Mother Nature vs Outdoor Decorations

By Anita Garner

This is how our trees outside are supposed to look this week. This isn’t a picture of our trees. We don’t have pictures of ours and we don’t have snow, but this is the general idea.

We hang big ornaments on all the trees in front, attaching them with slack so they swing in the breeze. We put our faith in hardware store twine.

We usually hang them the day after Thanksgiving but they’re still waiting inside because weather’s been odd in Northern California and lots of fall leaves still cover the trees. The ornaments look best when they float among bare branches.

Here comes a rainstorm today. It’ll probably make quick work of the rest of the leaves. I’ll miss them when they’re gone, but then it’s hello big shiny red and green and blue and silver and gold balls.  Nice to see you again.


Christmas Music – too soon or never too much?

By Anita Garner

Today we get our favorite music everywhere, any time, but not that long ago radio people played the music we listened to.  I spent years on the radio and all of us on the air worked from a playlist which we didn’t get to select.  Just before in-earnest holiday madness began, Christmas songs were slowly merged into the playlist, but no matter when they started, someone on the air staff hated it.

Here’s a scene from a typical radio programming meeting, where on-air people wrestled with our boss, the Program Director.

PD: So guys – and Anita – you’ll notice on your playlist that we’re rotating one Christmas song each hour starting…

ME: …Couldn’t we play more than one each hour?


PD: And then by week three of the season, we’ll play four an hour.

ME: Couldn’t we play more than that?

EVERYONE ELSE: Shut up, Anita!

ME: Could I have more Christmas music just on my show?

ON-AIR PERSON: I’ll be calling in sick.

ANOTHER ON-AIR PERSON: You can’t call in sick, because I’m scheduling all my dental work now. I’ll be gone for the whole month.

The foregoing is only slightly exaggerated. I haven’t met many people who like Christmas music as much as I do. For me, Thanksgiving begins the Christmas music marathon. Give me a couple of favorite holiday songs and  lights that twinkle and I’m happy.



Unexpected Encounter – Michael Buble.

By Anita Garner

Did you think this would be a story about bumping into Michael Buble somewhere? No but it’s equally happy. The Grand and I now go to coffee shops together.  This is a new habit. Her caffeine content is diluted and carries fancy names, but it’s still coffee and there’s music playing and therefore the ritual is equally sophisticated.

During this fall season we’ve been taking our books to a cozy new neighborhood coffee shop which has the best music playing.  One week it was jazz.  Last week it was standards – big ballads and such. We’re reading.  We’re chatting.  We’re sipping.

The Grand, a new teenager, listens mostly to her favorite rock groups at maximum volume.  Primarily Brendon Urie/Panic At The Disco.  She makes everyone in the family follow Brendon on Instagram.

A song came on.  Mellow and swingy with a full orchestra. She put down her book and asked, “Who is THAT?”  That was Michael Buble.  She watched him with James Cordon on Carpool Karaoke and on The Graham Norton Show.  She’s now entered the world of the big-voiced crooners. I give Brendon Urie much of the credit.  His respect for them may have rubbed off on her.

Our family always plays Christmas music during Thanksgiving dinner.  Without mentioning it, my daughter, mother of The Grand,  pushed play on Michael Buble’s Christmas album.  The Grand lit up.  The leaf liked it too.


Christmas Tree Shopping In My Mind

By Anita Garner

Friends in snowy places are posting their decorations already so it must be time for Christmas tree shopping.  It gets cold here in Northern California, but the snow falls only at higher elevations so choosing a tree isn’t quite so picturesque. If we go after dark, there might be coats and scarves and maybe mittens involved, but it’s not exactly like your snowy scenes.

I have a picture of how it should be and I don’t want it spoiled. It’s Christmas movies, Christmas commercials, Christmas ads, Christmas specials on TV.  They mess with my expectations. Everything looks like the inside of a snow globe.

Of course there should be snow at the Christmas tree lot, but it’ll be the dry float-y kind that makes everyone look good.  The snow won’t make your hair or hat soggy.  At all.   Music will waft from the trailer/shed where the people who run the tree lot stay warm.  Two people over by that giant fir will all of a sudden start dancing.

Nobody’s nose will get red in the cold. No one will be  impatient because you can’t make up your mind. When you find THE tree, here’s what happens next. This is all real.  It happens at every Christmas tree lot where there’s snow.Once you decide which tree, you’ll find the gloved hand of a pretty lady/handsome man is already holding onto the other side and the two of you will decide to settle your tree differences over a cup of cocoa with marshmallows or bourbon stirred in. I have no idea what you people in tropical climates are going to do for romance this season.




Whispering Hope on The Glory Road

By Anita Garner

Here’s Mother’s new pastor’s wife costume. At Daddy’s request, she’d already raised her plunging necklines and toned down the amount of cling in her skirts, but this was as far as she was willing to go.  She left honky tonks behind to follow him, but she never renounced her fondness for clothes that were shiny.

My brother and I heard Daddy’s carefully chosen words about the proper apparel for each church occasion and when Mother stepped outside the parsonage to go to the funeral that day, we caught a glimpse of his expression in the second it took him to hide his surprise with a compliment. He told her she looked so beautiful he should take a picture.  She beamed.  He clicked this one and off we went.

It was a summer funeral on a day hot enough to require the use of the paper fans provided by the funeral home.

Past rows and rows of men in dark suits and church women wearing black and brown and navy, Sister Fern, a beacon glowing in satin and perspiration,  stepped near the coffin to sing.

One of the songs requested often for funerals during the 1950’s in the Deep South was “Whispering Hope.”  Mother loved a church organ, but not many of our churches had one, and when she recorded her first album this is the only song she  recorded with an organ.

Here’s “Whispering Hope,” written in the early 1900’s and interpreted here in the 1950’s by Sister Fern Jones with The Revelators Quartet.


Watch for this in every Hallmark Christmas Movie.

1945 movie, Christmas in Connecticut. Not a Hallmark movie, but worth noting that the plot features a famous entertainer forced to learn to decorate a Christmas tree without wearing flannel.

Today’s movies acknowledge that expensive clothes could be ruined in the weather. So we get beautiful and country-fied cold weather wardrobes.

Stylish coats and mittens and scarves are crucial to the plot.
We’ve come a long way.

All this unfolds in a charming cabin or an inn. Oh but there are problems in the country too. The heating at the inn might quit or the owner is days away from eviction. Worse yet, the visitor from the city is actually a scout from some big, cold-hearted company that plans to change things.

As these movies move along, cell phones are thrown away, big job offers are turned down, snow storms create white-outs that bring commerce to a halt, forcing our hero or heroine to slow down and learn some Christmas lessons; how to toast marshmallows, trim a tree.

There will be baking, and flour may be tossed around in a getting-to-know-you romantic way. Hands will meet over cookie cutters.

Everyone is happier wearing plaid.

Turns out people in the little town are the kindest, most generous folks anyone’s ever met. Our main character falls in love with the town and also with a former sweetheart who stayed there all this time and is miraculously single.

It’s happening again right now. Christmas movies with happy endings.  Fine with me. I like my holidays predictable.