It is truly a winter wonderland from where I write as my weather app jolted me with the emergency alert of an impending snow squall. Something new for me. The perfect ambience for closing the year with embellished magical dreams of lingering holiday childhood fantasies and adult idealist wishes (prayers?!). Imagine snow-laced trees and six-plus inches of pure puffy white covering the village. A frenzy of activity can be seen from my window as a variety of birds visit the feeder seeking anything the squirrels have not devoured. Cardinals, blue jays, tufted titmice, finches and ever-evasive chipmunks. I have recently seen two breeds of hawks observing the activity as well ... a red-tail and a cooper. Then, there are the occasional migrating snow geese or seagulls that fly overhead. And, I had thought seagulls only lived near ocean beach shores.
Since moving north, a bucket list opportunity was realized when I recently visited the inspirational town of Seneca Falls, New York, where author Philip Van Doran Stern’s penned the short story, “The Greatest Gift” (better known as the inspiration for its film adaption, “It’s A Wonderful Life”), which embraces the fact that every single life does make a difference.
You know the story based in imaginary Bedford Falls. Directed by the legendary Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed played the lead roles in the 1943 black-and-white holiday classic which mesmerizes me every year. The spirit of it just never gets old. This year was more special as I recognized names of nearby towns and villages mentioned in the movie.
Though mostly foggy (or “froggy” as my Aunt Flo says), my adventure was perfect through periods of on-and-off rains as a snow front approached. It actually made it more realistic as in the movie. Pulling into the village that was established in 1831, the weather did not deter the most incredible greeting of natural beauty mixed with old architectural features: Gothic, Italianate, Victorian, and a few Mission Revival style enhanced in Christmas holiday splendor. Arched bridges over the Seneca River hosted adorned lampposts welcoming many magnificent stone buildings. The riverfront anchor is Trinity Episcopal Church ornamented with three Tiffany stained glass windows.
As the Cornell campus does, it reminded me of old Europe. My 40-mile drive up followed the tree-lined Cayuga Lake on my right. I lunched on buffalo cauliflower for the first time ever in Woffly’s Grill and Marina. Yummy and, yes, the view was spectacular!
Well, the Dawgs and Vols made it into upcoming bowl games on Jan. 1 and 2, respectively. I have cherished New Orleans during the Sugar Bowl and Jacksonville during the Gator Bowl (now TaxSlayer Bowl) festivities with 100,000-plus fan friends. Feathers in your cap if you follow a team with a winning season and have the opportunity postseason to visit hosting cities. Especially if your team wins!
Though I am facing an adult reality by giving up the idealistic winter wonderland in New York for time home in the south for the holidays, like a child, I anticipate with great heartfelt delight cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs with my father in his Elk Lodge surrounded by family and friends while ringing in the new year with traditional black-eyed peas, greens and eggnog.
Having decided that I want my next house to be made of stone (at least the garden shed … more stable than Sheryl’s she-shed!), I am looking forward to revisiting Seneca Falls where I learned the first women’s rights convention was held in 1843. That story will have to wait for another column and, perhaps, a sunnier day.
Though Advent season has ended, Christmas is not quiet over! Epiphany is 12 days after Christmas when Christians recognize the three kings bearing gifts and playing homage to the baby Jesus in a manger … three kings visiting a baby born in a stable, not a palace! I wonder what happened to them and if they had successful reigns over their kingdoms. As I close, I have been listening to Handel’s “Messiah” but will transition this music ambience with the Scottish poet Robert Burn’s 1788 “Auld Lang Syne” sung by Scotsman Dougie MacLean. “I’ll drink a cup of kindness yet” for both the times long past, the future and to you!
I am thankful for this season set aside to reflect upon the special blessings we may find in simple everyday moments in fulfilling God’s will and making 2020 the best year ever! Thank you, dear readers, for your loyalty and for staying in touch. I always treasure hearing from you. Cheers and many wishes of blessings for a Happy New Year filled with much health, happiness and success! And, now, for the kindness of another cup of coffee … “cause, baby, it’s cold outside.”
Susan E. Kendrick is a Sunday Stories columnist who shares her insights and Southern humor each month in Sincerely, Susan. To correspond with Susan, email her at [email protected]