Joyeux Noel

Hughs Wordquilts

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319th Station Hospital, Bussac, France 1957

My first Christmas away from home came within five months of my arrival overseas at a US Army duty station where I would spend the next two years.

Arriving there culminated a disruptive series of events.  Following schooling in New York, I had served a brief stint at the Pentagon, and six months at Vint Hill Farms Station in Virginia.  I’d gone home on a pass to spend Christmas with my family in 1956.

Then came the deployment overseas to the 319th Station Hospital in mid-summer.  It was culture shock from day one.  Our flight across the Atlantic on a Flying Tiger aircraft included some serious engine problems at 20,000 feet.  My buddies and I had hardly breathed a sigh of relief at our safe landing, when we were herded onto a crowded French train.  At the end of a long ride from Paris…

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Joyeux Noel

IMG_E7309

319th Station Hospital, Bussac, France 1957

My first Christmas away from home came within five months of my arrival overseas at a US Army duty station where I would spend the next two years.

Arriving there culminated a disruptive series of events.  Following schooling in New York, I had served a brief stint at the Pentagon, and six months at Vint Hill Farms Station in Virginia.  I’d gone home on a pass to spend Christmas with my family in 1956.

Then came the deployment overseas to the 319th Station Hospital in mid-summer.  It was culture shock from day one.  Our flight across the Atlantic on a Flying Tiger aircraft included some serious engine problems at 20,000 feet.  My buddies and I had hardly breathed a sigh of relief at our safe landing, when we were herded onto a crowded French train.  At the end of a long ride from Paris to Bordeaux I was ready to get settled at an up-to-date army post, hopefully someplace like Vint Hill Farms.  It was not to be.

In Bordeaux I was shuffled with another guy into the back of a deuce-and-a-half truck for a 35-mile ride to Bussac in the middle of the night.  I was dropped off on a rough-surfaced street with board sidewalks.  I reported to the CQ in a tarpaper shack that was company headquarters.  Then I was assigned a bunk in a plaster and straw building that had been a German Luftwaffe barracks during WWII.  That night the two years remaining in my enlistment seemed like an eternity.

I’d hardly gotten adjusted to the new setting and routines when the first sergeant reminded everyone  that if we wanted to send Christmas cards and gifts home, we had to have them crated and ready in early October!  I’d never thought about Christmas in October!  It seemed the holiday that had always been a warm fuzzy family time back home would become a dismal sulk in rainy southern France.  

This was in the days before smart phones, tablets, laptop computers, and the internet.  People didn’t connect with the flip of a digit.  Arrangements were made for a special transatlantic telephone call from somewhere on post–but a lot of guys signed up, and if we got through at all, it was only for a few brief moments.  It was depressing.

So, when Christmas finally arrived, I discovered a tradition in our unit that transformed my expectations.  It became a joyful experience.  Our unit hosted a group of boys from a nearby Catholic orphanage for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, carols, and gifts.  Everybody got into the act.  It turned out these kids were part of a boys choir.  After we took them back to the orphanage, we stayed for a stirring concert of Christmas music.

Joyeux Noel–Merry Christmas!

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French Orphanage

We gave those boys something that seemed small to us, but was tremendous for them.  The experience shook me out of my self-focused musings into a larger sense of where I was and the opportunities I had to help make life better for others…even overseas.  We did this each of the two Christmases I was in Bussac, and each was a very special time I have always remembered.

Joyeux Noel!  Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It’s about God reaching into a flawed human world with an ever-fresh message that His love prevails.  Christmas gives fresh birth to hope, joy, peace and the higher stirrings of the human spirit.  It pulls us together, reaffirms the value of our lives, and offers an inner reconnect with God himself. 

We do wrap the holiday in other traditions, and its easy to get side-tracked with the wrappings, and miss the central event.  We can all get lost in that side of Christmas.  When I feel that happening, I remember a group of orphaned French boys who were thrilled with a Christmas treat offered by some American soldiers…and then thrilled us with the true Joy of the season through their music.

Joyeux Noel.

  

 

 

Like Making a Quilt

Hughs Wordquilts

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Mom was a quilter.  In my book about her life (When Love Prevails, Kindle Store) I recall her experiences with her Grandma Mary when she was a girl.  Quilting was one of the things she learned from her, and mom became known for her quilts later in her life.

Whenever my wife, Sharon, and I would visit her at the Bridgewater Retirement Community, mom would always show us the latest quilt she was creating.  Many of her quilts were auctioned at the annual Fall Festival to raise auxiliary funds.  She practiced this craft even after she lost much of her vision through macular degeneration.  Her fingers, and her memory became substitutes for her eyes.

