Monday, December 25, 2017

Donuts

There are certain unique rituals and cherished traditions that many people take part in to mark the arrival of the Holiday Season. Homes, and trees, and avenues are decorated with twinkling lights, dazzling ornaments, and glittering garlands to create an enchanting scene. Wreaths and mistletoe are hung on cheerful display. Decorations of bright red, shimmering gold, and vibrant green complement white snow to make a colorful, carnival landscape.

Well wishes and gifts are exchanged, spreading happiness and hopes for peace. Holiday songs are played and sung to set the festive mood. Vivacious performances and resplendent dances entertain and spread joy. And special plays and stories told gently remind us to cherish our loved ones and treasure our friends, to revel in their company for as long as we can. We are encouraged and asked to be kinder to one another; to be more generous and compassionate; to make our world better and brighter and a more blissful, peaceful place.

Families and friends come together to create and share special meals, to spend time in each other's company. They tell stories, they sing songs, they make new memories and recall the old. Some families bake cookies or make pudding as part of the festivities. Other families create yule logs and brew mulled wine for the occasion. My family made pastries, like cakes and pies but especially donuts, to celebrate the Holidays.

Donuts are a treasured treat. It is a beloved part of our family traditions. If there was an event or holiday worth celebrating or commemorating, we celebrated and commemorated with donuts. To this day, I still mark important events and special occasions by making and enjoying donuts as a celebratory treat. In fact, when it comes to birthdays, I'll take a dozen delicious donuts over a birthday cake as a preferred, perfect, congratulatory sweet. Donuts are for celebrating important events, but any time I enjoy a donut is a special occasion.

I luv donuts! Lemon glazed, chocolate, strawberry, maple and bacon--yes, maple and bacon!--powdered, or rolled in cinnamon and sugar, I luv 'em all! Jam or jelly filled, like Berliners or Long Johns, or frosted and topped with sprinkles, nuts, or candy, donuts are a spectacular surprise.

Donut bites are a particularly splendid delight. I call them donut bites, because it's weird calling them donut holes. Holes are empty spaces, and these small bits are pieces of heaven. We call them donut bites, because they are the perfect size for a delicious divine bite.

I consider any deep fried, sweet dough to be a donut. That includes tasty churros, funnel cakes, zeppoles, and beignets. And Danishes, kolaches, and eclairs are scrumptious donuts that are baked and not fried.

Growing up back on the farm, donuts were a special treat for special occasions and holidays, especially for us, the three youngest kids in the family. My two closest brothers--one a year older, the other a year younger than me--were my best friends. And when we were small children, sharing donuts with our father were some of the happiest experiences of our lives.

Every now and then, Dad would have to work late, and he would miss dinner with the family. He'd come home late at night, with only our mother and me still awake, waiting for him. My two closest brothers and other older siblings would be in bed asleep, or if the older teens had plans, be out for the night. I was born a night owl, and after several failed attempts to get me to sleep at a decent bedtime like my two closest brothers, my mother just accepted the fact that I was going to be up with her, and I wouldn't go to bed until I saw my father come home. In my four year old mind, I'd sleep better once I was sure Dad had come home.

And I'd sit with my Mom sometimes on the sofa, looking out the window for the headlights from Dad's truck to come shining up the dirt road. Mom would be listening to the radio and doing some reading. Sometimes, she'd be knitting or mending something for me and my siblings. She looked so relaxed and at peace then. And I liked keeping her company, because it made me feel safe and loved and happy.

I'd be so excited at spotting the lights from the truck coming up the road. And when Dad finally parked the truck, I'd standing at the front door, waiting to greet him as he came inside the house. He'd scoop me up--I was still small enough to be lifted--hugged me, then put me back on the floor before he greeted my Mom. She'd have his dinner warmed and set up. Most times, she'd sit with us at the table, talking with Dad as he ate.

Sometimes, Dad would offer me a snack--a bag of peanuts or chips or a fruit. He'd have more for the others to share in the morning. Most times, I wasn't hungry. Except when he brought home donuts! Then I'd have one as a wonderful treat. I just couldn't resist that sweet, heavenly gift. And it felt so comforting and wonderful to just sit next to my parents, eating a decadent donut, feeling happy and safe, surrounded by love.

When my two brothers and I started school, Dad would drop us off as he headed in to work. And if we had worked hard, made an achievement, or gone above and beyond in doing our chores, Dad would sometimes stop at a donut shop to buy us each a special donut treat. It was our favorite reward for all our hard work. But long before we were old enough to start school, Mom and Dad would sometimes drive into the nearest town for some shopping or to conduct some business. And sometimes, they'd take me and my brothers with them. And on the way home, if we had behaved well and as a reward or surprise, we would stop by the bakery for some tasty donut treats. We loved those joyrides and those wonderful snack gifts.

It was mostly my father who took us, his three youngest kids, on short joyrides. Sometimes, it was a supply run or an errand; other times, we were just cruising. It was his way of spending time with us, and it probably gave Mom a well deserved break from dealing with three rambunctious, rowdy boys. Having donuts with Dad was a very special and treasured time for us three, and we loved every minute of it.

I love the simple yet luscious lemon glazed donuts. It is still my favorite flavor to this day. My two brothers preferred the chocolate ones. I remember sitting in the back of the pick up, eating donuts with Dad. My baby brother would be sitting on Dad's lap, trying to munch down on the chocolate donut that seemed so large in his tiny hands, chocolate stains smeared across his hands and face.

My older brother and I would sit on either side of Dad, snuggling up to him. We would look at each other, laugh, then smile up at our Dad as we ate our donuts. We felt so happy to be with Dad, sharing scrumptious sweets. Dad chuckled as he hugged us and held us as we chowed down on those delicious donuts.

We knew just how special this time was for us. It was one of the very few instances when we would have our father all to ourselves. And it made us feel very happy and truly loved to have Dad's full attention, to just be near him and feel safe and cherished. Too often, life, work, and social obligations would keep us busy and away from each other. We were a very large family, and running a large farm took up a lot of our time. And when you're a small child, there's never enough time to play or spend just hanging out with the people you love. When Dad was busy at work, we'd only see him sometimes just in the mornings at breakfast, before he left for those long workdays in the far away port. So my brothers and I relished these rare, precious times we spent just hanging out with our Dad. It was a truly magical, joyous, and wondrous experience just being together, surrounded by love.

Sometimes, we'd be at the beach, watching the sparkling blue waves foam white with spray as they washed upon the warm golden sands before rolling back out to the shimmering ocean. Other times, we'd be in the cool shade of the verdant woods by the park, watching the colorful birds and critters and people fly, flitter, and scamper on by. Some days, we'd be in the driveway, looking up at the intriguing shapes of the fluffy, white clouds that passed overhead in the blue, cheerful skies. Or we'd watch the mist rise off the nearby mountains, wisps of vapor dancing up towards the heavens, vanishing upon touching the bright beams of sunlight.

Then there were those mystical days when we would spot the approaching thunderstorms far away, darkening the landscape and bringing rain down to the thirsty plains. We would thrill and chatter excitedly upon seeing rainbows in the far off distance where the rain met the sunbeams in the wide, open skies. And we would "ooh" and "ahh" as we witnessed the glorious, stunning hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple color the skies as the sun set slowly down the far horizon. It was a magical time, made all the more wonderful and enjoyable in the company of my brothers and our Dad.

And when we were done with our donut snacks, Dad would carefully clean our baby brother's face before he set us free to finish our chores or run off to play. Life, which seemed to have taken a pause during our donut time with Dad, would resume its normal pace.

