Followed by a Star


Perhaps she noticed my absence. More likely, she felt a draft from the partly-opened door and came out to investigate. Whatever drew my grandmother onto the porch that cold Christmas night, she discovered a quilt-wrapped, shivering, unhappy litle girl huddled on her front steps.

“Well, for heavens’ sake,” she said.”What’s the matter? What are you doing out here?” “I don’t want to go home,” I said. “Of course you don’t,” she said, sitting down next to me on the step. “It was a nice Christmas. Did you have fun? Did you like your presents?” Unwilling to look at her, I murmured the complaint voiced by generations of children. “I wish it wasn’t over.”

A front porch in winter is no place for conversation, but she didn’t move, and seemed to be thinking. Finally, she said, “But it isn’t over. Not yet. Let’s go in the house and have some cookies.” As she parted the sea of relatives in the front room, someone — a parent, an aunt or uncle — said, “What’s going on?” “We’re going to the kitchen,” she said. That put an end to the questions. Everyone knew better than to interfere with Grandma when she had something on her mind.

While she got speculaas from the pantry, I filled my glass with milk, and we settled in at the table. “Did you watch for Santa last night?” she asked. I had. “Did you see him?” I hadn’t, of course, but there were those presents: as much proof as I needed that he’d stopped by.

“What if I told you there was something to watch for tonight?” I stopped in mid-dunk, milk dripping from the corner of my cookie. “What?” “Miss Luksetich says that if you watch in the east every night at midnight until the Feast of The Three Kings, you might see the Star of Bethlehem.”

I’d never known my grandmother to lie, and Christine Luksetich was one of her best friends. It was worth pondering. “Really?” I said. Grandma sounded a few cautionary notes. “You have to look right at midnight, so you might not see it. It could be cloudy, or you could fall asleep. But if you keep looking, you might see it. It’s there.”

Entranced, no longer reluctant to leave Christmas Day behind, I started picking up my gifts: more than eager to return home, scurry off to my east-facing bedroom, and begin scanning the skies.

I didn’t see the Star of Bethlehem, of course.  I didn’t see it the next year, or the year after that. Given my grandmother’s fondness for Swedish troll stories and Christine’s German/Croatian heritage, it occurred to me that their reappearing Star of Bethlehem might be a legend akin to tales of animals who talk on Christmas Eve, or of oxen kneeling in their stalls.

Still, I watched: scrutinizing the skies each year to see if something might appear. And then, it did. One night, there were only the usual faint twinkles in the eastern sky above our cherry trees. The next night, a brilliant star shone there: pulsating, glimmering, so bright it seemed to light the snow-covered countryside. For as long as I could stay awake, it never moved. The next night, it was gone. 

With the deep, pure certainty of childhood, I knew that I’d seen the Star of Bethlehem. Still, I told no one: neither friends, nor parents, nor even my own grandmother. No one could have convinced me that I didn’t see it, but I was reluctant to be ridiculed, or tempted into an argument.

Over time, the memory faded, and my habit of looking eroded. Most years found me otherwise occupied in the days after Christmas — traveling, or visiting, or cleaning up kitchens — and if I remembered at all, I gave the skies only a cursory glance.

But this year, halfway between Monument Rocks and the Cimarron Grasslands, I stopped to admire some cottonwoods edging a small Kansas lake. Pleased to find  autumn color at last, I began taking photographs. As I reviewed them, I found a brilliant star shining through the cottonwoods’ leaves, and the years fell away. Remembering my vision of the Star of Bethlehem so many years earlier, I thought:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful  if the Star follows us, just as surely as the Wise Men followed the Star?

It was a fanciful thought: as fanciful as tales of kneeling oxen and talking animals on Christmas eve. On the other hand, “fanciful” can be a polite way of describing events we imagine to be impossible.

