Delights: December 16 to 22

December 16: As Jeremiah and I sipped beers at Audacious Aleworks (“Hey, Jeremiah, I think we have a local bar!”), he said, “Mom, I have a delight for you.” 

Jeremiah then recounted an incident at One More Page Books, where he is a passionate purveyor of Noble Laureate literature (and other books too). A teenage girl approached the counter to buy a hardcover book for her sister, but froze when she realized it bore an Adult price of $29 rather than a Young Adult price of $17. With dismay, she moved to return the book to its shelf. A customer on her way out overheard and returned to the register. “I’ll buy that book for you,” she said. The teenager demurred, but the woman insisted and eventually the astonished girl left with a two-fold gift. 

Jeremiah and the customer watched her go. Then Jeremiah invited the customer behind the counter. “Please look at our reserve of free books; I’d like to give you one,” he said. The customer demurred; Jeremiah insisted. 

In those 90 seconds, three people changed the universe just a little by giving or receiving a filament of tiny, spontaneous kindness.

Bonus: One of the bartenders came over to our table and placed a pint in front of us. Calling us by name, she said, “We poured this by mistake and thought you might want it.” 

Happy Holidays from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

December 17: About 10 years ago, when Nate and Jeremiah were teenagers, I decided we had outgrown a particular holiday tradition and didn’t buy tickets for the Christmas Revels. My boys were horrified, I rectified my mistake, and the tradition has grown. 

Tonight, we had it all: an amazing, lingering, cocktail-to-dessert dinner for 10 at the Founding Farmers restaurant; dear friends enriching our family circle; Kathy’s beautiful soprano voice ornamenting the Revels sing-along; our whole group flapping wings and twirling at our seats during the manic interactive “Twelve Days of Christmas”; and Jeremiah leading Nate and the rest of us in a long line of smiling friends (and strangers) as we sang and danced to “Lord of the Dance” at intermission. 

Each year, the Christmas Revels uses voice, dance, instruments and storytelling to spotlight the music and traditions of a particular culture. Over the years, we’ve travelled to Renaissance Italy, Scandinavia, Tudor England, Ireland, Thrace, Andalusia, Romania, Appalachia, Canada and more. Tonight, exhausted with revelry, we travelled through time and eventually landed in the arms of family and friends. As the Revels would say (I mean, shout): “Welcome, Yule!”

I love my Christmas Village.

December 18: “See you in two hours,” I told Kathy yesterday as I climbed out of her car. Although we would “revel” that evening, Kathy invited me to visit the historic village of Occoquan for shopping and sightseeing. Traffic was light, the sun was bright, and we landed in the 19th century mill town ready for adventure. Kathy bought a Christmas present, I bought art and we settled in for a delightful lunch. 

The restaurant proprietors — who had opened for business in January 2020 — found a way to turn a tiny outdoor deck into a brightly lit, warm, cozy, and curtained “tea room” of sorts (with 80 choices of beer, thank you!). The pandemic robbed us of so much; I gladly accept outdoor winter dining as a tiny apology. 

In Occoquan, I purchased this field of poppies from the artist. To obtain the vivid colors and movement, she used alcohol ink, a medium consisting solely of alcohol and pigment, with attributes changing based on the porous or non-porous surface employed. It makes me so happy.

December 19: Did I mention on Friday that I baked six varieties of cookies? Christmas blossoms, chocolate and vanilla pinwheel cookies, nutmeg snaps, dream bars (layers of coconut, walnuts and chocolate), brown butter salted chocolate chip cookies, and the family favorite: triple chocolate cookies with cacao nibs. Did I mention on Saturday that I baked cheddar cheese and pecan thumbprint cookies with jalapeño jelly? Or on Sunday that I made coffee rum balls and spicy almonds? 

Well, today, I invited five neighborhood children to our house to bake and decorate gingerbread cookies. Jeremiah wisely went Christmas shopping; Kevin worked; and Nate wandered in from coaching JV basketball to find the house two notches shy of pandemonium. (The fourth graders were great; the two second graders were LOUD.) 

The children eagerly cut out snowmen, stars, trees, dinosaurs, angels, Santas and sharks. (I added a few of my favorites too.) With small paint brushes I keep for this purpose, we applied brightly colored icing to our cookies, seven dozen in all. At the two-hour mark, I cued up a Christmas video so I could clean up. (Thank you, television.) Then someone appeared at the front door: “It’s Libby from school!” Oh dear. 

Why not? I went to the door to welcome her in. No, thank you, she said. “I just want to know if you’d like to buy Girl Scout Cookies.” 

Bonus: And, today, I cooked a meal for 14 for our local homeless shelter. I dashed out the door carrying my feast (and still wearing my apron) at the tail end of my delivery window. I arrived just as a patron approached the shelter door. He gladly helped me unload and, with another man, ferried my offering up the steep flight of steps. After the first man and I exchanged the smallest of greetings, we stood for a moment silently in each other’s presence, blessing each other. 

I resolved to sign up again for another shift. 

Double bonus: You can listen here to the story of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas.” The song concludes, “Ye, who now will bless the poor / Shall yourselves find blessing.”

Triple bonus: And, to make an exhilarating day just a bit more festive, Santa drove through our neighborhood on his fire truck, accompanied by our town’s fire fighters. Neighbors spilled out of their houses and greetings filled the air. Perfect.

Photo by Kevin Ogle

December 20: Happy Birthday, Kevin! I celebrated by relaxing (completely). But really, I was thinking how grateful I am to share life with you.