Dad was amazingly talented at making donuts for all major events and holidays. That included birthdays, graduations, weddings, reunions, and funerals. Holidays became more convivial and festive with the presence of colorful, tasty, donut desserts. People loved the apple, orange, pineapple, and coconut varieties. They raved over the custard, pastry cream, and strawberry or raspberry jam or jelly filled ones. The maple and sugared (powdered and cinnamon) kinds were in high demand. My father also made the standard, extremely popular chocolate and strawberry frosted ones. But I loved his lemon glazed--and the rare lime glazed--ones the best.

People looked forward to eating Dad's sensational donuts. They devoured them wholeheartedly and happily. Picnics and BBQs were elevated to feasts when Dad made his awesome donuts treats. And making donuts with Dad was a sublime experience.

For birthdays, Dad would have whoever was celebrating their birthday help make the birthday donuts. This way, they got to choose the flavors and got first pick of the best looking donuts out of the bunch. As a special reward, whoever helped make the donuts for other holidays and family events and special occasions also got first choice over the best donuts out of the batch.

Making dozens of donuts was a family affair, and we needed the extra hands to make enough donuts to feed ourselves and our guests. We all played a part, from fetching and measuring ingredients to mixing and rolling and cutting out the dough. We'd laugh and play and make a mess, but we cleaned up afterwards. We worked together to make more than enough to eat and share with family and friends.

But without a doubt, the best part of making donuts was frosting and decorating them, transforming them into decadent, stunning sweets. And we couldn't resist sampling our efforts. We had to make sure the donuts were safe and tasty enough to eat. And I'm happy to say that they all passed inspection with flying colors. They were consumed with gusto as soon as we served them to an appreciative crowd who eagerly anticipated these dreamy, dazzling delicacies.

During large family gatherings, we often brought together food to share. And each branch of the family had signature desserts they made just for our family feasts. My eldest aunt, a most talented baker, would bring the most scrumptious pies or spectacular cakes. My uncle, a dairy farmer, would make the best cornbread and tastiest sweet rolls. He spoiled me for life, because I expected all cornbread and all rolls to be sweet and sensational like the ones he made.

Turns out, I was mistaken. I was taken aback to discover some people actually made unsweetened cornbread! Those just tasted awful, and honestly, they were served doused with honey or syrup or jam to make them edible. Seriously, I don't understand why they don't just add sugar in the first place, because the end product usually gets drowned in syrup or honey before being eaten.

I have yet to meet anyone who can eat an unsweetened cornbread by itself and still call it a dessert. I have come across those who eat unsweetened corn cakes as a side dish. They call those corn cakes polenta, and they're best served with savory and spicy dishes. And I still expect rolls to be sweet, and I make them that way, like my uncle used to for our family gatherings.

At the family feasts, my family brought the donuts as scintillating sweets. Sometimes, for more formal, grander gatherings with special invited guests, Mom would make her magnificent lemon curd pie. It was the simplest of pies, but it was the most divine and incredibly tasty. Just a simple, sweet, flaky crust filled with golden, delectable lemon curd. And for really fancy, formal events, it was topped and decorated with whipped cream. It was a very popular and deliciously decadent dessert that everyone loved. But it was the grand, splendiferous donuts that was our family's signature dessert to share at the large family feasts.

Making donuts together as a family was a fun and wonderful experience. It was a cherished family tradition. It made for many great memories. We laughed, we teased each other, we smiled as we worked together to create delicious donut treats. And we'd get creative and artistic with the frosting, especially for the donuts we made for specific holidays. Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine's donuts were spectacular and gorgeous. And while other people boiled and dyed eggs for Easter, we made and frosted colorful, resplendent donuts instead.

The donut bites and small round donuts were particularly more popular and most desirable treats over the dyed, hard boiled eggs. Don't get me wrong. I like a good hard boiled egg, and it was fun to hunt for them at Easter. But when it came to snacking, I'll always choose a yummy donut over a hard boiled egg as a tasty, grand treat. Donuts were tailor made to the specific Holidays they marked, making for a vibrant, vivacious, carnival ambiance.

As the smallest and youngest members of the family, my two brothers and I were tasked with adding sprinkles to the newly frosted donuts before the delectable icing hardened. It was the easiest task, perfect for us young ones who lacked the coordination and skills needed to ice the donuts without making such a huge mess. We loved adding sprinkles. Everybody loves sprinkles, because sprinkles make donuts more festive and charming.

We played music. We sang and danced as we waited for the donuts to rise before cutting and frying them or as they cooled before icing them. Making donuts as a family felt more like a party than work. It made us feel closer, it strengthen our ties and bonds to one another. It was a fun and pleasing family activity. Holidays and significant life events became more joyful and more precious when they were celebrated with dazzling, delightful donuts.

As a bonus, Dad would save the leftover dough scraps and cut them up to make tantalizing donut bite treats. What made the donut bites exquisite was the way they were frosted all over by rolling them in the glaze. My father made extra dough to make plenty of donut bites just for the little ones to eat. It was splendid to see the smiles and laughter on those little faces as they relished their tiny, bite sized sweets.

And for our birthdays, he'd make a whole lot of donut bites and set aside these little extras for us, his youngest three kids, to savor and enjoy as divine little gifts. It made us feel very special and truly treasured. We felt very happy and comforted. And that is a fantastic, absolutely amazing, and most wonderful feeling. We felt cherished and loved. And that's a feeling you never, ever forget. When my nieces and their baby brother came to stay with us one summer, I tried to recreate that feeling for them.

One of my sisters and her husband were going through a rough divorce. It got pretty ugly. And the kids were still in grade school when it all went down. It really did affect them. My nieces were starting to act out--talking back, throwing tantrums, basically doing everything to get attention, even if it was negative attention, where they got spanked and disciplined as a consequence. It was a vicious, unhealthy cycle. And while the girls were acting up, their baby brother, my nephew, had become withdrawn. He was going to turn 6 soon, and all ready he was experiencing some really tough issues that no doubt had scarred him for life.

To provide the kids with a safe place away from the screaming and yelling and the hot and cold war between their parents, my Mom had the kids over that summer. My two brothers and I were in high school. And we felt bad for our nieces and nephew. At their age, we experienced the terrible loss of our father. When he died, our whole world ended. It was a gawd awful experience, and it changed us in really fundamental ways. It was the end of our childhood, the end of innocence. Life would never ever be the same. Life would always have a painful tragic tinge to it, reminding us that with the good times come the bad. With every joy, there would also be sorrow.

We didn't mind looking out for our nieces and nephew. We'd taken care of them before, along with all our other nieces and nephews from our older siblings. All of the kids spent most holidays, weekends, and summers with us. They loved visiting grandma, and we three were the fun uncles in the family.

I'd like to take this time and point out that we were so much better at taking care of the kids than most of my older siblings did with us when we were brats, and they were stuck babysitting us. Other than our eldest sister and one older brother who were always nice to us (and still our favorites to this day), our older siblings were either carefree, strict, or just plain tyrannical to us. And it didn't help that we were hyperactive, curious, foolhardy, reckless kids who made their tasks so much harder.

We had my nieces and nephew work the farm with us that summer. We all worked the farm growing up, and the kids were old enough now to do some of the chores and tasks on the farm, especially under our watch. It kept them busy, occupied, and their minds were off their troubles. And they were learning valuable skills like time management, problem solving, and teamwork. Not to mention, it was pretty fun growing up on the farm with lots of open spaces and nearby wild places to explore. And while my nieces calmed down with the added responsibilities of caring for the livestock (chickens, goats, pigs, and the odd ducks), my nephew pretty much kept quiet; though he always stuck close to us, wherever my brothers and I went.