Unwilling to appear naive, stupid, or silly, few adults still cling to such legends. And yet the barns beckon on Christmas eve, and hills laid bare beneath winter skies still shimmer, awaiting Bethlehem’s star. This year, I’ll look again: holding a memory close, and rejoicing in the knowledge that others, too, have been followed by that star.

Says a country legend told every year:
Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds.
I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold,
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.
Oh, the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!
Still they drowsed on
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
innocent of history.
Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star
still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.
                               “Christmas Poem” ~ Mary Oliver

Comments always are welcome. Click photo for greater size and clarity.

108 thoughts on “Followed by a Star

  1. Linda, what a delightful memory! And how wise your grandma was, keeping hope alive in the heart of a child!

    I think we’ve all felt the after-Christmas letdown, the feeling of “is that all?” when presents are opened and the tree is laid bare. And I guess every parent knows how hard it is to explain to a young one that when we keep Christ in our hearts year round, we always have Christmas … and it’s always enough. But giving you that lagniappe, that little bit extra in looking for the Bethlehem Star, gave you something positive to focus on while prolonging the season in a way you could understand.

    I know I’d love to hear Dallas talking on Christmas Eve — I’ve long wondered what he’d sound like … and what he’d say!! Happy Christmas to you, my friend!!

    1. My grandmother was an interesting woman. Most of the time, you would have judged her to be stand-offish, if not cold, but she simply wasn’t demonstrative. Believe me, nothing got past her, and she was fiercely protective of her kids and grandkids.

      I suspect that the legend of the Bethlehem star came from her friend, Christine. The Luksetich family was Catholic, which meant the period between Christmas and Epiphany was important to them. Our Swedish family celebrated Sankta Lucia on December 13, but not Epiphany. Both Grandma and Grandpa came to this country as Lutherans, but became Methodists in Iowa: a change that meant the liturgical calendar wasn’t as important to them. Looking back, I think the people in their little town — Poles, Germans, Italians, Croats, Swedes — swapped cultural traditions as easily as they swapped recipes.

      If Dallas ever pipes up on Christmas eve, I want to be one of the first to know. I can only imagine the stories he’d have to tell.

      Merry Christmas to you all!

  2. What a great grandmother.

    On December 23rd I was leaving work around 7PM and looked to the S/SW and there was a perfect “Star of Bethlehem” as bright as ever. The glow was intensified (or the emotional impact) by a chilly haze and I gasped. No one around me in the empty dark street to share with, but I was thrilled to experience that private moment with Venus.

    1. I walked out of a performance of the Messiah at church last evening, looked up, and saw this star, too! How great is that? Also a little hazy here (in my town in western Japan), but she was unmistakably brilliant. It gave a thrill to my already well opened heart.

      1. Here we are — one in Wisconsin, one in Texas, and one in Japan — all celebrating the same star. It’s little things like this that delight me about the internet.

        Seeing Venus after hearing the Messiah must have been especially touching. It’s beautiful music: a perfect setting for such a gem of a star. Now, it’s Christmas afternoon where you are — I hope your celebrations have been lovely!

        1. I know – love the idea and the application of ‘the web’. It is, in so many ways, delightful! We’re cleaning and cooking up a storm and welcoming friends in a few hours. It’s a beautiful day and we are blessed and at peace and all is well. May it be so with you, too!

    2. I’ve been watching it, too. We’ve had a good bit of fog, but there were a couple of evenings last week when it was brilliant. That impulse to share can be strong, can’t it? Once you get past tomorrow, you should have some beautiful nights for viewing.

      Both Grandma and Grandpa were great. I only have two photos of them together, and both amuse me. She was plump and roly-poly, and he was a tiny slip of a fellow: Jack Sprat and his wife, to tell the truth. But they were good people. The week or two I spent with them in the summer always was a highlight of vacation.

  3. Of course, the speculaas is now available world wide. One way to prolong the Christmas feeling is to eat one every day and think of baby Jesus and …Holland who after all invented this delightful biscuit.

