Christmas Eve In Paradise
It’s Christmas Eve and another year has passed here in the north Georgia mountains at Faded Glory Farm.
Except for the random barking of bored farm dogs in the distance and the echo of an occasional car passing by on the paved road below the Inn, the night is completely still, and every star in the heavens seems to be twinkling in the black sky overhead.
Since Micah hasn’t taken in several of the cushioned white wicker chairs on the side porch, tonight I decided to jump up onto one of them to stretch out and savor the brisk night air.
Micah has been working at the post office for the past few days, but he stopped by early this afternoon, carried in several armloads of seasoned red oak, and laid a fire in the large fireplace in the Inn’s cozy front room. He made sure to leave some wood stacked neatly to the side of our raised granite hearth before giving Isabel a final Christmas hug and leaving.
It was almost dark, when Isabel finally put on her red plaid flannel nightgown and bathrobe, poured herself some warm cider from the kitchen, and eased herself into one of the comfortable leather chairs in front of the fire.
The Christmas lights and garland that Ray traditionally draped around the Inn are still in their boxes in the storage room above the shed, and even though Micah and Hank Beavers offered to get them out and hang them, Isabel quietly thanked them both and said “Maybe next year.”
Isabel did manage to tack up some mistletoe and fresh evergreen boughs, and Micah hung a sprightly looking wreath on the Inn’s bright red front door, but that appears to be the extent of the decorating effort this Christmas. Isabel’s heart just isn’t in it this year.
Louella Hess appeared early this morning and worked most of the forenoon baking four dozen cookies, three ‘mile-high pies’ and two sheet cake pans of brownies so that Isabel would have plenty of goodies on hand for the weekend. Back in August, Louella was pleased, but not surprised, when Isabel asked her to spend this Christmas Day with the Whitlow family. Isabel knows that Louella, who has no living family, would otherwise be alone over Christmas.
Tomorrow, several members of Ray’s family from different parts of Georgia and Florida will be arriving at the Inn to spend Christmas day with Isabel and me. With no remaining family of her own in the South, Isabel is expecting Ray’s two living brothers, Lonnie and Lamar, along with their wives, and Ray’s only sister, Judy Crabtree, with her husband, Steve. Isabel hopes this will become a “once, every-other year occasion.
I was enjoying the smell of wood smoke wafting up from various chimneys in the valley, and was just about to doze off, when I heard the drone of a car, not passing by, but actually coming closer. It was definitely kicking up stones from our driveway, and was surely coming up our road. Who would be visiting Faded Glory Farm at this time of night? Abandoning my coveted spot on the wicker chair, I jumped to the floor of the porch just in time to see car headlights cresting the top of the driveway. The car, a large car with a Christmas tree strapped to its roof, paused for a moment, evidently unfamiliar with the terrain, and then tentatively picked its way along the driveway toward the side portico just below me.
It was then that I decided to bark! And bark, I did! Not “welcome to Faded Glory Farm,” but, “Isabel, get out here and handle this!” I moved closer to the car, still barking, as a sleepy Isabel appeared at the front door of the Inn. A car door slammed. “Isabel, it’s Ellen Ann, your sister!” I heard someone shout. “Ellen? What are you doing here?” Isabel shouted back while breaking into a run, with her red flannel bathrobe fluttering behind her in the breeze. Although I could tell almost immediately that all was indeed well, Isabel’s sister Ellen and her husband Harvey nearly trampled me as they clamored up the stairs of the porch to hug a now very excited Isabel.
It took a few minutes for everyone to regain their composure; but once the luggage was unloaded from Harvey and Ellen’s cavernous station wagon, the excitement ebbed, and Isabel, and what was left of her only living family gathered inside by the hearth to sort out the details of this fantastic surprise. Since Harvey mistakenly usurped my favorite recliner, I settled down on the floor next to Isabel’s chair near the hearth to hear all the details.
It turns out that Ellen had tried to reach Isabel by phone at the Inn early in November and had gotten Micah instead. During their conversation, Ellen hatched the idea of a surprise Christmas visit, and, because he knew that Isabel was still having a hard time dealing with her loss of Ray, Micah immediately agreed that a visit this year might be opportune. The only person Micah had shared the secret with was Louella Hess who is as tight lipped as any member of the CIA. Knowing that there would be no shortage of space or resources at Faded Glory, Micah and Louella had evidently shared their little secret right up until Christmas Eve, consequently making sure that the house was well-stocked for the occasion. Ellen and Harvey had planned to arrive before dark, and actually would have, had they not made a wrong turn during a detour outside of Knoxville.
Isabel had not seen Ellen and Harvey Foster since Ray’s funeral more than two years ago, and although it was comforting to have Ray’s family visit at Christmas as they promised to do every-other year, Isabel had become resigned to the possibility that, based on sheer distance, it might be ten or twenty years before she would see her own sister Ellen again, if ever.
Tonight’s conversation lingered on until Isabel’s robust fire has been reduced to a few glowing embers. The brandy is gone, and everyone has finally retired for the night. Isabel is now virtually glowing with excitement, and she is eagerly looking forward to spending Christmas with Ray’s and her families. Since Ray has left us, family has come to mean much more to us here at Faded Glory Farm. Although circumstances constantly change, life is good!
Harvey has just abandoned my favorite chair which still remains cozy and warm. I think I’ll just settle down for a pleasant and peaceful night’s sleep.
Merry Christmas everyone, from Isabel, Micah, Louella, Hank, Spook, and of course, me!