And as my nieces made new friends with the neighborhood kids and went to play with them, my nephew remained shy and quiet and stayed close to us three. He wouldn't say anything, just be near my brothers and me. And if we went somewhere, he'd be close by. He wouldn't ask to come (like we used to pester our older siblings to take us with them when they went somewhere). But we always spotted him near us and asked him to go with us. And he'd smile shyly and join us, his tiny hands in ours as we walked to the store or just to visit friends and hangout. My brothers and I had to be extra careful when hanging out with friends not to say anything too mature or offensive to our nephew's ears. To us, he was still a small child who needed to be shielded from the world.

After two weeks of staying with us, my nieces had pretty much adapted to life on the farm. The girls had expanded their social circle and made new friends, but my nephew stayed quiet and didn't make any effort at all to make any new friends. I was worried about him, but Mom assured us that he just needed a little more time to adjust. When he wasn't near us, my nephew would often spend time with our Mom, his grandmother.

All the kids loved hanging out with their grandmother. I suspect it was partly because she always made treats for them. Pancakes were their favorite, especially if it was the funnel cake variety--the round ball version was the best tasting, the most popular being made with ripe bananas. They still are my favorite type of pancakes--banana round pancakes.

Banana round pancakes are the size of golf balls, had the light airy consistency of a jelly donut, but was full of sweet banana scent and scrumptious banana flavor. They were basically zeppoles made with sweet, ripe bananas. And they were absolutely delicious!
Mom also brought the grandkids tasty snacks from the market, where we sold the crops that we had harvested or products we had made on the farm that week. Market treats were special rewards for the little ones, especially if they had done their chores or worked hard on the farm.

I smile when I recall them waiting eagerly for our return home. They'd be sitting on the porch or playing in the front yard under the care of the trusted babysitter. As soon as they saw us, they'd call out excitedly and rush to greet us after we returned from a long day at the market. They'd have big smiles on their faces as they hugged us and then eagerly awaited what treats we had brought to share with them. The kids loved their treats. They certainly earned them for all the hard work they did whenever they stayed with us on the farm.

The kids knew that their grandma would always have treats for them, because she loved them so. But mostly, I think the kids loved being with Mom, because she had a calming, soothing presence; she made them feel safe and loved. Mom was very affectionate with all of them, just as she was with us when we were small children. Mom had a way of making even the dullest tasks and chores seem fun.

It was quite normal to find one or several kids playing near Mom as she went about sewing or reading or working on some craft or project. A lot of times, the kids would assist their grandmother, helping her cook, handing her ingredients and help with the measuring and mixing. They'd sing songs and dance while making the food and waiting for the food to finish cooking. Sounds of laughter and songs and joy often filled the kitchen. It was a happy place to be on the farm, especially when Mom was making a sweet treat or delicious food to eat.

Other times, the kids would help Mom weed the garden and water the plants. The kids especially loved picking flowers and making floral arrangements for the house or for clients. The clients paid for wonderful, beautiful blossoms for centerpieces or bouquets for significant events like reunions, funerals, weddings, christenings, or birthdays. We'd also help Mom create floral arrangements when it was our family's turn to decorate the church for Sunday services.

We loved helping Mom decorate the church, because that was when she was at her most creative! She made stunning floral arrangements, creating unique layers, designs, and gorgeous art pieces that thrilled and amazed us and the public. We would "ooh" and "ahh" along with the kids when Mom finally put together and revealed her magnificent masterpieces. The ones where she used several different flowers and colors to create symmetrical, or geometric, or spiral designs and rows of radiant hues and textures were my favorite!

It was quite common for people to assume that we were using fake or plastic flowers, because Mom's flowers from her well tended garden were just so intensely vibrant, colorful, and magical. And the way she made marvelous designs and spectacular sculptures out of the scintillating flowers and diverse greenery was sublime and fantastic! People were often shocked to touch the flowers and find them real and so much more beautiful than any plastic or factory made arrangement.

Decorating the church was sort of a competition among the church members. My family only saw it as our duty to perform once or twice a year. But to other families, it was the time to show off their power or riches, to try to signal their position of power and privilege, or advance their standing in the community. The most wealthy, well off members often incorporated large works of expensive art or silk draperies and hired professionals to deck out the church in some of the gaudiest, over the top, extravagant displays of wealth.

We didn't have any of those riches or fancy trappings the other families used. But what we did make, with Mom as our leader, turned out better and more inspiring, and we always outdid any and all other attempts at church decorating. Mom used her blooming garden to create ethereal and heavenly creations that evoked wonder and awe and excitement.

Every time Mom decorated, people filled the church to see her creations. Some people actually brought friends and visitors to our service just to see what new, astounding creations Mom had made this time. And every time, the reverend or visiting pastor actually had to start the services by acknowledging the sensational floral decorations that often took all of the people's attention for most of the service. Several people actually took the time before services to pose by the floral creations and have their fotos taken! The church was often filled with people who came early just so they could look at Mom's masterful designs and admire her grand, exquisite works. That was the closest our remote area had to an art gallery or museum.

And after the end of the last service, people would vie for Mom's creations, some often wanting to buy them outright. Most of Mom's paid work was advertised this way, or by word of mouth, or when people saw her creations at some other event. People loved her outstanding floral treasures. The grandkids would actually brag to their astonished friends that their grandmother made the wondrous floral art, and they helped grandma put it all together. Hearing them speak so proudly of their grandmother and the work that they did always made me and my brothers smile.

But Mom always gave priority and first choice to the most elderly and often most ill of the congregation. She'd send us three boys, and later, my nieces and nephews when they were older, to deliver a few of her most dazzling arrangements to the ill members of the congregation, often too sick to make the service. Those sick, elderly folks often lit up and cried tears of joy whenever they'd see what amazing floral decorations Mom was gifting them. They'd cry and express thanks, often giving us blessings to take back to Mom and the family back on our farm.

When I was a small child, I used to feel embarrassed and flustered when the elderly cried and gave us their blessing for the gift of the resplendent flowers. Honestly, I hated seeing those elderly and ill people cry. It was very hard to witness their pain and suffering.

I was unsure and confused by their reactions. I did not have the experience nor the wisdom to deal with the situation. I had never seen an adult cry before, especially an elderly person. I've only been to two funerals then. And at least there, I understood why people cried. But to see an adult weeping outside of a funeral setting was a very unfamiliar and disturbing ordeal for me. It was disquieting to see such distress. I felt like I had done something wrong. And at that young age, I hated being the center of attention, especially from strangers and adults outside my own family. So it was incredibly uncomfortable and difficult for me when the crying elder hugged us and tearfully tell us to thank our Mom for the beautiful flowers.

Truthfully, as a young child, I didn't understand why this happened, why the tears and fuss over flowers. Yes, they were beautiful and stunning flowers, but they were still just plants. But Mom imparted into us a sense of importance to act with respect and dignity as she sent us out on these floral deliveries. So I braved the awkwardness and did my best to behave well and treat the elderly and ill with the utmost respect and dignity. I may not have fully understood what was going on, but I was smart enough to listen to Mom and follow her advice. I've learned that in life, it's usually wiser and better to listen to your Mom or Dad, to learn from the wisdom of the elders.

When I got older and wiser, I was struck by the significance and impact of Mom's actions. It was her way of looking out for the neediest and most vulnerable members of the community. Too often, these incapacitated, injured, and especially elderly people were forgotten, out of sight and out of the minds of the public. It's like they didn't exist, especially if they happened to be poor or alone or lacked the resources and support most other people had.

Giving them gorgeous flowers was Mom's way of letting those ill and vulnerable members know that she cared about what happened to them, and she was thinking of them and wishing them a good, speedy recovery. For the ones who lived alone or had less than what we had, Mom would send us with chicken soup and bread, cheese, and fruit and veggies to last a long while, along with a few canned goods. And that meant something to those people. It gave them hope and encouragement. It made them feel just a little bit better.