    I think the spice trade with the former Dutch Colony of Indonesia has been instrumental with its recipe. A gift to the world!

    Happy Christmas, Linda. Your stories continue to delight.

    1. What made our speculaas even better is that they weren’t purchased, but made. There were Dutch people in my grandparents’ town, and many more in the surrounding towns. In fact, one little town, Pella, was Dutch to its core, with immigrant families, tulips, windmills, beautiful blue and white tile storefronts and plenty of bakeries and restaurants.

      My grandmother learned from her Dutch friends how to make speculaas. I still have one of her molds, although it’s a keepsake rather than a real kitchen tool. If I just have to have the cookie, I can order them from the same family bakery in Pella where we used to go. In fact, I’ve done just that a time or two. Those windmill cookies they sell in the grocery just aren’t the same.

      Merry Christmas to you — and every good wish for the coming year, Gerard.

    1. It’s always amazed me that a grandmother who wasn’t necessarily sweet plays a role in so many sweet stories. On the other hand, this was the same grandmother who accepted my Aunt Thelma back home after her little stint in the women’s reformatory. Aunt Thelma and her husband would have been there this night, too. I like thinking about that, now that I’m all grown up.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Oneta. I know you’ll cherish your time with that family of yours.

  4. Your Granny was a very wise woman, and you are a very good story teller. Thank you for sharing your gift.

    I believe there is magic in the stars, and our hearts.
    Merry Christmas.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Brig. Flannery O’Connor, who happens to be one of my favorite authors, once said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” I’m beginning to think she was right.

      A magical, merry Christmas to you and yours.

      1. What a great thought from Flannery! I love reading the stories of your childhood – especially this one, which encourages me to be a take-charge grandma should the need arise. Thank you, Linda!

        1. You’re very welcome. I don’t think there’s any question you’re sensitive enough to know just what a grandchild needs — or, if you don’t, to take time to figure it out.

  5. No post or story is shining brighter! (We’ll share the star shinings.)
    A small bit to wrap up the holidays: Waiting for sunset on Christmas Eve is like standing toes-over-the-edge on a high diving board. Every year we’d cruise casually by the window to keep an eye on the sun’s progress until it was officially evening. Then the shout “Christmas Eve Gift!” would ring out.
    You see, the traditions says that the first person to voice that phrase on Christmas Eve would be graced with good fortune and joy all the next year.
    (And of course, whomever was first won. Everything was a contest.) It’s more difficult to be first now with caller ID.

    As all those who have become my friends in blogland are spread widely across time zones, I’d like to wish you all “Christmas Eve Gift” now.
    And as I already feel so fortunate to have such wonderful readers and writers in this neighborhood, I wish to share any phrase-acquired good fortune and joy with you in thanks. No matter where you are or what you are guided by, hope you have a very merry Christmas and a new year full of adventure and joy.
    Peace on earth and goodwill towards all creatures great and small.

    1. Your “first phrase” story reminds me of a custom British friends have mentioned, called “first footing.” It’s actually the New Year’s practice of opening the back door, and waiting to see who puts their foot first across the threshold. Dark-haired visitors with salt, bread, coal, and a wee bit o’whiskey in the jar are considered luckiest, so a litle manipulation in the choice of a first visitor is sometimes practiced. Why not?

      I was out at Maas yesterday, and finally spotted all those parking places along Todville, and the paths leading off from them. Here’s to another year of exploration, with or without the lease-tuggers. I suspect we’ll both have our share of exploration and joy, following old paths, or cutting new ones.

      1. The “helpful assist” for the first footing reminds me of some Chinese friends who do exactly the same thing for their New Years – you want someone who is wealthy and wise to enter the home’s front door first. They do not take chances!
        The Christmas Eve Gift tradition comes from deep rural East TX, so I keep wondering exactly where is the original – possibly England or Scotland where the immigrants originated? Another mystery to run down.
        Glad you’ve spotted new avenues!

