Merry Christmas to Me!

I finally had MY Christmas this morning. I know it’s December 29th and four days beyond the blessed day, but for me, I had my moment at the kitchen sink at Peter’s and Isaaca’s house an hour or so ago.  I was making a ham bone and Navy bean soup, chopping celery and onions and singing “Ham Bone, Ham Bone Where Ya Been”, when I looked out the window and saw fine snow gently falling.  I had to look a few times, putting my nose on the window glass and making sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Yep!  It was snow! Fine as powder, but snow, all the same!  I started smiling and then looked out into the yard.

The kitchen window looks out onto the chicken yard and hen house.  I must admit; I find myself standing at this window, throughout the day, watching the six chickens chase each other and peck at the ground.  They fascinate me.  I have learned enough of their chicken language and noises to understand when one is telling the other to get out of the hen house, she has an egg to lay.  I watch them run to the bird feeder in the middle of the yard each time chickadees fly in for food.  The tiny birds drop seeds and the chickens know they can have dessert if they are under the feeder.  Today I see them chase a beautiful blue jay out of the yard.  Are blue jays mean to chickens too?

2012-12-29_15-13-01_231I look beyond the chicken coop into the neighbor’s yard.  He has bright yellow and blue birdhouses in a stark naked tree, shining like a Picasso painting from the leafless branches.  They are so cheerful and almost out of place on this winter’s day.  Two bright red male cardinals land on the tree’s limbs and they perch there, talking in their one syllable language. Three other cardinals hone in and rest on the ground under the tree.  Is it boys day out? The females must be nearby, out of my sight.

I remember Christmas Eve day.  I had spent the entire day shopping and planning for the holiday meals.  I was so exhausted that I could hardly think.  At 4:00 that afternoon, I found myself at the Walmart.  I know.  Crazy, right?  But I was desperate.  I went for three ingredients and came back with a trunk load of groceries and little gifts.

Bill called me as I was standing in the long checkout line.  “Donna, what are you doing?  You’ve been gone for two hours!”
“I know, but I thought of other things and it’s busy here.  I have a headache.  Don’t fuss at me!”
I hung up on him and then thought of something else to say and hit redial. He answered after four rings.  He had no reason to hurry and I was furious at him for not appreciating all I was doing for the family.  “Bill…just for the record, do you remember that every Christmas night you thank me for making Christmas ’happen’ for our family.  That without me and my planning and buying skills, there wouldn’t be much of a Christmas for our family?! YOU THANK ME!  So don’t tell me to come home when I’m not done yet!” I clicked the off button and hung up on him again.  If it weren’t for me we wouldn’t even have Christmas.  Didn’t anyone care but me?

I put the groceries and gifts in the car and waited my turn to back out and get out of the Christmas madness.  I tried to relax.  Let my shoulders fall down…let my neck roll around and stretch.  Where was that Tylenol?  It had to be somewhere in my big old purse.

I turned off the Christmas music on my car radio.  It was getting on my nerves.  I stopped at a red light and waited. A song popped into my head.  An old church song.

“There is none like you.
No one else can touch my heart
Like you do.
I could such for all eternity long
And find there is none like you.”

I was surprised that this song crept into my mind. Was God telling me it was time to focus on Him, forget Christmas’ craziness and concentrate on Jesus, the reason for the season?

The song popped in my mind again.  I began to hum it.  Then it hit me.  “God, are you singing this song to me?  That’s so sweet!”  I paused and more reality seeped in.  “Are you singing this tongue in cheek?  You’re making fun of me!”

The message hit home.  I thought Christmas was about me making memories for everyone else.  I thought I was Mrs. Christmas and without me our family would have a horrible Christmas mess!  “There is none like you,” God was chiding  me.

I got home, shouted out my orders to the boys to empty the car of all of the groceries.  I went straight to Bill and told him about what God had sung to me in the car.  I apologized for being so mean and then started laughing.  How had I missed it so badly?

Today, the guys are watching football in the next room and the smell of the soup begins to fill the kitchen.  Peter pushes one of the buttons on the Charlie Brown Christmas Band Hallmark Christmas Keepsakes.  They play a jazzy version of “Oh Christmas Tree.”  I smile.  I love these little guys and they make me happy each time I hear them.photo(30)

The business of the season is over.  I’ve been tapped out financially and emotionally. Plus, God ordered me to take a chill pill.  Today is a gift.  I “feel” Christmas for the first time. I look out the window.  The snow is still falling, the flakes bigger. What if it sticks?  The chickens have never seen such a thing.  Merry Christmas to me.

Here’s your song. Enjoy!

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After Dinner Music

I’m sitting at the dinner table at Peter and Isaaca’s house.  The dishes have been cleared away and the table is a clean slate, ready for song writing and fresh ideas.

