“Why DID Santa Come to Pike Street at 7:30?”



It’s a beautifully sunny 52 degrees in Middle Tennessee this morning. I’m drinking coffee from my favorite Pottery Barn Christmas mug and listening to “The Time-Life Treasury of Christmas”- on vinyl.

Christmas is the only time in the “long calendar of the year” when I will willingly listen to the likes of Dolly Parton, Elvis and The Beach Boys- as long as they are crooning their favorite Christmas songs.

Dickens seems to be my go-to author this time of year. This morning as I sit on my comfy sofa, the “A Christmas Carol” scene in which Scrooge squeals “I’m as giddy as a school girl” seems apropos. As non-traditional as it may seem, my mental picture includes the Jim Carrey animated version of our favorite curmudgeon.

I AM giddy this time of year!

I love the crisp feel in the air. I love the turning leaves. I love the scent of wood-burning fires.

I may even bake a pumpkin pie today…no, really, I might!

I don’t know about you, but I’m already planning my Christmas decor. I was thrilled one day this week to walk out of my office and into a conversation among co-workers concerning real vs fake trees. One co-worker said that at my urging she bought a real tree last year and LOVED it!  She will likely never go back. And furthermore, she was encouraging someone else to do the same.

There is just something so traditional and familiar about walking into your home and being greeted by the scent of a fresh Douglas Fir. I’ll never forget the year we had a tree so large we had to finish decorating it from the second floor landing. It was, in a word, glorious!

This morning as I explained to my 5 year old Shih Tzu what a “record” was and why we have to flip it over (what? you don’t talk to your dog this way??) I remembered where I used to buy my records as a kid. We had a mall in our area, but as a young kid, we didn’t go there often. Most of our shopping time was spent in K-Mart or GC Murphy. Both had restaurants, but GC Murphy had a lunch counter. One of my most enjoyable childhood Christmas memories is of sitting at that lunch counter after the Christmas parade, drinking hot chocolate.

We lost our Grandparents ten years ago. My Grandfather passed in May and Grandma in September. We grieved. We grieved deeply. My grandparents were more like parents to me and most of my sisters. I didn’t know how we could celebrate Christmas that year. I was fairly certain I wouldn’t feel the joy of the holiday as I always had. They were such a big part of our celebrations.

As I try to type this, my eyes have begun to well with tears. I remember a Fall day much like this one, ten years ago, when through the grief I felt that old familiar stirring. My grief had not taken my child-like love of the season.

I was incredibly relieved. My grandparents were such a huge part of why I loved Christmas. Like riding around in the station wagon singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve and running up the front walk to peer into the huge picture window to find that Santa had come. Funny, but I don’t ever remember questioning why Santa came to Pike Street at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve.

I can’t fully explain how happy I was to find that my memories of my wonderful (there isn’t really a descriptor “grand” enough) grandparents had broken through the grief and enabled us to enjoy the holidays just a few short months after their passing.

Memories are powerful.

That may be a masterpiece of understatement.

Memories are what make Christmas so special to us crazy Christmas people!

Sure, I’m looking forward to all the fun times I will have this year. I am looking forward to our annual Christmas Eve dinner at Dad’s and Christmas morning eating McHappy’s donuts and opening mounds of gifts at Mom’s house. I can’t wait to take Alex, Zach and Jen to New York the day after Christmas. I’m excited about the holiday plans I have with my friends in Nashville before I head home for Christmas. And I’m looking even further into the future to Christmas NEXT year with my newest little niece or nephew (due in April).

But, Christmas isn’t Christmas without our memories.

As Scrooge said:

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.”


Until next time…

Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip



“Love Pats and Cream Drops” -Remembering Grandma Jack


Earlier this week my family marked the anniversary of the passing of my Grandmother. Jacqualeen Tavenner was my Mom’s mother (and namesake) and to the many who knew and loved her she was simply “Jack”.

Grandma Jack was, in a word, unique! As certain as I am that I received my love of books and words from my Grandpa Westfall, I’m equally sure my quirkiness can be directly linked to my blue jean wearing wise-cracking Grandma Jack.

Grandma Jack’s door was always open to anyone who wanted to take a seat at the kitchen table, sip a cup of coffee, play a game of gin rummy and inhale second-hand Camel cigarette smoke. Nearly every Saturday of my childhood was spent in that house- bursting at the seams with my sisters and cousins.

My Gran was equal parts “tough old broad” and “sentimental grandmother.” She could tell someone off (once or twice even ME!) at the drop of a hat, but was a real softy at heart. I know that one of her favorite memories was of picking me up at Tavennerville Elementary on Valentine’s Day and reading each card stuffed into the red construction paper covered manila folder embossed with my name.

You couldn’t walk by her without getting slugged in the arm. “Love pats” is what she called them. As difficult as it was for her to show it in traditional ways, she loved her grandkids and we loved her!

We loved going to her house on Pennsylvania Avenue at Christmas! Gran was never anyone’s definition of conventional. She didn’t bake cookies and make fudge like my Grandma Westfall, but she always bought the best candy! Her kitchen was filled with chocolate covered peanuts, caramels and cream drops bought at, if my memory serves me, the “Annual Mineral Wells Fire Department Christmas Candy Sale”. I can’t look at a box of ribbon candy without thinking of Grandma Jack.

I’ll miss that tough old broad this Christmas, but in her memory today I will drink copious amounts of coffee and scour the Christmas Market for a cellophane bag of chocolate covered cream drops! I might even slug someone in the arm…

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip


“Coffee? Only with My Oxygen…”

When asked if she liked coffee, Lorelei Gilmore once quipped “Only with my oxygen”. I definitely felt a kindred spirit to that character! Coffee morphs me from someone who can barely shuffle through the house without squishing my pup underfoot, to a productive member of society and contributor to the GNP (Gross National Product for my musician friends).

Every November I look forward to the day of my first sighting … no, not of snow or Reese’s Christmas Trees… of those red cups!

Starbucks Red Cups mean CHRISTMAS BLEND!!! This morning as I ground beans from a half full (yes, I’m an optimist) bag, it brought a smile to my heart to remember I still have another unopened bag in reserve! Happy Day!!

So, as I ration it out, I should be sipping Christmas Blend well into March. Ahh, it really is the simple things…

Until next time… Merry Christmas Today and Every Day.

Aunt Zip