Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Upon the threshold of my first Christmas in Gonzales, I await with that thrill of excitement, that sudden glimpse of childhood memories and overwhelming holiday warmth that seems to beckon us through the last few weeks leading up to that sacred holiday. This is certainly a feat for me at present, as the last few weeks have been filled with sickness, unexpected expenses, and unpredicted weather changes, with the holiday blues threatening at my door.  Despite these minor setbacks, preparing for Christmas in Gonzales has left its mark in our home. 

The tree, hand picked and chopped from Abrameit Tree Farms, stands tall and whimsically decorated before our living room window, bearing all the humble signs of a young marriage. Of course, each ornament carries with it a significant piece of definable history- the day we bought that paint-it-yourself house ornament from Hobby Lobby, which remains laughably unpainted to this day, or the purple dove with silver stitching from Mom and Dad last Christmas, or the traditional gold flat orb that says, "Our First Christmas '08" (which we still can't remember buying, but there it is nonetheless).  

Other signs of Christmas cheer emanate throughout our tiny house, such as the soothing melodies of A Charlie Brown Christmas album, the constant presence of space heaters in every room, and piles of gifts with which we anticipate slightly spoiling our nieces, nephews, and younger cousins.  Wrapping paper, shopping bags, scarves, house shoes, and an overcrowded coatrack speak inarguably of the time of year in the Wittman household. And in the kitchen you will find the open Better Homes Cookbook, my favorite deep red mug with nutmeg-colored rim, and the inevitable empty packets of hot chocolate. 

There is something particularly soothing about tearing open a packet of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows. I think it is perhaps because it has been a staple throughout my Christmas childhood memories; memories of being 8 and getting lost with my brother in the snowy winter wonderland in our front yard, being followed by that faithful border collie, Molly (or Good Golly, Miss Molly when we were feeling particularly mischievous), and admiring the gutter's glistening collection of icicles (also known as "snow weenies" by my brother, but don't tell him I said that).  Other memories include playing countless ping-pong tournaments in Papa's garage and taking a break back inside the cozy house with my cousins for some popcorn and pretzel sticks and coke. 

I suppose that I am not the only citizen of Gonzales with memories of Christmases past filling the air.  Perhaps you are finding yourself fighting a sickness or a particularly lethal case of the blues, or an unexpected expense is keeping you from gifting to your heart's content.  I've found that the warmth of holiday cheer, whether it be found in rereading the gospels, or in Christmas cartoons or music or decorations, or simply the lingering gaze back into another time of our lives, may be precisely what the doctor ordered for reviving a joyful heart. Indeed such memories are for me a thick, warm blanket bundling my soul against any of life's threatening chill.  And above all, I am thankful for the present as well as the past.  So, while I may be "dreaming of a white Christmas" in the past, I am certainly thankful to be right here in Gonzales for Christmas. 

Greg's On the Square

Every town, I imagine, has its secrets. Every town has its political scandals, its shameful, undisclosed portions of history, and its unsolved mysteries. It is both presumptuous and naive of me to say that I have stumbled on a secret which most of the Gonzales natives have yet to discover, but so it goes. I can't help myself. 

One of the best-kept secrets of Gonzales is a coffee shop on The Square.

Roughly once a week, I find myself returning to that beautifully historical portion of the town known as The Square. Where exactly "The Square" is, I still haven't figured out. As far as I can tell, there are three or four squares, and I can never recall which road leads to which square. Nonetheless, I somehow make it through the maze of traffic lights, churches, and parked vehicles to Greg's Coffee Shop. Call it a gift.

Greg's is one amid the myriad of historical buildings on The Square.  I once heard someone negatively refer to it as "an old building."  But then perhaps you must first live in the dizzying metroplex of Dallas to appreciate the charm of a coffee shop in a historical building on The Square of Gonzales.  I even love it for its constant coffee-shop-in-the-making feel, due to the remodeling.  I love it for its coffee shop aroma, its wide variety of specialty beverages, and exotic selection of beans for home-brewing. I love it for its friendly baristas and my beloved extra-hot latte. I love it for its picturesque view of The Square, which always stirs in my heart a desire for an impulsive walk through historical, mysterious Gonzales.  And so Greg's has become the place where I escape the drudgeries of housework and grocery shopping for a romantic cup of coffee. 