I am in Byrdlandia and the hookah has been brought out and those around the table sip their wine slowly as Jeremy gets out his guitar.  The bowl of flavored, molasses soaked tobacco (and really, it is only tobacco) begins to burn slowly as they pass the pipe around and music starts to flow out of Jeremy’s guitar, bathing us in the potential of a hit song. I am an observer, only a witness to this creative session.

The girls wait for their cue and Jeremy looks up at them and words and phrases begin to float up above the table, waiting to be plucked out of the air and put on the invisible “Scrabble Board” of lyrics, with the cords that to me, sounds like something with a 1950’s vibe.

They struggle with the concept of the meaning of their creation, the chord progression and how to resolve it.  Finally, because I can’t contain myself any longer, I lean up to the table, (I, the one who doesn’t write music), ventures out boldly to put in my two cents worth of opinion.  “At this point in the song, you don’t want to be asking…you need to be begging.  That’s what people relate to.  That hooks them.  That’s money.”

Jeremy painfully argues with me.  “Mom, don’t critique my musicianship, my art”.  He winks and smiles at me.  Oh, he smiles at me but I really know that his porcupine hide has surfaced to protect his fragility.  Musicians are sensitive and the purity of their craft is their creed and a matter of pride. They are producing their musical children, conceiving and creating them, hoping that the muse will breathe life into them.  If he does, they name their baby and it’s theirs to raise and introduce to the world.  They will have to live with their created child forever.  Alright….I will defer to them.  I won’t be there to raise their children but I will be able to enjoy them as a grandparent.  Instead of pictures in my wallet, I’ll carry my iPod and throw the tunes out for anyone who will listen.

The smoke from the hookah curls up over them like a muse caressing their imaginations.  All of a sudden,  a look of inspiration moves across them like a bow coaxing sounds out of a violin and they add another line to a chorus.  They sing a few more unfinished songs, working on rough spots and I listen to them, thinking that if they finish these songs, they would have have another record.

“Good Lord, you guys.  How many new songs are almost finished?  If you had more time together you could knock these out and just keep producing new stuff.”

I said what they had all been feeling and complaining about. They came to Nashville to write and sing…to create.  But things kept getting in their way, like rent, food, waitressing jobs, social lives, bills…life.  I wanted to turn back the clock for them.  Take them all under my roof and support them so they could be musical purists, tour relentlessly and pursue music 24/7. They did that for several years when they first started their careers.  They lived under our roof and we paid for their musical dreams.  It was our duty as parents.  We were dream enablers and it was our pleasure to be so.

Natalie grabs the guitar and starts to play a rift, closing her eyes and brings up a song almost forgotten to her.  “Remember that song I wrote when we lived in Alabama and were just starting”?  She plays a few chords and then sings the chorus to a song about them not having quite enough money to travel to play a show and my motherly, “I couldn’t for the life of me help myself” response to their chronic monetary woes:

“Go down to the back room, into the closet.
open my shoebox. Take all my cash.
All the cash.
Then hit the road ’cause
it’s a long way to Mississippi.
Call me after the show.”2012-03-06_14-20-26_146

Creating an atmosphere for a visit from the muse

I smile.  I do remember that song.  How many times did I give them my secret stash?  Yes, indeedy…I did have interest in The Bridges and special bragging rights to each and every song.

Jeremy takes back the guitar.  They begin to play  stark naked country songs that are classic and simple.  Hank Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Bill Monroe’s version of “In the Pines”. The pure heartbreaking, melancholic sound wraps us up in it’s pale, slender arms and strokes our souls. She then massages our hearts and connects us to a creative flow that circles the earth like a heavenly river flowing high above us. I realize that melancholy is the muse in this instance, and she pours the water from the river over us like a priest baptizing us with holy water from the creative fount of blessings.  They become, one for that moment with the Spirit of the Ancient of Days.  Only that spirit can make melancholy a thing of utter beauty.

Natalie begins humming one of my all time favorite songs:  “Shenandoah”.  I am always drawn to it’s simplicity and beauty.  We google the lyrics and they sing them.  Jeremy strums the guitar and my daughters sing it tentatively, tears thickening the sound of their voices. I hold on to that moment  for dear life.  Time travels to allow someone’s pain from another era grab our hearts and we are caught up in music’s magic moment of transcendence.

The moment doesn’t last long but it is a perfect moment, brought to us from a creative child of a bygone era.  I wonder what grandparent held the bragging rights to that haunting beauty. Will my children leave such a glorious legacy?  I hope so.  My iPod is ready!2012-12-11_16-27-16_409

Where creative children are born… around the table.

Here’s your song, enjoy!

