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05-19 Sarah Raplee – Riff on 7 yrs. Of SPAM & a Giveaway

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A “DOWN HOME” CHRISTMAS! by Shannon Kennedy

As a child in the 1960’s, I didn’t know we were poor. Our farmhouse in Everett, Washington echoed with music, laughter and love. We were a ‘blended family’, but we didn’t call it that. Mom was divorced with three girls and met Dad who had two girls and three boys – these two adults married and we were an instant family.  
 Dad’s rock band practiced in the living-room for their Friday and Saturday night gigs and often they mixed carols with the Righteous Brothers’ and Gene Pitney’s hits. Mom cooked supper for everybody – if there wasn’t enough hamburger in the spaghetti – nobody complained. Sometimes the pasta came out pretty dry and the salad was more lettuce than tomatoes. Dessert was homemade chocolate chip cookies – each cookie had one chocolate chip.
Often, we visited my maternal grandparents, singing carols all the way to their house in Seattle since the radio didn’t work in our old station wagon. Grandma took us shopping at Woolworths and the Five & Dime downtown. We kids always saved up enough money to buy gifts for one another and if we ran out then we made presents. Dad said the best ones he got were the coupons for washing his car and mornings or nights off from the farm chores.
When we couldn’t afford gift wrap, the Sunday comics served as a substitute, or we used newspaper tied up with bright ribbons. Often by Christmas Eve, Santa was down to grocery bags. The elves cut the brown paper sacks open, tying it with twine to finish wrapping our presents.
            After stockings and presents at our house, we went to Grandma’s and Grand-dad’s for dinner where he presided over the cutting of the turkey. We knew we’d graduated to adulthood when we were invited to sit at the ‘grown-up’ table in the living-room.
            Grand-dad used to say, “Christmas comes from the heart.”
            Grandma always added, “And you give from the heart all year-round.”
            But, what happens when the heart gets fractured?
 Dad left on my 12th birthday and took the magic with him, along with his five kids, my sisters and brothers. My childhood faded into dust. Mom needed help to raise my two sisters and I was the closest adult. We tried to hold the Christmas traditions together, but it didn’t work after my so-called ‘real’ father and my mother reunited.
I dismissed Grand-dad’s words as those of a silly old man when he said again, “Christmas comes from the heart.” I ignored Grandma who said to give to others all year.
Thirty years passed and I moved to a small beach community. My sister invited me for Christmas, saying I was only welcome if I brought expensive gifts for her family. I’d recently lost my job, so that was impossible. I stayed in my new home and babysat my neighbor’s dogs. Slowly, I realized my grandparents were right and adopted their creed. “Christmas comes from the heart, so give from the heart all year-round.”
I have two stories out in two different holiday anthologies this year. Home for Christmas is a short story in the Black Opal Books anthology,  A Touch of Winter, coming in December. Stewart Falls, Washington is where Nikki Tiernan longs to go. She’s tired of being bounced around her dad’s family, since he’s remarried and her mom is still overseas with the U.S. Army. All Nikki has to do is buy a bus ticket—or so she thinks. But when a mysterious stranger claims the seat next to her, Nikki begins to fear her adventure may not go as planned.
Deck the Stalls is a Shamrock Stable holiday novella from Fire and Ice YA Books available November 30th. All Sierra McElroy wants for Christmas is a guarantee the horses at Shamrock Stable will be home for the holidays. Her mother has decided they can’t keep every horse and should sell some. Now, what can Sierra do to save her friends and Christmas for everyone?


Judith Ashley said...

Oh my, Shannon - so many memories crowd my mind. Present wrapping! Singing carols while driving to my grandparents for Christmas dinner. And certainly the message that Christmas is about giving and that is something we can do all year long.

Before it became so commercialized, Christmas was my favorite holiday because I saw (or thought I saw) people being nicer to each other. I've always thought the commercialization of Christmas---the selling of toys as in if you child doesn't have This One, Christmas will be a bust and your child could be traumatized for life---added to the scenes of people pushing and shoving, hitting other shoppers with bags and fists in order to get to the sale table.

I went to one Black Friday sale and that was it. Never again. That ??? doll or ??? outfit are not what Christmas is about.
Looking forward to reading both of your stories! So glad you joined us today!

Sarah Raplee said...

Great post, Shannon! I really appreciate how you've used your own experiences with grief in childhood to inform these stories.

Thank you for contributing to Romancing the genres.

Paty Jager said...

Great post that really does hold with the sayings of your grandparents. Good luck with your books!

Darlene Panzera said...

Great post, Shannon! When I was little we had about 50 people crowded into my grandparents dining room during the holidays - and yes, I was always at the kids table - never made it to the adult table because that was reserved for about 30 years and up. By that time my grandma passed and the get-togethers were never the same. Family drifted apart and one day I hope to have 50 people in my house for the holidays and recapture some of that nostalgia!

Cathryn Cade said...


Families just are what they are, not always the greatest. Thank God for friends and 'adopted' family, and for wise gems like your grandma who know what's truly important.

And best wishes with your own stories. I love Katherine Paterson's quote 'I think it's like a rule, that every successful author has to have a dysfunctional childhood'. Good to know that we can channel heartache into writing--a catharsis for us, and great stories for our readers.

best to you,
Cathryn Cade

shannon kennedy said...

Thanks folks,
Writing this helped me remember what is important about the holidays and I used some of those memories in my last two young adult stories.