And there is romance in coffee. That is key to discovering Greg's. If you don't appreciate the romance in coffee, then you may forever see Greg's as just another old building.  I love coffee for so much more than a caffeine rush, the aroma, or even the flavor.  What I love is the way it brings people together.  I cannot tell you how my heart leaps every time my husband brings me a warm, flavorful latte from Greg's while I'm at work.  Whether I'm having a wonderful day or the worst day, for the few moments that encompass the gift he brings, I am delighted and glowing.  There is something very special about the gift of a hot cup of coffee. 

On another note, I cannot tell you how many introductions have been made over a cup of Joe. The coffee shop atmosphere seems to invoke opportunities to make conversation and form new friendships.  With my former experiences serving coffee, I have seen on countless occasions that it often represents a threshold; it is an invitation from being strangers to becoming friends. 

And then there are other situations in which groups of people gather around coffee with their Bibles, or coffee with desert, or coffee with their newspapers, or coffee with… well, the list could go on and on. For myself, though, there is no more prestigious position to find myself in than that of partaking in coffee with the women in my family. At every family gathering, this is my goal and my hope. Perhaps it is more prestigious to win the Nobel Prize or to be a Poet Laureate, but at the moment nothing in my mind presents itself as more appealing.  It is rare that I ever partake in these special moments, but when I do, I am delighted. The women are, or were at one time known as the Claggs. And when they are together, chocolate and coffee will be found as well. And there will be laughter, stories, miscommunications, and perhaps the occasional competitive card game of Nerts.

  This is my personal experience of falling in love with coffee and the special moments it brings. And it is my belief that far too few citizens in our town have given themselves over to this beautiful romance. Despite the fact that I have never heard the phrase, "Oh, I don't drink coffee," so many times as I have since i have moved into town, I must contend that others in this town find it romantic, too.  Sometimes, they are gazing through the windows of Dairy Queen. Sometimes, they rendezvous in more exclusive gatherings. But I see them. It happens. Groups of older men meet regularly to drink coffee in this town, and there is no use in denying it.  I have seen it with my own eyes, and it is a remarkable sight to behold.  The pride and wisdom of Gonzales are without a doubt the men who have lived to see so much more than I have. And while their personal cup of Joe is found in the diner atmosphere, they seem to agree that discovering coffee in Gonzales is worth the trouble. Perhaps, then, you don't have to go to Greg's to enjoy the rich enchantment that coffee brings. But then again, perhaps you ought to give Greg's a try, too. And who knows? Perhaps you will even feel compelled to take an impetuous walk through the picturesque town square and rediscover Gonzales for yourself. 

A Common Occurrence While Washing My Dishes

The field, brown and damp lay in tangles of brambles, weeds, and limbs
and the foggy air clings its mist as dew upon the earth;
the fence of wooden posts and wire is a fine mess of dead vines
with a solitary green arm making its appeal to an overcast sky.

The red cardinal makes his royal appearance, sharpening the scene
as a dramatic thought in the wake of a dream;
his good wife, the earth-toned lady with orange beak speaking of her role,
she gathers with him, leaving only vague, spotted prints in her train

while the earth awakens and the eager chirps fall on attentive ears.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rediscovering the Ronettes and Other Amazing Sounds

I have found that I am indeed rediscovering the Ronettes. And perhaps you are too, just by visiting this blog and listening to the music.

The fabulous Ronettes:

Something of their style and sound remind me of a modern, yet often quite retro singer. In my opinion, probably the most gifted singer I've ever heard. But when being introduced to Duffy, do not fool yourself by listening to just one song. It sometimes takes a few to begin to appreciate her incredible talent and the soul she puts into the songs.

I highly recommend watching this video on youtube: 

I cannot wait to get her new album for Christmas and/or my birthday. (Hint, hint!)

And did I mention that I love The AdLibs?? I just do. 


Friday, December 3, 2010

Conflict Resolution

My soul hungers for scripture; my flesh lusts for glory.
The more I feed my soul, the more my eyes are opened to the ghastly appetites of my flesh.

Christ in me, transforming the attitudes of my mind, can be the only resolution to my conflict.