    1. It took me a while to warm up to that poem, but after a few readings, I had to include it. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and my own story, too. Smiles are good, and I hope your holidays continue to be filled with them. Merry Christmas, Janet.

  6. I believe the star does follow one, but perhaps as a premonition and becoming more imminent at certain times in one’s life. The image is very nice and I thank you for sharing it, particularly tonight.

    1. The starburst among the leaves was quite a surprise when I found it. I wasn’t trying to create such an image; it simply happened. Of course, that’s part of the point. Sometimes the most memorable events in life aren’t planned. They simply happen. They may be good, or they may be bad, but in either case, they make life interesting.

      Best wishes to you for a happy holiday season, and a memorable new year filled with all good things.

    1. Thanks, Terry. It’s one of my most cherished memories — one that refuses to be reduced in any way. I’ve always smiled at the thought that one of my best Christmas presents ever didn’t come in a box with ribbons, and didn’t need batteries. I suspect you’ve “opened” a gift or two like that yourself, over the years. Merry Christmas!

      1. I remembered that. If this was a different sort of post, I might have included both poems: pointing out that while Hardy would have gone, had someone extended the invitation, Oliver bundled up and went. Both poems are lovely, but the differences are interesting to ponder.

    1. I read Hardy’s poem a few times while writing this, and very early in the process had thought of including it. In a sense, I did. I’ve just re-read it, and noticed this line: “So fair a fancy few would weave…” I suspect that was the genesis of the “fanciful thoughts” I mentioned.

  7. This is one of your very best pieces. It strikes just the right note, especially in these uncertain times. However, as you know, the best sightings are always made not when looking out for it, but when looking in.

    1. Right you are re: the best sightings. I’ve been pondering the amount of time that’s passed between seeing that star in childhood, and sharing the story as an adult. I can’t remember how old I was at the time, but I was no older than eleven, because we moved from that house during my eleventh summer. So, it’s been at least fifty-nine years, and probably sixty, yet the experience is as fresh today as it was then. If that’s not a testament to the experience’s “reality,” I don’t know what would be.

    1. Thanks, rethy! And here, just for you from ED, is a little Christmas gift. I’d not read this one before, but it made me laugh. Her humor is so real, and infectious:

      The Savior must have been
      A docile Gentleman—
      To come so far so cold a Day
      For little Fellowmen—

      The Road to Bethlehem
      Since He and I were Boys
      Was leveled, but for that ‘twould be
      A rugged Billion Miles—

      Merry Christmas!

      1. Touched by this gesture; thank you Linda. Haven’t come across this gem. Prince of Peace as a Docile Gentleman and that rugged billion miles. Thanks
        Best wishes for 2017!

  8. Truly a marvelous story filled with nostalgia and irreplaceable memories of seeing Venus for the first time. I remember seeing how brightly it glowed many years ago. At certain times of the year I think it is the evening star and sometimes the morning star. But I might have that all wrong. It’s been quite awhile since I have looked for a sighting of Venus. Loved the story about your grandmother and of how the family changed religions after arriving in the states.

    1. Ah, but it wasn’t Venus I saw, Yvonne, even though Venus entered the conversation here. Forever and ever, it will be the Star of Bethlehem for me. After all — if it had been Venus, it would have been there the night before, and the night after. And it most assuredly wasn’t. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

      You are right about that nostalgia and irreplaceable memories, though. And, yes: when I see Venus now, it often looks like that Christmas star — only not so bright.

      The change in the family’s religion came about because of Grandma’s practicalities. I’ve not wanted to write about it until things calm down a little politically, because it involves the KKK. Even though I moderate comments, I’ve just not been in the mood to deal with what might show up in my inbox. But I’ll tell the tale one of these days. It’s sad, and hilarious, and historically interesting, and weird as can be, all at once.

      Merry Christmas!

