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Silly Christmas traditions

Silly Christmas traditions

When I was still living at home, every Christmas, Mom would take us caroling to the neighbor’s houses. We had a pretty good knowledge of carols thanks to Tasha Tudor’s Carol book. We’d to the requisite songs and some lesser known ones.

Having a good knowledge of carols is a fine thing, unless you are on a nine-hour drive from Knoxville to Pennsylvania. On one of those drives to my grandmother’s house, Mom had us singing carols most of the way. Nine hours of Silent Night (German and English verses), Adeste Fidelis (Latin and English verses), Bring a Torch (French and English verses), and all of the other traditional songs. By the time we got there, Tracie and I were very punchy so we started singing Christmas carols off-key. The more off-key the better. Controlled dissonance and everything. We’d get as bad as we could and then burst out laughing.

My youngest sister Stephanie and I started a new tradition a few years ago. We also had carol fatigue so we started singing all carols either off-key (until yelled at) or as meows. In other words, every word is replaced by cat sounds. Jingle Bells becomes meow-meow-meow, meow-meow-meow… You get the idea. Spice up the choruses with periodic sound of upchucking a hairball and you have feline perfection.

I introduced Kat to this last night while we were out shopping. We couldn’t stop laughing as every song that came on the radio got the feline caroling treatment.

The crazy things you do when you’re punchy.

Funny how some of them stay as Christmas traditions.

Music, Dad, and “Like Pictures”

Music, Dad, and “Like Pictures”

This past week a dear friend’s father died. I went to his funeral on Monday. I’d never met him, but his daughter is a phenomenal person. Stepping into a funeral home was like being two places at once: at my own father’s funeral and present at my friend’s. The funeral home decor was almost identical: red velour cushions in the chapel pews, unobtrusive “comforting” music in the background, and boxes of tissue every where. The bathrooms always seem to have ivy wallpaper just like the old kitchen at Dad’s house on Copeland Drive.

The funeral on Monday was a quiet affair: mostly family and a few friends. A smaller, more intimate greeting line where everyone knew each other and shared their grief. I watched, an observer having flashbacks to another funeral, mapping another family’s dynamice. One of four people seated in the pews not marked “Reserved.”

The chapel at Dad’s funeral was full of his pictures: portraits, still lives, landscapes, animals. Captured moments preserved on canvas for all to admire. He had a way of seeing scenery as pictures: memories as snapshots and art.

Another friend of mine read about Dad on this blog and sent me a link to a song, “Like Pictures,” by Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno. Even though he’d only read about my Dad on this blog, my friend said that the song reminded him of my Dad. He was absolutely right.

Flowers, fragrance, and funerals

Flowers, fragrance, and funerals

Orchids and chrysanthemums smell like death to me:
the cloying sweetness of casket-side flowers,
wilting from the heat of bodies pressed too close
as passersby sob their payment to Chiron.

The trees outside my apartment complex have a sickeningly sweet scent: not pleasing like honeysuckle, but of something decaying like fruit left too long in the sun. The blossoms themselves are beautiful white flowers sprinkled like snow across dark branches. Bradford pears or ornamental cherry trees. I’m not sure which. The scent, though, is the same pungent odor of the flowers at Dad’s funeral.

White flowers on the tree outside my window

I remember clearly the last picture taken of my Dad: Easter, 1994. Dad stood, smiling, arms outstretched as if to embrace the dining room table with egg-dying accoutrements, my stepmom, and little sister in one fell swoop. My sister was intently focused on painting an egg through long blond curls while holding her woobie-blanket in the crook of her left arm. My stepmom patiently smiled. Living with Dad could have that effect on you. He could go from serious parent to big kid in under ten seconds: fatherly advice punctuated by water gun fights.

My oldest sister Tracie took that picture. Dad had just turned 50 and Tracie was in town to celebrate Easter and birthdays. Dad’s birthday was March 12 and Stephanie’s is March 8. (Mine is March 23.) He looked happy, even though there were health problems.

The weekend before that picture was taken, Tracie and I had an evening out with Dad. Steph was at home with Sammie, and our other sisters were with their father and stepmom. Dad, Tracie, and I waited two hours to dine at Planet Hollywood in Washington DC. It was loud, boisterous, and filled with Hollywood memorabilia. When we were deciding what to eat, Dad hid behind his menu. He folded the menu and my sister and I started laughing. He had slipped on the red foam clown nose Tracie had given him from one of the productions she had worked on at Arena Stage. I still have the gorilla and fancy drink glass. And one lonely birthday card.

Six months later, on October 1, he was gone. Massive heart attack. One moment here, the next: *poof*.

