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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
DEC
19

December is for Cookies

It's simply a fact that National Cookie Day hits us each December, giving a perfect opportunity to celebrate one of most delicious and fun types of treats. Once for National Cookie Day, I brought in a bunch of homemade sugar cookies of various sizes along with several frosting colors and sprinkles options and set them up in the middle of the department. You know, back when we could do things like gather in groups...and go to work. It made for one of the most enchanting work days I've ever had. There does seem to be something about cookies that makes people smile, and, perhaps, think about their childhoods. The ones pictured here are Swig copycats, my choice for this year's National Cookie Day. 

Cookies also remind me of my favorite weekend of the year, also in December, when a large group of family gathers to go caroling through town while delivering plates of cookies to each house. I mean, this is way more information than you ever needed about my holiday traditions, but we each bring various cookies to contribute to the plates, and then combine them into the final offerings, usually combinations of cookies, fudge, and chocolate truffles. There's always something satisfying about it, seeing what everyone brings and arranging the plates with the variety of goodies. Then something a little bit sad about watching the plates disappear throughout the night as we visit houses, knowing the caroling will be over when we run out of cookies. The fact that this caroling weekend isn't evening happening this year because of safety precautions amidst the pandemic is more than just a little bit sad. It is actually quite devastating. Which is why I'll probably be eating cookies tonight while we sing carols together over a Zoom call, our attempt at a virtual caroling event and the only chance to see many relatives this holiday season. 

I'll try not to eat too many cookies over my Christmas vacation, a time I need to devote to the final read-throughs of my new manuscript. It's a manuscript I'm handing in come January, and one that has caused me a fair amount of stress in recent weeks over whether or not to leave in certain details. It's a decision that's mine alone to make, and I'm sure you'll agree that any decision is easier to face with cookies. Make mine a whole plate, please. Merry Christmas!!

DEC
24

Here's to you, Longfellow

I've just spent the weekend with a large portion of my extended family. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 43 years, and small-town Oregon still serves as the meeting place for our holiday gatherings. I love everything about the town. From the lights on the small main street to the impressively renovated library (that stocks a couple copies of Schooled, I'm pleased to report), to the gravel that replaces the pavement once you get far enough away from city limits, being there with the fam is the closest I can come to being completely happy.

On these holiday weekends when we're all together, we have a Christmas tradition of caroling several houses in the area. Yes, I said caroling. As in a big group of people singing Christmas carols. In someone's front yard. Until they open the door. As we caroled the other night, I was struck by one house in particular. The woman who lived there was so touched, she put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. As some of us hugged her, she began to openly weep, and while it was probably just a happy, holiday spirit kind of cry, it made me think of all the people this holiday season who are sad, depressed, and lonely. In some ways, I think we all are. It's hard to live in this world and not be affected by the sea of crap that we as a society seem to be perpetually swimming in.

And so I've been thinking about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the Christmas bells. You may have heard it, but what you might not realize is that he wrote it out of sheer despair. His wife had died in a tragic accident, and his son had been severely wounded in battle. The most heart-breaking stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then he ends with the most powerful and inspiring stanza of all, and one that to me is a very literal reminder of the biggest source of hope we have.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

On this Christmas Eve, I hope we can each find the peace and comfort we seek, and that those of us with the resources to be of service to others will feel inclined to do so. Even if it's just a Christmas carol on a rainy night.