  9. At our house there is no barn, just a pole barn which is not the same thing. But we do check on the animals the last thing in the evening. We do so to remind them that we are there and concerned about their comfort. We don’t have cows or sheep but our neighbors have both and we hear them all night long. What we have is a dog and an uncertain number of outside cats and every night when we make sure they are nestled in the warm straw before we take to our own bed, stars or no stars, it’s just a little like Christmas.

    1. And it does make a difference to the animals — not only the physical comfort of shelter and straw, but the deeper comforts of attention and routine. All of those are gifts we give to our animal companions, and after all — gifts given and received are at the heart of Christmas.

    1. It’s a wonderful memory, Becca — but it’s a living memory, as much a part of the present as the past: something for which I’m quite grateful.

      Merry Christmas to you — and now, on to a new year!

    1. That’s such a beautiful phrase, nia: “I read with my heart.” Thank you for sharing your heart with us, and for always finding beauty, even in the midst of difficulties.

      As for Mary Oliver, she speaks to people everywhere. I’m always happy to find another of her poems that suddenly seems special, and worth sharing. ~ Linda

  10. If I was making a compendium of “The Best of Linda Leinen,” this piece certainly would be included, and with prominence. You take us on a journey that many of us have somewhat in our past — of not wanting Christmas to be over — but then introducing us to this amazingly perceptive woman who you were fortunate to have as your grandmother. The story of the star, the watching and waiting — seeing it and then so many moons later, seeing the star again had me mesmerized and filled with a quiet kind of amazing joy.

    It is a stunning piece in its wisdom, its perception, its love.

    Merry Christmas to you, my friend. May you and the star be following one another forever.

    1. Maybe some day there will be that compendium. If there is, I’d certainly include this — and hope that the fee for including the Oliver poem wouldn’t be too steep.

      In a world where patience means surviving five minutes in a checkout line, allowing events to unfold over decades can seem incomprehensible. But we never recognize the significance of certain events until we see them against the horizon of history, and it’s far too easy to believe that the past is, as they say, dead and gone.

      In truth, certain events aren’t the flower, but the seed. They lie fallow for years until, given the right conditions, they rise up again. it’s a wonder when it happens.

      Merry Christmas to you, Jeanie. We’ve had quite a journey together. I hope 2017 is a starlit year for you.

    1. You’re very welcome! I’ve wondered whether you were traveling, or perhaps had relocated. I hope your holiday season’s been a good one. Best wishes for the new year, wherever it takes you!

      1. I traveled a bit, around Chile and Argentina, after my teaching job finished up. Back home now, catching up with the family and relatives, thinking about the next step.
        All the best to you, too, for the new year!

  11. For some reasons, the name Mary Oliver flashes upon my mind reminding me that I’d once wanted to explore more of her poetry. And had since forgotten to. Thanks for this timely reminder. Merry Christmas, Linda! BTW, an apt photo too.

    1. I know that you’d enjoy her poems, Arti. She has a couple of new collections that I’ve not yet explored, and I’m looking forward to it. She has such sensitivity to nature, and such a light touch. Like Longfellow, she’s experienced deep grief, but it seems to have informed her work rather than hampering it.

      A Merry Christmas to you. Here’s to a year of accomplishment and joy!

    1. I was blessed, no question about that. My mother’s mother died when Mom was only sixteen, and I was quite young when her father died, so for all practical purposes I had only one set of grandparents. They were fine ones, and I cherish their memory.

      Merry Christmas to you, Jean. Here’s to a truly happy New Year!

    1. Thanks, Bella. You’re surely still in the midst of houseguests and fun. It surely is the most beautiful time of the year. Merry Christmas to you!

      (By the way — the first words I heard this morning when I turned on the radio this morning were, “Now that Christmas is over…” Speak for yourself, I thought.)

    1. I’m so glad. It’s always amused me that we sing about the twelve days of Christmas, but hardly observe them. I’m on a one-woman campaign to change that — at least, for myself. Merry Christmas season to you!