One thing I learned about her was that she really was an artist with her quilting.  Gathering odds and ends of fabric, varieties of colors, sometimes containing images or designs, she would piece together a quilt…

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Like Making a Quilt

IMG_4033

Mom was a quilter.  In my book about her life (When Love Prevails, Kindle Store) I recall her experiences with her Grandma Mary when she was a girl.  Quilting was one of the things she learned from her, and mom became known for her quilts later in her life.

Whenever my wife, Sharon, and I would visit her at the Bridgewater Retirement Community, mom would always show us the latest quilt she was creating.  Many of her quilts were auctioned at the annual Fall Festival to raise auxiliary funds.  She practiced this craft even after she lost much of her vision through macular degeneration.  Her fingers, and her memory became substitutes for her eyes.

One thing I learned about her was that she really was an artist with her quilting.  Gathering odds and ends of fabric, varieties of colors, sometimes containing images or designs, she would piece together a quilt that told a story.  Some of the story might be things or people  each piece of cloth brought to her mind.  My brother and I are both visual artists, and we got it honestly–our talent comes from the same genetic well that resourced mom’s quilting.

In recent years I have turned to writing as a primary artistic venture.  Crafting a novel is much like crafting a quilt, or a painting.  Novels are made up of bits and pieces of life that flow from people, circumstances, places and experiences over the years.  When I embarked on my fourth novel (a work in progress at the moment), my muse presented me with a story that turns around a mountain community instead of the seacoast.  “Dinkel Island Smalltalk” didn’t seem inclusive enough now, so I expanded my WordPress blog site into a new domain:  Wordquilts.com.

Writing a book, whether a novel or nonfiction, is like making a quilt.  I’m in the early stages of the new novel now, but I have a theme, and a design, and lots of pieces of life to work with.  I even have a current social issue around which to wrap my story.  The title may change as the wordquilt comes together, but for now it’s titled, “Fear No Evil.”

I’m excited!  Can’t wait to see how this wordquilt comes out!

 

Toc-Tic Time

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Like it or not, it’s that time again.  Time to enter the cave of early darkness that gets compounded with colder temperatures and questionable precipitation impact.  Only two more days–really, just one-and-a-half.

I’m talking, of course, about exiting daylight savings time and re-entering standard time, with accompanying seasonal changes.  I listen as the clock on my office wall ticks away the minutes toward the inevitable Saturday night switch.  “Spring forward, fall back,” goes the rhythmic reminder.  Tic-toc, tic-toc.  The clock’s relentless movement reminds me that I’m a tic-toc person being forced into a temporary toc-tic world.

“Get over it,” says the world around me.  Good advice.  I should be “over it” after four score years.

“Are you nuts?” somebody says.  “Daylight savings time isn’t natural.  It’s just something somebody made up–perhaps a riddle about the old adage, ‘It’s later than you think.'”

Yeah, I know all that.  I know, too, about the cows who have to be milked no matter what the clock on the wall says.  I come from a dairy family.  I did my stint in the milking stall.  I never heard the cows complain about the time on a clock!  They don’t care whether it’s tic-toc, or toc-tic.  Every day’s the same…a swish of the tail says, “Just feed me and get this over so I can get back to the pasture.”

To me, it’s all a matter of perspective.  I like to live on the side of energy, forward movement, and light.  I enjoy the longer days, shorter nights.  My post-cataract eyes cope with driving in the dark.  My body chemistry, however, seems geared to DST.

So, here we are.  Tomorrow night I’ll heave a sigh and set my clocks back an hour.  Toc-tic.  I’ll begin counting down the days until the winter solstice when daylight begins to consume more of each day.  I’ll anticipate the return of tic-toc time in March.  After all, toc-tic time is just a temporary interruption!

Revisits!

Hughs Wordquilts

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Return of Bliss

Since I switched to Kindle Direct Publishing, I’ve been revisiting my novels in the Dinkel Island Series.  This weekend a Second Edition of Book 2, RETURN OF BLISS, has gone live in both e-book and paperback formats.  There’s a new cover, extensive rewriting, and a new organization to the story.

If you’re new to the Dinkel Island Series, this book would make a great starter.  Things are alive and active in the quaint Chesapeake Bay community.  Crime and grief seem to lurk in the shadows.  A cold case from a Maryland abduction with connections to Lighthouse Point is stirred to new life.  The discovery of a mysterious cache’ of money in Tranquility Bay tweaks the suspense.  Ed Heygood is now retired and moves back to town at Stan Grayson’s invitation.  Both men are now widowed and ripe for new relationships–romance is in the air.

Sarah Jones keeps…

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