There is nothing better than this time of the year!
(Continued from Part II, enjoy the conclusion to I’ll Be Home for Christmas)
“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.
Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing this news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as POWs. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.
After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.
Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”
I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service. From singing “Morning Star” to eating the Lovefeast buns, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.
Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.
We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.
“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.
Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.
“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.
As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.
As we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”
The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
(Continued from yesterday)
By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.
My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. All we know is that he is safe, but we don’t know his exact location or where he is staying.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.
After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.
“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.
Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting to hear any news about Russell. As it got closer and closer to Christmas, my family still hadn’t heard anything about him and our patience started to wear thin.
One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s conclusion of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
For the next few days, Country Belle Chic will publish a three part story, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, written by our blog’s founder, Megan Taylor. Enjoy a story about a family and their life at Christmastime during World War II. Merry Christmas!
It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war on the homefront.
It was two weeks till Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.
My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war.
As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.
This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.
My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year.
Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.
One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.
In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.
“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.
Check back tomorrow for Part II of I’ll Be Home for Christmas.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be backstage at one of country music’s historic venues? Now, you can find out, thanks to a new book.
‘Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry’ gives country music fans a look what it’s like to be backstage and is told through the eyes of some of country music’s icons.
Opry member Garth Brooks says ““No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage.” Other stories include Carrie Underwood’s running into Loretta Lynn and Vince Gill’s time with Roy Acuff.
The book will be released on March 15 by the Grand Ole Opry. The release date coincides with the Opry’s 40th anniversary of its permanent home, the Grand Ole Opry House. It will be available for purchase Opry.com and Opry Nashville retailers.
For Christmas, I was given a few books, including Country Faith: 56 Reflections from Today’s Leading Country Music Stars by Deborah Evan Price.
Within Country Faith, 56 country singers share and reflect on their favorite Bible verses. Scotty McCreery described how he relied on Philippians 4:13 during his baseball years and time on American Idol. Josh Turner reflected on John 3:16 has being the verse that says so many things in a few short words. And Marty Raybon stated Proverbs 3:5-6 helped him get through his diagnosis with prostate cancer. “Only the Lord has the answers to our questions in life. Faith is the most important thing that anybody could ever have,” Raybon says.
Others artists who share their favorite Scripture in the book include: Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Florida Georgia Line.
It’s here! It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the Christmas season! For the next 12 days, I will be posting about my favorite Christmas recipes, crafts, traditions, presents, decorations, songs, and movies. (Of course, I will still be keeping y’all updated on the South and country music world.) To kick-off the next 12 days of fun, I thought I’d start with one of my very favorites: The Christmas Jar!
This tradition lets you and your family help those in need, not just during the holidays, but all-year! What you do is, starting on January 1st, place a mason jar in a prominent place in your house. Most of the time, the jar is placed in the kitchen, because everyone goes there. Throughout the year, collect your spare change and throw it into the jar. As Christmas approaches, you and your family can decide on what charity, organization, family, or person will receive your Christmas jar of donations. Then, on Christmas Eve, it’s “Ring and Run” time! You and your family can drop off the donations to the recipient and wish them some holiday cheer!
The Christmas Jar tradition was started with the book Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright. This book tells the story of “a journalist who finds a human interest story that quickly teaches her a lesson about love, forgiveness, and renewing her faith in human kindness.”
For more information about Christmas Jars, visit: http://books.google.com/books/about/Christmas_Jars.html?id=7PaDMgAACAAJ
Hey y’all! For my birthday yesterday, my Southern Moma gave me a book on Southern hospitality tips. From party etiquette to fine dining, this book covers it all and gave me an idea for a next blog series. Throughout August, I will be writing posts on Southern hospitality. So, sit back, relax, and learn how you can be a Southern belle when it comes to entertaining company and it all begins tomorrow with some party etiquette. Stay tuned!
“Put some color on your lips!” I know I’ve heard this phrase from my Southern Mama at least five times a day growing up and I’m still hearing it!
Recently, I finished reading Shellie Rushing Tomlinson’s Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On! Tomlinson describes her strong-willed, opinionated Southern Mama. Other topics touched on include what Southern Mamas tell their daughters about: love, marriage, cooking, beauty, fashion, manners, and social grace.
Throughout the whole book, I felt as if I was reading a book about my Mama. Everything Tomlinson wrote, I’ve heard from Mama or Nana (my grandmother), at least a million times. Within the manners and social grace chapter, Tomlinson’s description of the importance of thank-yous and the structure to writing them was spot on. Always send a thank-you note, no matter what! If you are giving back a casserole dish, send a thank-you. If someone mowed your lawn, send a thank-you. Even if someone borrowed a cup of sugar, send a thank-you. Never understatement the power of that simple, little note. Going along with the manners, “please” and “thank-you” 🙂 are magic words.
The last point I will touch on is sucking your stomach in and putting color on your lips. Southern Belles always try to look their best. Even if you have nothing for makeup, but lipstick or lip gloss on your lips, you still have your Mama’s approval. When it comes to sucking in your stomach, it is basically just to help you look your best. Need a little extra help? Try sucking in with Spanxs on.
I highly recommend Tomlinson’s Suck Your Stomach In & Put Some Color On! There are many more topics from the book that I could discuss, but I want to leave something for the wandering eye. If you want some of Mama’s good, ole Southern wisdom, this the book for you.