  12. How I enjoyed this, what a beautiful memory to have as a child, and what a creative grandmother. Love that you saw your star, I shall certainly look out for it now each year! xxx

    1. Most people know a certain phrase as “seeing is believing,” but I’ve always thought that “believing is seeing” is just as true. Keep looking, and you very well may see the star!

      It is a beautiful memory, and it’s equally true that Grandma’s creativity extended far beyond her cooking, embroidery, and gardening. I suspect raising her own six children honed her ability to deal with children. She clearly did a good job with them, too. There’s a reason that every one of them always cane home for Christmas — it never failed, except in the case of my uncle Jack, who was killed in the Pacific during WWII.

    1. I’m glad you did, Mother Hen. You would have liked Grandma, too — and she would have loved your new boots. They would have been perfect for going out to feed the chickens, or gather their eggs.

      1. I spent very little time with either of my grandmother’s. So I find it endearing when I read of others that have had special moments with theirs…. I am sure I would have liked her too…

  13. Thanks for sharing this memory with us. What a wise Grandmother, and what a fitting way to carry the day. I really do like the image of the star following us. Much can be made of that, I think! Perhaps you have a poem in the offing? At any rate, a blessed 12 days to you.

    1. She was a wise woman, and kind — remember how good she was to my Aunt T, after she got out of the women’s reformatory? Grandma could be taciturn, but we never thought a thing about it as kids. That’s just the way she was.

      Being followed by the star is one of those odd little reversals that does pique interest — once you think about it. Imagination is a wonderful thing. And speaking of imagination, have you read T.S. Eliot’s version of “The Journey of the Magi”? Here’s a splendid reading by Edward Petherbridge. It gives a certain — edge — to the story.

      1. “This birth … was like death to us.” Yes, an edge indeed. It is easy to be sentimental at Christmas, and I think that is fitting to a point. But there is a need for it to fit the rest of the story, too, it seems. Thanks.

  14. With a childlike faith, I believe completely that the star was a personal gift for your viewing pleasure. It was a ‘reward’ for your faith – and a private message for your dear heart. The higher power knew you were destined to touch many with your kind heart and loving ways.

    1. Either that, or I’d consumed entirely too many cookies, and was on a world-class sugar high! Truth to tell, Lisa, even the simplest event in life — the one that seems most obvious — can be open to multiple interpretations, so who knows? What does interest me, now that I stop to think about it, is that I’ve never once tried to figure out what the experience “meant.” It simply was, and that was good enough for me. Is good enough.

      I’m still catching up from holiday activities, but I saw that vibrant red in your last entry. I’m eager to see what you’ve captured for our pleasure.

      Did you happen to see in Anne Whitaker’s twitter feed that the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow in Glasgow are safe? The city rejected plans to build 90 houses there. In the article I read, it said the main reasons for rejecting the plans for housing were loss of open space and loss of biodiversity. Soemtimes, there’s a win.

      A happy New Year to you!

      1. Yay! I did not see that about the Glasgow Meadow. Thank you for passing along that info.

        Yes, those private moments are a comfort, and as you said, ‘it’s good enough for me.’ I have had some comforting gifts, and I acknowledged them with a silent, ‘Thanks,’ and a smile in my heart.

        I’ve been painting and it’s past my bedtime. Workers will be here to resume a ‘small’ task that is stretching into an all-week project!

        Happy New Year a few days early!

  15. What a wonderful childhood memory, Linda. Funny how we sometimes forget them until something happens that brings them to the fore.

    Those cookies sound yummy. From what I see, they’re probably similiar in taste to ginger snaps or other seasonal spiced cookies.

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and here’s wishing you and the Queen a happy 2017.

    1. You’re right about the cookie, Gué. They’re crisper and sweeter than a gingersnap, and in fact don’t contain ginger, but they do have the traditional cinnamon-clove-nutmeg combo that’s so good. Here’s a photo of what they look like when they’re made with a mold instead of cookie cutters. This bakery is about 30 miles from where I grew up, and once Grandma wasn’t around to make them, we’d drive over now and then to stock up.

