bones.” We then added some marvelous flesh to those bones!
With the exception of little Northstar, all of my novels and volumes of poetry, to date, were envisaged, penned, penciled, typed, printed out, uploaded and downloaded in the various rooms of this house, House #3. I shall always think of this house as The Master House because it is where the Master Book, THE DAWN, became a reality. That Master Book opened up for me the creativity that led to writing other novels and oh so many volumes of poetry.
And this Master House, where this Master Book commanded so many of my days and nights, it now serves as a design template and inspiration for a Dream House. The Master House was a labor of love for the Milligan Family to reclaim, restore, remodel, and redecorate, alongside the home-schooling and the home-making and the home-coming of the hounds and land reclamation of God’s little acre that had gone to rack-and-ruin. Twenty years passed brightly by in the blink of an eye.
The blessed spirits of our beloved beagles have shown us the way to our land of vistas and visions. Chance certainly is leading us to our future. He needs more room to roam! He’s part of the pack now. Soon we will all move the marking stones of those faithful hounds to our pine-filled acres where our new house will be built. I’ve requested of the Architect something modest but epic, quaint but modern, a vision of the domain where French Country meets New England while also celebrating the Spirit of the American West. Needless to say, this creation is a technical engineering romance, a small architectural saga with Arts and Crafts stories.
And the second story Writing Room, complete with balcony, for a claustrophobic writer who fears heights: that drama has just begun! When Architect first heard about this room on the second floor, he said, “I see a balcony.” I said, “I don’t.”
I then laughed as the immortal entreaty, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore are thou . . .” , played in my mind.
The secondary escape route, always so essential to me, is now on the drawing board. If necessary, I shall be able to leap from that balcony — onto a horse, waiting, below, for the quick getaway, much like Doc Holliday in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. There will also be the option of exiting the balcony by climbing down the ivy-covered trellis, à la Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
I have given my Architect the gift of countless scenarios with which to work! There will be more gifts from this writer on this website, but I cannot state precisely what they will be. A new poetry volume in the spring, yes. Novels, eventually, yes. Monthly Essays, no. Upon occasion, I will write an essay that will not let me be, and I will then post it as part of the Continuing Composition Series.
One fine classic Hollywood film that I have often watched is the 1948 comedy, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” If you were perchance to view it, you might get a feel for the ride that the Milligans might be in for. I highly doubt that we will be purchasing a Zuzz-Zuzz water softener. But you never know! I hear the water is hard in that neck of the woods. I did read the book by Eric Hodgins. The movie is much better! As I leave this phase of my website, I wish a very Merry Christmas to one and all who venture to this site of creativity. May you rejoice in the abundant hope, the radiant love, the timeless charity — and in the creative joy — that compose Christmas. For me, creativity leads to more creativity. That’s how gifts happen for this writer. And Christmas is the best Gift of all!