When I was finally old enough to understand Mom's actions, it made me proud and humbled. I was awed by her capacity to care, to look out for those in need. It inspired me to be a better person, to be a kinder, caring human being. These days, when someone I know is sick, I make the effort to get them a flowering plant--Mums, Pansies, and Poinsettias are the popular and colorful potted varieties that I buy from the grocery store. I buy potted plants because they are more attractive than the cut flowers at the stores, and they last longer, too. The recipients of the potted plants always express surprise and gratitude. And surprisingly enough, most of the potted plants are taken home, repotted into bigger containers and thrive. The recipients are always thankful, and most pass on small acts of kindness to others in need. Small acts of kindness matter. They make our world a better and more wonderful place to live. Mom lived this truth, and she taught it to us and her grandchildren.

Besides gardening and decorating, the kids loved helping their grandmother with the sewing. They'd turn the hand crank of her ancient, manual sewing machine, fascinated by the motion and sounds of the machine--trying to resist the temptation of spinning that hand crank as fast as they could, because that seemed like a fun idea; we all wanted to turn that crank as fast as we could--and we got scolded a few times when Mom caught us three boys doing just that, playing with her sewing machine, trying to turn that hand crank as fast as we could!

Often times, she had the kids model the clothes she was making--the clothes were usually for them. The kids loved their shirts and shorts that Mom made for them--my brothers and I loved our Mom made clothes, too. Mom used a lot of colors and interesting, unique patterns. Often times, she'd take on making clothes for neighbors and clients who brought their own material and paid Mom to create clothes for them or make wonderful alterations to better fit them. Mom was a seamstress and clothes maker in her younger days. And she was quite gifted in making clothes that were much in demand. But the farm (and her garden) was her priority--because the farm gave life to and supported the family. And family came first, especially the youngest and most vulnerable, most precious members of her family--the grandkids.

The kids loved being around their grandmother. It was quite common (and hilarious), a neighborhood treat, to see Mom go to the store with a line of grandkids in tow. She'd hold the hand of the tiniest one, and the kids all linked hands. The oldest grandkid would be at the end of the line, with either me or one of my other two brothers as the last link in the long line of kids about to cross the street or going for a stroll in the neighborhood. We looked like a line of ducks, with Mom leading and us kids following her footsteps across the street. There was a lot of excitement and laughter and smiles from the kids. It brought a lot of smiles to people's faces to see such a sight. And the kids loved it, because it usually meant they'd each get a small piece of candy from our trip to the store. Mom had a way of making the mundane fun.

There was no doubt that the kids loved spending time with their grandmother. And Mom loved spending time with them. A lot of times, the kids would fall asleep next to her, if not with their heads on her lap.
Mom made them feel safe and loved. And I needed to figure out a way to give my shy, quiet nephew that same feeling, so he wouldn't feel so lost and alone that summer he was spending with us. But I had no clue how to do this. I wasn't Mom. I didn't have her natural calming, soothing presence. And I certainly didn't have her patience or her wisdom.

But inspiration arrived the following week. My nephew's birthday was that weekend. His parents were bringing the birthday cake, and his many cousins would come for his birthday party. He seemed excited to see his parents and cousins, but he also seemed a little apprehensive about the neighborhood kids Mom had invited to the party. I thought about what I could do to help ease his anxiety, when it suddenly occurred to me, 'It's his birthday, that means he gets a special treat: Birthday Donuts!'

I realized then that my nephew has never had birthday donuts to celebrate his birthday. At his house, it was just a birthday cake and some ice cream. He has never experienced the birthday traditions we kept on the farm. It dawned on me that none of my other nieces and nephews had birthday donuts either!

When we were growing up, Dad had whoever was celebrating a birthday help him make donuts. That way, the birthday celebrant got to pick what flavors they wanted, and they got first pick and first choice of the best donuts in the bunch. As an extra for little ones celebrating a birthday, he made extra donut bites just for them to enjoy. It was a beloved and favorite celebratory tradition that we still practiced on the farm.

But my older siblings didn't continue this tradition at their homes. Maybe because it was easier to make a birthday cake and a lot less messier than making donuts. Or maybe they just didn't have the same reverence my two brothers and I had for our family's donut making traditions. But whatever the case, on the farm, we made donuts for special occasions, and my nephew's birthday was a very special occasion.

So I told my nephew what I had planned for his birthday. We'd start bright and early making the dough, and by noon, we'd have dozens of donuts ready for the party. He seemed excited. The morning of his birthday, we got up early, and we started making donuts. He picked out chocolate and strawberry and plain lemon glazed as his flavors. So we got to mixing, kneading, resting, cutting, resting, frying, and frosting up those birthday donuts.

Putting on the icing is always the most fun (and delicious) part. We had a lot of scraps and I made extra dough just so we'd have lots and lots of donut bites. I relished the expressions of surprise on my nephew's face when he saw the donuts rising and how heavenly they looked and smelled as I fried them. I especially loved hearing his laughter as his sisters, his uncles--my two brothers--and his grandmother joined us to help frost the dozens of donuts for the party and set them up in a festive display.

When it was time for his birthday party, the birthday donuts were a big hit. Yes, the chocolate birthday cake was delicious, but the donuts were tastier and so much more popular with the party guests. My nephew beamed proudly as I told the guests that he helped make the donuts and picked the flavors. His cousins and relatives were impressed. And the neighborhood kids were thanking him and complimenting him as he helped pass out donuts to them. The biggest smile he showed was when I revealed to him the large stash of donut bites that I had set aside just for him, because it was his birthday. I could see that he felt happy and he felt loved. And when he hugged me tight, I knew that he felt safe, and grateful, and joyful.

He kept that big smile as he helped pass out the rest of the donut bites for the little ones whose mouths were too small to bite a large donut, but just the right size to enjoy a donut bite. Soon, everyone had consumed all the donuts and donut bites, just like at our birthday parties growing up. My nephew surprised me, because while he favored the regular size chocolate donut, like my two closest brothers, when it came to donut bites however, he preferred the plain lemon glazed, like me. But he loved all those yummy donut flavors, just like we did and still do.

Those birthday donuts changed my nephew. It made him feel more confident. He made new friends at the party and played with them. I felt at ease that he would be all right. I caught my mother nodding at me, smiling, because she could see how the birthday donuts experience had given my nephew a boost and made him feel better and braver. But it wasn't just my nephew who experienced a change that day. Before the party was over, all the kids wanted their own birthday donuts experience--to make their own and choose their own flavors.

It was the revival of an old family tradition--a tradition started by Dad, long since passed, and whom these kids, his grandchildren, never knew. But through his donut making tradition, the kids would learn about their grandfather, and what a loving, wonderful father he was. I really wanted to take the time and make birthday donuts with them individually on their special day.

But truthfully, there were too many of them and not enough time to spend with each and every one. Thankfully, Mom had an ingenious solution. Once a month, on the last weekend, we'd have everyone who had a birthday that month come stay at the farm, and we'd all make birthday donuts. Everyone was invited over to the farm. It was a great idea, the start of a new family tradition that incorporated the old. It made those get together even more special and brought my nieces and nephews closer to each other and to us. I was happy to see the old family traditions continue with the new generation. It was as if Dad was still with us. And when Mom passed on, the donut traditions was one of many that kept her memory and love alive and well in all of us.

I was pleasantly surprised at how successful the birthday donuts tradition was. Mom's idea of a monthly gathering helped strengthen the bonds between her grandchildren. And I loved seeing the looks of pure joy and hearing the laughter from the kids as we all sat around the table and made delicious donuts. We always held Sunday dinners, and there was a time when the entire family would gather together and share a meal then. But it's been years since all my siblings gathered together in one spot. Most of the older ones had their own lives and homes, some quite far away in distant lands across the seas.