      Memory’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I’ve always thought that memories linked to our senses are the most enduring. Show me an avocado refrigerator or a harvest gold cooktop, and I can riff for hours on the ’50s.

      Poor Dixie’s suffering with arthritis, but otherwise seems fine. She still can jump onto the bed and her chairs, so it’s all good. Onward!

      1. Those look like what I see selling around here as ‘Windmill’ cookies. I’ve always like them.

        I’m glad to hear that, other than having to deal with the problems of aging, HRH still able to enjoy her regal prerogatives.

  16. Oh that Mary Oliver – she is just the best… This year was too hectic, and I barely felt the presence of the Christ Child (or Father Christmas). But next year I shall turn toward the east and look for that star!

    1. This Oliver poem was new to me, and it continues to grow on me. I always enjoy sharing her work.

      I’ve had a few of “those” Christmases, too, but your year’s been particularly rough, so I’m not surprised the holiday wasn’t the best. But think about this — there still are seven days until Epiphany. According to Grandma, any night between Christmas and Epiphany will do for star-seeking — why wait? Give it a shot this year!

  17. Beautiful photo and what a special Grandma you were blessed with!
    I have been so fortunate to see 2 amazing meteors in the past week, and the starts are so brilliant in the crisp winter nights.
    Happy New Years, so excited for 2017

    1. I see Wiley got his New Year’s celebrations started early — congrats to him for being part of the “Nine.” I hope it’s a sign of what’s to come for you in the new year: companionship, fun, plenty of outdoor time, and peace under the stars. Happy New Year!

  18. Dang it. I’m all wistful, and it’s well past Christmas. Nearer the New Year. Just coming back from mountainous Montana, though, and long, snowy hike into a canyon, I was ready to read your thoughts. Thanks.

    1. Now, that’s a getaway. It sounds wonderful. I’ve never been to Montana, but I’m more than willing to go. One day, maybe. Long, snowy hikes have a lot to commend them, even if they take place in corn stubble, but if you can add in mountains, I suspect it’s memorable to the nth degree. I hope you got to see some stars along the way.

  19. I just had the experience of celebrating two different Christmases with our grandchildren, Linda. The first was an early Christmas in Connecticut with our son and his family, the second was on Christmas with our daughter and her family in North Carolina. Watching the children, I can report that the magic of Christmas is still alive. Thank you for a lovely Christmas story, and all of the stories you have shared over the past year. I am looking forward to many, many more. A very Happy New Year to you, my friend. –Curt

    1. Part of the reason the magic of Christmas still is alive for your grandchildren is that magic in general still is alive for them: thanks in good part to their grandparents. They’ll have stories of their own to recall and tell when they’ve grown up, and a good number of them will start, “Remember when…?”

      I suspect it’s going to be a good year for us both, Curt: filled with travels of one sort or another. We had some good journeys in 2016, and good journeys are like sweet, spicy cookies: one never is enough. As they used to say in Austin (and still may), “Onward Through the Fog!” And a very happy New Year to you and Peggy.

      1. The magic times are to be cherished, Linda. They seem to go on and on as a child. As we grow older, sigh, not so often. 2016 was a good year! I loved re-driving the bike route. My big adventure this year will be the backpacking trip. But there are plenty of other things to look forward to as well. And I know you have some big plans. May they all come to fruition. –Curt

    1. Remembering is enjoyable for me (at least, for the most part), so I’m glad you enjoyed this one, too. Christmas was quiet, but very nice, with good food and good friends — and too many black walnut cookies! Here’s to a fine 2017, with a little more peace for everyone.

  20. I was just at a memorial service where a son stood and told how his father gave him “magic” words after a difficult trumpet recital. He’d cried in frustration at his less-than-perfect performance, but his dad said, “Even on your worst day, you’re better than everyone else.” Though he knew it in his heart that it wasn’t true, he took his father’s words as they were meant — as hope-giving and love. Reading your memory of your grandmother’s “magic” made me smile at her kindness to you. Happy New Year, Linda.

