A Plan and a Goal


When the top strand of twinkle lights went dark in the Christmas tree, I was ready to bag the whole decorating thing and call it a year. I’m usually more patient than that. I pull out every bulb and try a new one until the strand comes to light again. Not this year, I stomped out to the car and drove directly to the thrift store where I found a working strand of bulbs in the bottom of the 50% off Holiday bin. As I turned with the lights in my hand, I noticed a small cotton stocking striped in red and white. It was plain, hand-stitched with no glitter or tinsel, no name across the top, and half the size of my boys’ stockings. I picked it up and marveled at its simplicity. I pulled an extra quarter from my pocket, paid the cashier, and carried it home with the lights.

Ben arranged the strand at the top of the tree. It’s easier for him as tall as he is. Ryan plugged in the lights and all was right with the tree again. I held up my little flannel stocking to share with my boys. They looked at my prize, then at each other, and shrugged their shoulders. They gave me that look that says they don’t understand me, but love me anyway.  I tacked that sweet little sock up with Ben’s Santa soaring over rooftops and Ryan’s sectioned and sparkling snowman stockings.

This year gave us happiness and sadness alike. Ben graduated in May from Ferrum with a major in History and minor in Political Science. He applied to grad school at James Madison University in the school of Kinesiology and was admitted in August. He’s working on a Master’s in sports leadership and management. His first semester came off without a hitch, but with lots of reading and writing.  He’s found a truck he not only loves, but can ease his six foot six inch frame into. He’s also living back home with us.

Ryan adores having his big brother in the house again. They have their moments, like wrestling in the hallway where someone’s head and shoulders plowed through the drywall,  but they’ve got each other’s back and no one messes with the other.  Ryan’s a Junior at Western Albemarle and he has turned into our math whiz. We hold this trait in awe. It’s not genetic, but an anomaly. He scored an advanced pass on the Algebra II Standards of Learning tests, and we celebrated for weeks. He’s holding his own in other, less interesting subjects and shop, his sole ‘A’.  He mentions college occasionally. We encourage him to excel in school, but Ben seems to get the most effort from him.  It’s a good thing Ben is his brother/surrogate parent. Bruce and I would be lost and shaking our heads otherwise.  

We lost Grandma Patsy in June. The cancer treatments were just too much for her heart to take. She was able to attend Ben’s graduation though, and couldn’t have been prouder of him. We miss her, but we all know she is not suffering from the effects of cancer anymore. 

Bruce and I discovered Chincoteague in February of last year and fell completely in love with the area, and a little more with each other in the process as well. The island off the eastern shore of Virginia is a quaint little town with people who are real, and scenery that  is beyond description.  We purchased a half acre lot on Big Glade Creek and visit every opportunity we have.

Bruce still mulches and does yard maintenance. I’m still caring for elders at the nursing home. Life is busy and often complicated. There are so many tasks in a day and not nearly enough time to complete them all. I find myself out of breath and struggling to keep up with all that needs to be done, but as Ryan told Santa when he was five years old and trying to reassure the jolly elf, “I have a plan and a goal.” My goal for 2012 is to simplify, find joy in every day, and in the little things around me.

I’m starting with one small striped cotton Christmas stocking.  I wish you the simple joys of life as well.

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4 Responses to “A Plan and a Goal”

  1. Steve Says:

    You are blessed. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas, Train, and The Best ever after.

    Sounds like you guys have had a good year, and you chronicle it beautifully. A joy to the world.

    Peace on Earth


  2. OldMack Says:

    I’m moved as always by your simplicity, sincerity and sharing–oh yes, and even the way you admit to fatigue and anger; we’d otherwise think you a Saint.

    Thank you for your support and generosity of spirit. Of the many books and pieces I’ve read this year I return to Train’s Whistle to rekindle the fire or to cheer myself up.

    Merry Christmas.


    • train-whistle Says:

      Many thanks for your kind words Mack, and for your continued following of my stories. I always look forward to your comments and especially your stories. You are one of the best storytellers I’ve ever had the privilege to read. You make it look so easy and I could read your take on most anything. My favorites are your daily entries about life in the neighborhood, and of course your tales of life on the road with Chris.

      I hope you get all those tales together and send them off for publishing. I’d sell them myself for you out of the trunk of my car! You have such a gift.

      I hope you and Chris have a Merry Christmas (even though she’s canceled it this year–I’ve felt like that myself a bit this year. It must be in the air).

      Keep in touch and keep your stories coming. Here’s to that sailboat of yours. I look forward to hearing about its next voyage, and you aboard, with fair winds and following seas!

      Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012. Margaret-Dawn

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