And while most of the family couldn't make the Sunday dinners, all tried to make the birthday donuts weekend--at least the ones who lived nearby and not too far away. So one weekend a month, our house would once again be crowded with kids sharing rooms, echoed with boisterous laughter, and overflowed with a hubbub of various activities.

The kids loved working and playing on the farm. And the farm seemed much more alive with so many kids running around--laughing, playing, or having fun doing chores under our guidance. It was just like when were were small children growing up in a full farm house. To the kids, especially the ones who lived in towns or the suburbs, it was fun like camp; it was an awesome adventure to work the farm; tend to the diverse crops; and care for the many, different animals. And they had so much space and wilderness to explore and discover. And they had cousins and new friends to share in their adventures. And they loved spending time with their grandmother and us three, the fun, cool uncles in the family.

As much as I relished the solitude and having my own space, being with everyone one weekend a month reminded me of just how lucky I was to have grown up in a safe, loving home. And I wanted to provide a safe, loving space for all the little ones who came to visit and stay with us. Children need a safe, loving place. They need a good home. And for as long as they stayed with us, we gave them a home.

When that summer ended, my nieces and nephew were set to go home--just in town, so they could attend school. There was some resistance as the kids had enjoyed their summer on the farm. They wanted to stay with us. But their parents had worked out a settlement, and we didn't want to make a bad situation worse. We promised the kids that if they ever wanted to come visit and stay, they were welcomed any time. But for now, they had to go home with their mom and be brave and start to rebuild their family. It would be hard, but they would always have a place to come home to on the farm if things ever got too tough.

It was heartbreaking for us to watch the kids go with their mom. We had gotten used to having them on the farm. But we realized that we couldn't shield them forever. The world was a tough, changing place. And we hoped that life on the farm had taught the kids how to face and overcome the challenges of the real world. The tasks and work we did on the farm were teaching opportunities and excellent exercises to practice the life lessons we tried to teach them: Responsibility, initiative, accountability, adaptability, and critical thinking.

We taught them basic skills like cooking, setting up the table, cleaning, and laundry. We explained to them why we did things on the farm a certain way and at a certain time. There was a reason for the things we did, from weeding, planting, harvesting, watering, feeding the livestock, and caring for the crops and animals. There were very important jobs that we performed to ensure the safety and well being of the family, the animals, and our crops. We looked out for the kids and cared for them, and in the process, we taught the kids to look out for each other and to take care of each other and the rest of the family.

At first, they just followed our instructions and examples. They learned by watching us and imitating what we did. By the middle of the summer, we let them be a bit more independent and start making some decisions on which tasks should be a priority and which projects we should focus on. We even let them help us plan the menu for our meals. We had taught them to be strong, independent, solve problems, and think creatively. But most importantly, we showed them that they were loved, and they had a place to call home with us on the farm.

On the farm, we worked together, we played together, and we ate meals together. Preparing meals and eating together made us feel closer. It was fun cooking together and eating together. It was an opportunity to talk, laugh, and check in with each other. And we usually had music playing, singing or dancing along as we prepared the meal and waited for the food to finish cooking. It reminded me of the old days growing up, back when my two brothers and I were small children, our Dad was alive, and the house was full of older siblings talking, laughing, teasing, arguing, singing, dancing, and playing as we made meals and sat down as a family to eat together and share the delicious fruits of our labors.

The many tasks we performed on the farm required us to talk to each other, to communicate and work together to get things done. It bound us together, and it helped develop skills like planning, organizing, efficiency, and teamwork. Most importantly, working together on the farm made our family feel closer; it strengthened our bonds and ties to each other. The farm gave the kids a safe place to grow, to play, to be themselves, to explore, to learn, and to feel loved and be happy. The farm gave them a sense of belonging, a place they can call home.

So it was understandable why my nieces and nephew wanted to stay when the summer was over. But it was important for them to go home, even if it was going to be different than before. It wasn't just their educational needs that needed to be met. We had schools out in the country that were just as excellent as the ones in town. They needed to be with their parents, to spend time with them, even if they were both living separate lives and had separate homes now. The kids needed to rebuild and redefine their own personal relationship with their parents. They needed to experience and understand that even if their parents had split apart, both their mother and their father still loved them very much.

So it was with heavy hearts and lots of hope that we bid our nieces and nephew goodbye. They cried a little when we hugged them, and that made our eyes water. But we made sure to tell them that we loved them, and we were going to miss them, and if they needed it, they can always come back and live here on the farm with us. But for now, they had to give their new family situation a try. They had to try and rebuild their new lives and try to make things work. Whatever happened, they'd always have a home and family waiting for them on the farm.

It was hard watching the kids being driven away, their heads looking out the windows and waving us goodbye, tears running down their faces. I suddenly thought of Mom and looked over at her. She was waving back and blowing kisses at her grandbabies, her eyes wet but not yet spilling any tears. Is this what she experienced every time her kids grew up and moved away? How did she do it? How could she bear this heartbreak? How could she stand this pain? Because I couldn't take it. I felt like I was suffocating, like I was dying as that car drove further and further away, taking my nieces and nephew out of our lives.

It hurt too much to breathe, and my vision got blurry as the tears overflowed from my eyes. There was a deep ache in my chest, and I felt my heart become so heavy with sadness and longing as the car turned off into the main road and disappeared from our sight, leaving us shattered and silent, mournful and missing our nieces and nephew so much. They had become such a big and integral part of our lives that summer. Now, we just felt bereft, like our hearts had been ripped out, and our souls were left in tattered shreds.

I surreptitiously wiped the tears from my eyes to clear my vision. I noticed Mom standing by the front gate, still gazing down that now empty road, but it looked as if she was lost in thought, seeing something that I couldn't, feeling something that I couldn't yet understand. She looked so alone there by the gate, arms folded, as the sunlight streamed through the trees to outline her figure, and shadows from the leaves danced on her skin. She looked so small and yet so tall at the same time, this lone, striking figure left behind.

And I suddenly understood why she spoiled her grandkids, and why she had so much patience and understanding when she dealt with us and them. I realized then why she demonstrated such incredible love for us, why she acted so kindly and full of care, even when we didn't deserve it, even when we tried to push her away. I knew now why she treated us with so much love, patience, and understanding, especially when we were moody, troublesome, or being stupid. It was simply and truthfully because she loved us very much, with all her heart and soul, with every beat of her heart, with every breath she took, with every thought she had. She loved us with her entire life, her entire spirit, her entire being. And we were so lucky and blessed to have her.

That night, it was just too quiet on the farm without the kids making noise. I missed their laughter and their smiles; I missed the sound of their voices and the sight of them running around or laying about. The house felt emptier and dull without them. And it was strange those first few days working the farm without them. But life returned to normal soon enough, though we did miss the kids terribly.

The kids adjusted to their new situation eventually, though there were hiccups here and there. And I picked up my nephew most weekends that he didn't spend with his father. My nephew had grown to love the farm life. So most weekends, holidays, and summers, he lived with us. And we loved having him and his siblings and cousins over.

When all my nieces and nephews grew up and started experiencing growing pains, they had a safe place to come home to on the farm. Long after I left home and the kids entered their turbulent teen years, many of them found sanctuary on the farm, a place to escape from the chaos and demands of their home lives. On the farm, grandma and their uncles would always welcome them. They'd have a place to stay; and traditions like birthday donuts reminded them that they were loved and cherished; and the farm was their home for as long as they needed it.

A few of the them took to living permanently on the farm, which was a great joy to Mom, because she loved having the kids over. And the kids loved the farm. When my year older brother got a job and moved away, I was a bit concerned about what would happen to the farm. It was just my baby brother and Mom now. But I needn't have worried so. My shy nephew moved in soon after. It was decided by his grandmother and his parents that him living on the farm was the best place for him, especially as his teen years were troubling. But he calmed down on the farm, away from the stresses of his home life. And he thrived on the farm.