December 21: “I think I would have flattened that curve, but, wow, this just works!” For several minutes I eavesdropped on two artists as they studied an interior by John Singer Sargent. Then I did pretty much the same thing as I compared two Sargent paintings of the same street scene. (I think one became magical when he erased detail and established more of a curve.)

The National Gallery of Art’s exhibition recounts Sargent’s seven trips to Spain. With deft and lively strokes, he painted pomegranates, sun-drenched courtyards, even fishing boats. But his portraits breathed life into the room. And me.

Study for “El Jaleo”: Seated Woman’s Head, 1881, by John Singer Sargent, American, 1856-1925. Collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. And this is just a study.
La Carmencita Dancing, 1890, by John Singer Sargent, American, 1856-1925. Private collection.

December 22: I finally went to the post office to mail a few packages and to buy more holiday stamps. All out, I heard the clerk tell a disappointed customer. So I turned to scan the display for alternatives. Marine sanctuaries? Nice. The Mighty Mississippi? You bet. 

More stamps: Flowers. Peace. Love. Mariachi players. Then I noticed a small boy transfixed by an array of stamps pinned at his eye level. I leaned forward to see. Of course: Buzz Lightyear. 

Bonus: As I was about to hit the “publish” key, Jeremiah walked in the door with our take-out Thai food — and a gift from the restaurant to our family. We are indeed a small kind town near the big city.

Mosquito Nets, 1908, by John Singer Sargent, American, 1856-1925. Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I love the tranquility and affection infusing this portrait of Sargent’s sister Emily Sargent and their friend Eliza Wedgwood. Ms. Sargent fashioned the functional (and fascinating) headwear.

Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!

If you’d like to browse my past delights, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to four essays that were published in print magazines. I’m glad you’re here!

Escutcheon of Charles V of Spain, 1912, by John Singer Sargent, American, 1856-1925. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

15 thoughts on “Delights: December 16 to 22

  1. Where to start? What a wonderful week and am impressed with all the cookies you baked. With visitors arriving, a new fridge and cleaning there was no time to do any baking this year. I also love the John Singer Sargent pictures – especially one at the top of the post.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and all the very best to you and your family for 2023.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Barbara, for your warm greeting and for enjoying the Sargent painting as much as I do. In this time of festive abundance (whew!), the idea of lounging with your best friend while reading a book sounds divine. No wonder we both love “Mosquito Nets!”

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  2. Hi, Carol Ann – A small kind town near abig city is a perfect place to live. Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday and a happy, healthy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, Donna. I can pop on the Metro and see beautiful, stimulating art. And I can walk into coffee shops, breweries and Thai restaurants where people know me. Thank you for helping me to reflect on that. And I’m always grateful for your visits.

      I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2023!

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  3. Reading through your post, when I came to the bit where you describe the six (SIX!) varieties of cookie that you baked in one day, I resolved that I would invite you to send me an emergency food parcel. But I read on, discovered that you had cooked a feast for your local homeless shelter, and was immediately ashamed of my glib superficiality. This kind act, and inviting 5 local children into your kitchen to bake and decorate even more cookies, has reminded me what Christmas should be about (and not just Christmas, of course!). I am truly humbled. Thank you!

    And well done to Jeremiah’s mystery customer for her act of kindness, and to Jeremiah himself for thanking her with the gift of another book. What a wonderful example of practical, selfless kindness.

    I wish you and your family a happy, peaceful Christmas, and look forward to more delights from you in the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Mr. P — I always appreciate how you find and hold up the crystal heart of every story. When I realized the unlucky convergence of gingerbread and my homeless shelter shift, I groaned. (I knew Monday was NOT the right day to invite the kids over, but I couldn’t remember why.) Once again, you wove the strands together into a lesson and a message. I thank you.

      And you won’t be surprised that I did NOTHING the following day!

      I send you and Mrs. P lots of hugs and warm wishes for 2023.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed all of your delights this week, but I especially loved the first Bonus. “Calling us by name….” So funny!

    Merry Christmas to you, Kevin and the boys, Carol Ann.

    Sending love,
    Carolyn

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting, Carolyn, and for enjoying Jeremiah’s and my “Cheers” moment at our brewery! I send you, Liam and Ava hugs and love and all the best for 2023.

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  5. Great story with the bonus beer. A few years ago, I got into the “habit” of buying a meal for the people behind me in the drive-through line. (I only did it a handful of times).anyway, it always struck me how the gift I received in the giving was the greatest gift of all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Joy. I’m always so glad to hear from you. I love your story of buying a meal for the people behind you. These tiny tiny kindnesses matter for the recipient and, as you say, for the giver even more. I’ll find a way to be randomly kind today and I’ll think of you.

      I wish you and your family all the best in 2023!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ryan, Anne M - (anneryan) December 23, 2022 — 1:10 pm

    Such great delights in your email this week! Merry Christmas to you and your family. With love, Anne

    Get Outlook for Androidhttps://aka.ms/ghei36 ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anne, for your note. I wish health and happiness for all of you in 2023!

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  7. Merry Christmas and thank you for the joy you give all year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Ana. I’m so glad to hear from you! Your note warms me. Yes, let’s savor joy where we find it. And give a little too. You certainly do. I send warm hugs to you and your family for 2023 (and hope to give you one in person too!).

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  8. Somehow I missed this one. I hope you and your family had a joyful holiday season filled with merriment and lots of cookies!

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