    1. It’s true, isn’t it? Having someone in our lives who can speak to our hopes and dreams, our frustrations and fears, is the important thing. Have you see the film “Florence Foster Jenkins”? Despite his very real flaws, her husband was such a person. Like your friend’s father and my grandmother, he was willing to bend the facts a little in the service of a greater truth — and created memories in the process.

      Happy New Year to you and Roomie, Anne. I hope 2017 brings you only good things, and no fungus on the roses!

  21. Wonderful memories, Linda. Yes, animals speak on Christmas Eve, I have been told since I was a little girl, and I still know they do! In fact, now I know they speak all the time, not just on Christmas Eve.
    These days, my kids track Santa on Google tracker. This way, he is quite easy to spot. :) They still make sure fire is out in the fireplace, and cookies and milk are out.
    So lucky, those of us who had grandmothers.
    Wishing you happy and creative New Year!

    1. Bee, I love that your kids still leave cookies and milk for Santa. We always did, too, although we didn’t have any way to track Santa until NORAD came along. On the other hand, Santa came to our house every year and brought me my first gift before I went to bed. I even have photos to prove it. There’s a story there, too — maybe next year.

      Have you read Loren Eiseley’s story of the cat who talked at Christmas? It’s not long, and it may be that your kids are old enough now that they’d enjoy it. I know you would.

      Grandmothers have such wisdom, and so much love to give. I suppose there are some who resemble the Wicked Witch of the West, but if one of those shows up, we’ll just shoo her away.

      Happy New Year to you and yours — I hope it’s the best ever!

    1. Isn’t that a wonderful thought to contemplate? If you think about it long enough, you can end up imagining things like Sirius, the dog star, puffing and panting along behind us, stopping to sniff at a galaxy before bounding off to chase a comet.

      At least, you could if you let your imagination run wild. And why not? ‘Tis the season!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for commenting. You’re always welcome here. A happy New Year to you, and best wishes for 2017.

      1. It is a wonderful thought to contemplate. Haha a wild imagination is what I like! Thank you, I will be sure to read more of your posts. If you wish you are also welcome to stop by. Happy New Year and best wishes!

  22. Although it was, sadly, an experience I never shared, I know that your Grandmother was offering the kind of comfort and wisdom only a grandmother can. She saved the day for you and, of course, gave you a star to follow throughout life. I think that we all have that childlike wonder for certain if not all things and many of us allow it to show through. Whether the excitement of discovering a lovely flower or insect and then rejoicing in seeing it again and again or the delight we can take in simple human pleasures, our lives are fuller for keeping a bit of our youth through our lifetimes.

    1. Cookies, milk, and a good story have saved many a day, I suspect. Some of them stay with us, too. When I read about this new star forming, the first thing I thought about was — Grandma and “my” star.

      Most of the characteristics that make children so attractive — curiosity, spontaneity, playfulness — are either drummed out of us through the years or given up willingly. After all, who doesn’t want to be “mature” and respected? One of the sad things about today’s university children, with their safe spaces and coloring books and play-doh, is that they’re mostly characterized by fearfulness: the very opposite of the child-like spirit.

      Ah, well. We still have our wonder, and a willingness to wander. Here’s to a new year filled with opportunities for both!

  23. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, Otto. Grandma was a kind and loving woman. She could be a little brusque, and often seemed to overpower Grandpa, but they were devoted to their kids and grandkids.

    Their story is interesting. They sailed from Sweden on the same ship around 1900, but didn’t know each other. They met in Minneapolis, married, and then moved to Iowa. I wish now I knew more about their life — although I have found them on the ship’s manifest, and have some records from the coal mines Grandpa worked in.

    No matter: I knew what was important for a child to know, and it’s fun now to tell other people some of those stories.

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