Byrdhood: Thanksgiving Lilyana Style

The guessing games are over and I don’t have to wonder what it feels like to be one any more. I can stop looking at babies in grocery carts pushed by women who look a bit too old to be their moms and stop feeling jealous. I also can look on Face Book at all the pictures of everyone else’s grand children, and now feel the camaraderie: I’m a Grandma.

As of 7:33 PM, November 22, 2012 (which, by the way was Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday), I joined the ranks of millions and possibly billions of women who have gone on before me: Eve, Grandma Moses, the old woman who lived in a shoe, Mother Goose (I know, she’s a bird, but then again, so am I), my lovely grandmothers, Edna and Annis, Sarah Palin, my mother-in-law, Patricia and my mother, Virginia, who is my hero, weighing in with eighteen grandchildren and plenty of bragging rights.

Arriving a couple days ahead of the blessed event, to ensure that I wouldn’t miss one jot or tittle of the labor and delivery of John’s and Mesha’s baby, I found myself staying at Peter and Isaaca’s house in Nashville, Tennessee.  All of my children live there and we were hoping to kill two birds with one stone; celebrate Thanksgiving together and have a baby while Bill and I were visiting everyone.  It always helps to have a plan, right?

With plans in mind for Thanksgiving Eve, I put together a hearty stew and invited all the kids over, setting the trap, luring them to help me prepare for the next day’s feast by plying them with good food and wine. It worked!  Cody was the DJ, playing his favorites- Merle Haggard and George Jones.  We alternately ate, danced, chopped vegetables, made cakes and watched the oven while we also kept watch on another oven…our radiant, gloriously pregnant, Mesha.

She was fascinating to watch in her pregnant splendor, her dark hair spilling over her shoulders, her belly stretching to seemingly unnatural limits and her legs and feet a bit swollen from carrying the extra weight.  She sat as a queen upon the couch, all of us anxious to jump at her requests, bringing her more bread, propping up her feet, pouring her more water, all the while wondering when her body timer would go off and make a buzzing sound, alerting us all that the baby was done and needed to come out of the oven. I supposed she fascinated me so much because she carried my first grandchild, my own flesh and blood besides my own children and the next cycle of life in our family.

We got the call at 3:15 AM, Thanksgiving morning.  “Momma Byrd…my water’s broken and I’m having trouble waking up John”. I don’t know why men want to turn back over go back to their dreaming when they hear news like that in the dead middle of the night, but he did, believing that she had to be joking.  Mesha cried, “I was dreaming that my water broke and I woke up and jumped out of bed and it broke…right there on the floor”. There was no time to spare, I thought. “Bill and I will be over in about twenty minutes.  Girl, this means you are, for sure, having a baby…Today”!  I clicked “end” on my cell phone and went to wake up Bill.

She labored all day and early on it became obvious that we would miss the Thanksgiving feast.  I called Natalie, Stacey and Isaaca and said, “Looks like we’re having the baby today.  You girls are going to have to cook everything we didn’t cook last night”, which was really a lot of food because we were too fascinated with Mesha to do much cooking. “I know we had big plans, but you guys just cook the turkey, ham, dressing and make all of the side dishes.  I know you can do it.” And just like that, I shirked all of my normal Thanksgiving duties as “the mom” and handed them off to the second generation so that the third generation could be born.

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At about 6:00 PM, the kids began to wander up to the second floor of the hospital to wait out the birth.  All of the men stayed in the waiting room and my daughters and I watched Mesha and John have the baby.  Even though I had birthed six of my own, I had never actually watched a baby being born. Mesha wowed us all as she let her body take over and push out another human being, another little girl, our Lilyana Espen Byrd.

With my eyes full of tears and my heart filled to the brim with wonderment and joy at the sight of my Thanksgiving bundle of love, I looked around the room, busy with women cleaning up an exhausted but relieved and beautiful Mesha, nurses clamoring to make sure the baby was normal, all  eight pounds, eleven ounces of her royal highness, Princess Lilyana!  My daughters were punch drunk with “aunthood” and my son, beaming with pride looked good in his new role of fatherhood, as he gazed lovingly into the face of his perfect daughter.  One by one, the men in my family, the new grandpa, Bill and uncles, Jeremy, Cody and Peter, trickled into the hospital room, peeking around the curtain, anxious to see a child they had months ago decided was their baby too, to love, defend and protect.

I felt like it was a scene from “Parenthood” as we stood in a circle around the bed and it was, but only our own version.  Our own episode. The Byrd family at it’s finest. I was getting my feast. A love feast.  Quite a perfect Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday.  I have to smile and say, “Thank you Lord”.  ‘Cause God always did love me best.

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Here’s your song. Enjoy!

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