Later, we would look back at that Easter picture and note that he didn’t look right. Sammie (my stepmom) didn’t know about the health issues until after Dad died when she found test results from his physical buried in the bottom drawer of his desk. Heart and cholesterol problems, just like his father before him. Prime candidate for a stroke. No one — my stepmom, Tracie, me, Jen, Annette, Steph — had any idea anything was wrong.

His remains — along with the red clown nose Tracie had tucked into Dad’s carefully folded hands — were cremated. We sprinkled Dad’s ashes during Thanksgiving. I remember watching Dad’s older brother, Bob, leaning against the old Dodge Colt, wondering how Dad could be gone. It was like seeing a taller, slimmer version of Dad walking amongst us.

I tried to keep in touch with the family after Dad’s funeral. The years passed, people moved away, phone numbers were lost, and time slipped by.

And now the funeral-like flowers are blooming and once again I am too late to say good bye to those I love. Uncle Bob passed away on February 22, 2011, just a few days after my horse-crazed Aunt Myrtle on my Mom’s side. When I called Tracie to tell her about Aunt Myrtle, we talked about how we needed to find Uncle Bob and his family. They found us a few days later by leaving a message on Tracie’s phone that Uncle Bob had died from a heart attack. He had been in perfect health.

I do not have pictures of Uncle Bob and only the one of Dad at Easter. I have coins, though, to cover their eyes, and pay their passage with Chiron while the fragrance of decayed blossoms wafts through my window.

Launch of Victory Equine Centre web site

Launch of Victory Equine Centre web site

Mom launched the web site for her business, Victory Equine. Go Mom!

Hi, everyone,

We are very pleased to announce that our training/marketing centre’s web site designed by has just been launched.

Please visit us at to see photos of our facility in Frederick, Maryland and the services we offer. We would love to have your feedback about our site. If you would like more information, please call Fernando Poli at (702) 510-1525.

If I have accidentally sent you more than one e-mail, I apologize. I selected your names from my personal address book.


Merrie & Ed Aiken
Cedar Ridge Farm Egyptian Arabians, LLC
Victory Equine Centre International, Inc. with Fernando Poli
4501 Cap Stine Road
Frederick, Maryland 21703 cell: 702-845-6752 Fernando cell: (702) 510-1525

(Figured after everything else today, I should share some good news.)

Trip to Tennessee

Trip to Tennessee

This weekend was my first trip back to Tennessee since I moved to North Carolina at the beginning of the year. (Yup, I’m behind on my blogging for a really good reason.) My youngest sister went with me this weekend. The goal was to get a lot of stuff done, and we did for the most part. Stephanie, who is a nationally certified massage and bodyworks therapist, also wanted to talk to my friend Sandy about equine massage therapy.

Saturday was fun. We got a little work around the house done and then went out to the barn. Stephanie said I was like a kid in a candy store out at the barn: I was grinning the entire time I was out there. I called to Isis and she whinnied at me (happy sigh) and trotted up to greet me. I got to ride for a little while, too, before my friends arrived to go to dinner. Stephanie was surprised when I took Isis over a little jump.

Of course, horse people would meet at the barn to greet the horses and then go to dinner. We had a nice dinner at an Asian restaurant in Oak Ridge. Nothing special, but it was nice to go out with everyone.

Stephanie was an awesome help with the little projects around the house. We got a ton of stuff done. Stephanie finished sanding all of the dry wall patches and painted them. She also went around and touched up paint. I finished putting moulding and baseboard in the second bedroom.

We got the last of the stuff in the car and packed. Cleaned out the closet. Finished the front yard with half-way raking leaves and weeding. I fixed one of the fountains that was clogged. The other one had burned out (the plug was MELTED into the socket!).

Stephanie also cleaned and polished the floors in the second bedroom and the sun room. They look gorgeous! I have pictures I’ll share as soon as I get them off of my camera.

When Stephanie and I were in the made rush to get out of the house and get on the road, two ladies drove up. And older lady and her daughter. Speaking French. The mother lives in the neighborhood and her daughter is looking to move in to the area. The daughter has a son, so my house would be great for them — two bedrooms on either side of the house with plenty of space to play in. They really liked the open design and the floor plan of the house. I gave them the rest estate agent’s card. I had a really good feeling from them (okay I got goosebumps while they were there).

I called my real estate agent and told her about the ladies. She was excited. She also said that another couple wants to come out and see the house, too. Yay! More interest in the house.

Overall it was a really good trip. Nice weather, good friends, and time with my sister. (This was our first trip together with just the two of us.)

I was so happy to see Isis.