So did his cousins who lived on the farm for a while. As moody and rebellious they were at their own homes, on the farm, they were on their best behavior, probably because they felt safe and loved. Life on the farm was a lot work sometimes, but it was also pretty simple and straightforward. They knew what had to be done, and they were learning and benefitting from their hard work. They had some measure of control and independence. They would see their efforts pay off in a bountiful, good harvest or an abundance of healthy, thriving livestock. They would learn that what they did mattered, and they could affect great change with hard work and determination.

And they knew that their grandmother and uncles would support them and let them learn to stand on their own, to learn from their own mistakes, to be who they were without fear of being judged or told what to think. On the farm, they had responsibilities and the space to let them breathe and grow up at their own pace.

It didn't matter what they looked like or dressed up as--what colors they painted their nails, how they dyed or cut or grew their hair, how many holes they pierced in their bodies and faces, or even what tattoos they sported. Yes, they got some good natured ribbing from their uncles, grandmother, their cousins, and siblings. But they were aware that for grandma and their uncles, it wasn't their looks that was important--though they eventually matured and groomed themselves into lovely and beautiful people once they settled down from their experimental phase. The most important things to us on the farm were their character, the weight of their words, and their deeds and actions.

And they developed such amazing character, honored their words, and performed great deeds and followed through with outstanding actions. They grew up into independent, thoughtful individuals who knew the difference between right and wrong, and they cared for themselves, for each other, and for the world around them. That was a beautiful experience to behold, and it made us feel so proud to see our tiny nieces and nephews grow up to be wonderful young people.

No, we didn't always agree or see eye to eye, but that's a good thing. We loved and encouraged variety on the farm and in our family. Variety made for healthier, resilient crops and heartier, invigorating livestock. Variety gave us strength, vitality, and beauty. Variety made us think outside the box and consider new, different perspectives. Variety helped us grow, adapt, survive and thrive in the most difficult and challenging of times. We weren't all the same, and we didn't want to be.

We weren't one monotonous, blank sheet of white paper. We were a magnificent, multicolored rainbow; an eclectic collection of different celestial bodies that lit up and bejeweled the velvet night skies; a rich treasure trove of shiny, dazzling, resplendent gemstones of all cuts, colors, designs, and unique origins. We were the delightful, decadent flavors and varieties of divine, delicious donuts and scintillating, scrumptious desserts created in a fantastic, spectacular pastry shop. We may have different views, but we respected each other, and we would always be there for each other, and we cherished each other because we loved each other so. Family was important, and the farm was our home, where we were all treasured and cherished by our mother and each other.

The younger kids also loved the farm. And along with my nephew and baby brother, they helped Mom keep the farm going. The teens got paid for their work, like we did when we were their age, so they had some spending money. The younger kids got market day treats as their reward, just as we did at their young age. Together, they kept alive the traditions that made us stronger, that made us a family; and they shared those traditions with the newer generation of cousins and younger siblings who also came to love the farm and experienced the joys of making donuts.

Birthday donut weekends had become a big part of our family traditions now, and it was wonderful to see everyone working together to mix, knead, and shape the dough. There'd always be a little mess, and the youngest ones always ended up more messy than the workspace. Flour dust would be everywhere, and a lot of bowls and mixing utensils got used. But we also had fun cleaning up the kitchen and the little ones while we waited for the dough to rise. We'd sing songs or play music to dance to after we shaped the donuts and waited for that second rise before frying the donuts.

But without a doubt, the most fun part of making donuts was frosting the donuts in so many flavors. The kids loved adding sprinkles, and they couldn't resist popping the occasional donut bite into their mouths. We had to especially monitor the little ones, who would no doubt have preferred to fill themselves up with donut bites than eat a real, nutritious meal. So we gave them a bite or two at the most, promising more after they ate a real meal.
It was quite a large production making all those donuts, but it was worth the fun and looks of joy expressed by the children. To see those kids laughing, their smiling faces, made us feel good to know that the kids felt loved and were happy. That was the best part of the whole experience.

Making donuts was an opportunity for teamwork, creativity, growth, some independence, and problem solving exercises for the kids. A few of them surprised me when they requested twists or long johns (rectangular bar donuts) instead of the usual donut rings shape. But whatever they wanted for their special day, we aimed to make it happen. The most challenging donut request was from a niece who wanted jelly filled donuts. I didn't have a clue how to make that happen! But luckily, Mom knew, so I learned something new, and my niece got her fantastic jelly donuts.

Making those birthday donuts not only strengthened our bonds, but also made for wonderful memories and fantastic learning experiences. It also made me aware of just how talented Dad was at making donuts, and how I still had so much more to learn. And though Mom and Dad have long passed on, our tradition of birthday donuts survive to this day as my nieces and nephews continue them and share them with the younger generations.

Dad had many talents and skills. He was patient, understanding, wise, and so creative. In addition to the chocolate, lemon, strawberry, and pineapple glazed ones that he made, Dad was most famous and most in demand for his powdered sugar donuts. It would be decades later that I would learn that the powdered ones he made were known as beignets in New Orleans and other parts of the world, particularly the French speaking parts. But Dad's lemon glazed (and the rare lime glazed) donuts were (and still are) my favorite of all time. And while no donut is as sweet and blissful as the ones our dad made, all donuts are scrumptious, tasty treats.

Dad made donuts special. Donuts reminded us of our Dad. And when he passed on, it made our celebrations with donuts even more special. However, the year he died and the year after, our birthday donuts tradition was put on hold. Two years after Dad passed away, and after a lot of begging on our part, Mom let us have donuts again to celebrate our birthdays instead of the usual cake.

She was reluctant at first to let us have birthday donuts again. I think she was trying her best to give us some semblance of a normal life. The death of our father had changed our family and life in the most awful and most painful way. We were the only kids in the neighborhood who lost a father. And being raised by a single parent was difficult and challenging. I think having a birthday cake made us seem normal somehow, that we were like everyone else. She knew that other people were treating us differently--not mean, just treated us with pity, as if we were irrevocably broken, like shards of shattered glass that couldn't be put back together.

I also can't help but wonder if perhaps she was afraid that having donuts at a birthday would be a painful reminder that Dad was gone. But eventually, she came to accept that we really wanted birthday donuts, like we used to back when Dad was alive. And yeah, we were sad that he wasn't with us anymore. And yes, we missed him so much. But we were more than happy to continue the birthday donuts tradition Dad had started with us. And it made us all feel good to have birthday donuts, because it felt like Dad was still with us, smiling and chuckling at us as we ate those delicious donut treats. Those birthday donuts seemed more special and always tasted so much better than any birthday cake. And to this day, I still prefer donuts as a special birthday treat.

I love donuts best in the calm moments of life--a welcomed break from the rush and chaos of modern living, a treat best savored in the serenity of solitude or the shared company of good friends. It is still the most special and most delicious treat for me and my brothers. And I still smile, feel warm, and think of Dad and how much he loved us whenever I have a special donut treat.

When Mom passed on, it was a very sad and terrible experience, especially for my nieces and nephews who loved their grandmother so. For most, this was the very first real close, much beloved family member that they had ever lost. And I was thankful for that. Death had destroyed our lives way too early; my brothers and I were such small children when we lost our Dad. His death changed us and forever ended all our childhood innocence. It stained our souls with suffering and tragedy that we would never get over but learned to live with for the rest of our lives.

But in a twisted way, experiencing that terrible loss of our father so many years earlier had prepared us for the painful loss of our mother so many years later. Yes, Mom was gone, but such is life. We live, we die, and in between the living and dying, we try to live life as best we can. And Mom showed us how to live life to the fullest, to cherish the ones we loved, to seize the day, and do what makes us happy, to go after our dreams.

But it was still a terrible loss to lose Mom, especially for my nieces and nephews. That morning after she passed away was particularly heartbreaking. It got to me, to see my nieces and nephews cry and be so sad. It showed me how much they loved and missed their grandmother. It showed just how awful and tragic this loss was to them. I never could stand the sight of my nieces and nephews crying, being sad, or hurt. So I did my best to comfort them. And I did it the best way that I could think of at that time.

I gathered most of them in the kitchen. I had them grab the ingredients and mixing bowls. Soon enough, it became clear that we were making donuts. It was a surprising development for most of them. For them, making donuts was a birthday tradition or for happy, celebratory occasions. I gently told them that way back in the day, when their grandfather was still alive and I was but a small child, making donuts was a special treat we made for family funerals also, to remind us of the ones we lost, and to remember and celebrate their memory and their love.

So we made donuts. We taught the younger ones how to mix and work the dough. We told stories of Mom, their grandmother, and we laughed and cried at the many happy memories we had of her. We were going to miss her so. And we were always going to mourn her loss. But we would also remember her love and the important lessons about life that she had taught us.

We made a few dozen and kept to the traditional lemon, chocolate, and strawberry glazes. We also made a few of the jelly donuts in her honor. But the majority of the treats we made were Mom's specialty, our favorite treat she used to make: banana round pancakes. And when we were done cooking and frosting, we passed out those donuts, which were consumed by the rest of the family and other family friends. We heard their surprise at the treat, especially my older siblings, the kids' parents, who had long forgotten this tradition.

And over a snack of donuts and hot chocolate, tea, and coffee, many stories and memories of Mom, Dad, and those who had long passed were told and shared among the generations of family and friends. People laughed; they cried; but most importantly, they remembered our lost loved ones, and we took the time to honor them. Talking about all these loved ones we had lost put things in perspective and helped us grieve. Yes, Mom's death was a terrible loss, but it also reminded us of the importance of family and the fragility and preciousness of life. We needed to honor our dead, and to cherish our loved ones, and to enjoy the time we spent together. We had to make the most of life while we were still among the living.

It was important for me to see my nieces and nephews get through their grief. They should mourn and they should cry, because the loss was just too terrible to bear. But I also wanted to help them carry on living, to seize life, to care for each other just as Mom taught us and gave us the tools and strength to live on after Dad died. The traditions we held were the methods by which these important life lessons and skills could be passed down and taught among the younger generations. Through our traditions, we would learn to carry on, to be strong, to overcome whatever challenges came our way. We would live, love, and be happy to the fullest.

And I was quite glad to see my nieces and nephews keep the donut traditions alive. It made me smile and feel proud to see that they had made lots of donut bites and had set many extras aside, just for the little ones. And to see the looks of joy and happiness on the little ones faces as they munched down on those delicious donut bites made me feel elated and pleased, even in this most difficult time. It felt good to know that my youngest nieces and nephews felt truly safe, well loved, and very happy as they enjoyed their special treats.

Suddenly, I had an epiphany. It was a great discovery for me to realize that making donuts wasn't just about creating and eating scrumptious treats. It was about spending time with someone you love, doing something fun together, and enjoying each other's company. Of all the gifts we got at birthdays and holidays, the most precious gift was time spent with a loved one. I have so many fond memories of making donuts with our parents and with the kids. I smile and think of them with a heart full of love whenever I have a special donut treat.

It makes me feel good to know that the kids have grown and still continue the donut traditions. And those who can't make the birthday weekends at the farm because they moved away have held their own donut making celebrations. They keep the memories alive, and they share family traditions and teach their significance to the younger generations. Making donuts together and sharing them brings us closer, reminding us to fully embrace life and love. Donuts are a sweet and splendid way to cherish and celebrate our family and friends. Making donuts is a wonderful way to spend time with the young ones and make them feel safe and happy and loved.

Every child who shares in the donut making tradition grows up and reaches a milestone revelation: They become aware of the essential and fundamental truth that donuts are more than special treats. They are a testament to the importance of love and family. Making and sharing donuts remind us all that we are a family, and wherever we end up in the whole wide world, we are loved and have people who truly care for us. And if we ever need it, there was a place where we could go to and feel safe, feel happy, and feel loved; we have a place that we can call home, full of people who'll love us and protect us when we need shelter from the storm. And every child and every person deserves to have a home, a place to feel loved and be happy.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope and wish with all my heart that you, too, have a place where you can feel happy and feel safe and loved. I hope you have a good home. And I hope that you have joy in your life and that you get to enjoy a special treat every now and then, especially for special occasions. Because everyone deserves to feel happy, everyone deserves to feel safe, and everyone needs to feel loved.

Don't let the past hold you back; it is over and done with, it is history and cannot be changed. Don't let the future keep you from taking action; it is a mystery and has not yet happened; it is unknown and out of your reach for now. All we have is the present; we are in the here and now, and we can do something about it, make it better through our actions and words; it is a gift, that's why the here and now is called the present. Enjoy life's pleasures while you still can; take a chance; dance, laugh, sing, and be merry with your loved ones and friends. Life is for the living, so live fully, love freely, and be kind to yourself and to others.

Don't count the days; make every day count. Make every day an opportunity to be with the people you love, and do the things that make you happy. Make time to enjoy the people and joys that make life worth living. Embrace whatever and whoever it is that makes your world a better, more joyful, and wondrous place.

Take some time to be kind to others, and be good to yourself. Cherish those you love, share with them a special treat. Life is short. So live it to the fullest, and fill it with special treats. Eat, drink, and be merry. Share good experiences and adventures with the special people in your life. Share your happiness with your friends and family. Embrace your loved ones, and love yourself. Do what you can to make life more loving and more wonderful.

You have the power to make the world a kinder and happier place. You are in charge of your life, and your actions affect not just you but the people and the whole world around you. So be good to yourself, be kind to others, and make the world a better, happier, and more amazing place to live. Be the best you can be, and go after your dreams. Live your life full of love, and love the life you live fully.

Related Links:
A sailor in the fields, a treasure in the trees
The Boys of Summer
Brothers and Sisters
Tradition
A good jacket keeps you warm
Hope is a yellow dump truck
Shoes
Holiday Dismay
Are you there, Santa? It's me
It's the Most Stressful Time of the Year
Finding the way
The thing about fathers
Veterans Day Reflection
Best Laid Plans
That offal taste
The Fisherman & the Lucky Cat
The Spirit of the Day
Pie
Market Days
Deserts
Lilacs, Butterflies, and Sheet Cakes

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1

It's the Holiday Season, and I love this time of year because of the festivities and feasts and frivolities that take place as we celebrate. I love the food, the gatherings, and the sense of optimism, hope, and good cheer that flows more freely during the Holidays. As a child, I loved the Holiday Season, because it meant we were out of school, got to hang out with friends, gorged on treats and sweets, and played with friends and visiting cousins. Plus, the gifts were nice, and I loved the Holiday specials that come on tv this time of year. It was a busy time, a little chaotic with visitors and social and familial obligations and activities. But it was also an exciting time, full of fun and wonder and joy.

I love listening to the music that hails the spirit of the season. These songs make me smile and think of all the holidays past; it moves me to reach out to the people that I care about and cherish. And nothing puts me in the Holiday mood like the old Holidays Classics. These are the songs that I grew up with and put me in the Holiday Spirit. There are plenty of other songs that make me think of the Holidays, but this collection was created specifically with those songs that I consider Classics--iconic, timeless, and exquisite.

My other faves like I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, or All I want for Christmas (are my two front teeth), or even Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman are in another collection, a more whimsical and fun one. The same goes for the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and The Chipmunks Song.

This collection of Holidays Classics features older, sometimes original recordings. So please excuse the hiss and noise you may hear in some songs. But honestly, those noises make the old songs sound more genuine and faithful to how I heard them the first time, on our old record player, the kind that played vinyl records.

I do like some of the older, original recordings, because of their unique, intriguing sound. I am immediately transported back to my childhood when I hear some of these older, classic holiday songs. So many years of wonderful, warm memories!

Oh, man. It just occurred to me, rather morbidly, that most of the singers and performers in this Holidays Classics collection have passed on. But no worries; they live on in the amazing and incredible music that they left behind, music that continues to bring us Holiday Cheer. And I hope you enjoy these classics as much as I do.

As I'm currently experimenting with loading music on the site, please let me know if the music clips don't play or fail to load. There are 21 songs in this collection, and to make it easier to load music to the site, I've divided the songs into two volumes. This post contains songs from Volume 1. Volume 1 contains 11 songs; Volume 2 has 10 songs. There will be links to at the end of the posts to connect to each other.

I would have preferred to keep all 21 songs together in one post, but that was just too much data for one post. Feel free to use the provided link at the end of the posts to connect the whole collection of 21 fantastic Holidays Classics.

If you see "Invalid Source" or "Decode Error" when trying to play the music clips, chances are, you may have to refresh or reload the page. Better yet, just click on the song name, then click Open to play the song on your chosen player. You won't download anything unless you choose to download it.

I am still experimenting with loading music on this site; I appreciate your feedback and assistance in identifying any problems, information on what works or what doesn't, and your opinions on what you liked or could use some improvements. Thank you. I am grateful for the feedback and will work to fix the problems. Your assistance is very helpful in helping me improve this site. I'm making a link to the music in the song titles, in case the clips don't load or play for you. For this post, please click on the song name to listen (open)/download the music. I would like to hear your opinions and thoughts about the music; and tell me what holiday songs you consider classics or your faves.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the songs that I consider Holidays Classics, the songs that put me in the Holiday mood. And I hope that you enjoy them. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Bing Crosby: I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas



It is Bing Crosby, the voice of classic holidays and golden oldies songs, at least for me. I grew up listening to many of Bing Crosby's amazing songs from the Big Band and Swing era. And when it comes to holiday songs, White Christmas is the most "Christmassy" song that I can think of. It is Christmas. It would not feel like Christmas if I didn't hear this song. This song always puts me in the Christmas frame of mind.

I did not grow up in an area that snows. Christmas was sunny and warm. I did not see snow til I was 18 and had left home for lands far beyond. But still, even as a young child, I understood that snow meant Christmas for many other people, at least for those living in the seasonal northern hemisphere. The tv, movies, and stories all expressed how Christmas and snow went hand in hand. And this song paints a lovely, inviting picture of what Christmas looks like, and how beautiful snow can be during the holidays.

And I bought into that fantasy. Bing Crosby convinced me that snow was beautiful and wonderful, and it was, the very first time that I saw it. I gasped as I was mesmerized by the sight of delicate, dancing snowflakes floating down gently from the skies to land on my hands and face, before disappearing, melting away. I stopped working, and just stared at the sky, flummoxed at this strange yet wonderful phenomenon that I had only seen on tv and pictures and read about in books.

I was astonished by how beautiful and exciting it was to see the snow start to cover the buildings and paths, completely transforming the ordinary neighborhood into an extraordinary, new world. For someone who has never experienced the seasons growing up, the change in the landscape was magical and breathtaking. I was stunned and struck by the astounding metamorphosis of the world by the power of winter. It was just so beautiful and exotic. And it felt like I was walking in a dream for the next few days as the snow kept falling.

Then at the end of the week, the dream turned into a nightmare. The gentle snowfall was replaced by a ferocious blizzard that buried the city and shut down the roads and killed the lights, entombing us alive in walls of deadly ice. It was my first experience with a blizzard--the worst in over a decade!--and it wouldn't be the only one I had to deal with that winter. I learned then that as much as I love playing in the snow and looking at the beautiful, white covered vista, I'll take the hellish desert heat over the bone aching freeze of winter any day.

Nat King Cole: O Tannenbaum



Nat King Cole always captivates me with his extraordinary, spellbinding voice. I grew up listening to his songs, hooked on his crooning and classy style. This song is a perfect example. I don't understand a single word he is singing, but I am drawn to his voice. There are other versions of O Tannenbaum, including ones in English. But I grew up on this version, and it takes me back to the holidays on the farm.



Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song



Along with White Christmas, The Christmas Song is an iconic Holidays essential. This song always makes me feel warm, comforted, and introspective. It's very soothing and serene. It's the perfect song to enjoy by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate or eggnog, complete with some roasted chestnuts, or at least a tasty treat.



Harry Belafonte: Mary's Boy Child



Boney M did a great version that I enjoy dancing to. But this Harry Belafonte version was the first one I heard growing up, and I like it a lot. It is very different from any other holiday song. It has an island, tropical sunshine feel to it that lifts the spirit. And I quite like Harry Belafonte's singing.



Elvis Presley: Blue Christmas



There is always a hint of sadness during the Holidays. And Elvis captures that longing and heartbreak for the loved ones we can't be with, because they're too far away, or they've passed on beyond our reach. This song is simple, yet powerful for its honest, genuine expression of longing and heartache, the sadness we feel for the loved ones we miss during the Holidays. And it's okay to feel sad and miss them.



Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas



I know that the Holidays have arrived when I hear this upbeat, cheerful, spirited song. It definitely puts me in the Holidays mood, ready to decorate and spread Holiday cheer.



Harry Simeone Chorale: The Little Drummer Boy



The Little Drummer Boy is one of my favorite Holiday songs. And this Harry Simeone Chorale version is the best for creating a magical, enchanting Christmas atmosphere. The voices, the tune, the tempo all meld to create a sensational masterpiece, a wondrous sound, and mystical divine aura.

As a small child, I loved listening to the harmonies of this song. Such a hauntingly beautiful sound. And when I was a teen, my friends and I got a kick out of pretending to be pirates as we sang out the "Rum! Rum! Rum!" parts of the song during our Holidays Festival productions.



Perry Como: There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays



There are other more intimate and heart rendering versions of this song. And they are all moving. But I like this Perry Como version best. It starts off wistful, sad even. But then it builds up to become more assertive, confident, encouraging, even hopeful. In the end, it promises the possibility of a better, happy ending--the chance to make it home and be with loved ones and friends for the Holidays. And we all want a chance at a happy ending, to be with the people we love and celebrate the Holidays in their company. There really is no place like home for the Holidays; and home is where the heart is; and family is whoever you love and cherish.



Bing Crosby And The Andrews Sisters: Twelve Days Of Christmas



Legendary icons Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters made some fantastic music together. This jewel is one of my faves. You may not know all the words to this Holidays Classic, but if you're like me, I bet you know when to sing out "Five gold rings!" It's my fave part of this fun, festive seasonal song.



Eartha Kitt: Santa Baby



Eartha Kitt is enchanting, entertaining, and engaging with this scintillating song. Fun. Alluring. Simply Superb.



Burl Ives: A Holly Jolly Christmas



I love this cheerful, upbeat, positive song. Great for the Holiday spirit. It always makes me smile and feel like dancing with joy.


These are some of my favorite Holiday songs. They put me in the Holiday, festive mood. I hope you enjoyed them. Tell me what Holiday songs you like listening to. I like finding out what other wonderful music is out there. Your recommendations are appreciated.



The rest of my favorite vintage, retro Holiday songs continue here: The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: The Classics - The Nutcracker