Join me in welcoming Nancy to the blog. She has graciously agreed to #guestpost and I’m so happy to have her. She’s written a post called Empty Chairs. In a time of year where people are experiencing #loss it’s important to be sensitive and remember that not all of us are having a holly jolly Christmas. Some of us are struggling and some of us are grieving. Thank you, Nancy for sharing this story with us.
Please don’t forget to check out her book links and learn more about her at the bottom of this post.
In normal times, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the busiest parts of the year. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa fall one after another like toppling dominos, and New Year’s Day follows hard on their heels. This year, though, is different. Gatherings have to be carefully managed or else postponed. Internet calls are a functional substitute, but they’re definitely the half a loaf that’s better than none.
Some people, of course, don’t get that half a loaf. Every holiday season, someone somewhere faces an empty chair at the holiday table. Then it’s not so festive. This year, the number of people dealing with painful loss during the holiday season is exponentially more than usual.
Looking at that empty chair is especially difficult that first year. The grief fades in time as memories fill the gap and other people join our circles. Someone eventually sits in that chair without it feeling wrong.
My dad died between Thanksgiving and Christmas some years ago. Although my heart wasn’t in the seasonal celebration, I tried. My husband and I had a young son (he’s grown now—hard to believe!), and we didn’t want loss to overshadow the season for him. We put up a tree, bought and wrapped gifts, and did a little decorating, though less than usual.
Then came the Christmas cards. My husband usually wrote some of them while I tended to the majority. We use blank cards and always write our own message. That year, I sat at the dining room table and looked at the cards and envelopes on it, and I cringed inside. I turned to him and said, “I can’t. I just…I can’t.”
“That’s okay,” he replied quickly. “I’ll do them. If I write the messages and address the envelopes, can you sign your name? Or should I do that for you?”
“I can do that,” I decided. “I can sign them.”
So that’s how we did it.
Over time, of course, the pain of loss fades. We weave the people who were part of our Christmases back into them by sharing memories. They’re part of the celebration again, though in a different way. The story of my dad accidentally shattering the toilet bowl on Christmas Eve, when we had seventeen people coming for dinner the next day, has become a family legend. He was emptying the dog’s terra cotta water bowl into the toilet, only to have the bowl slip. Terra cotta met porcelain, and terra cotta won. We were lucky to live in a small town where he knew the plumber.
Also memorable is the year we had a plastic bell with plastic holly around it hanging in the dining room archway. Inside the bell was a music box that played “Jingle Bells.” It was another big family gathering, and everyone under the age of sixteen who walked under that bell yanked the clapper and started the music. This went on for close to an hour. Suddenly, Dad came out of the kitchen. He marched to the bell, unfastened it, and took it away without a word to anyone. I never saw that bell again.
My mom didn’t like to cook, but she enjoyed baking. She made amazing marshmallow cream fudge. We looked forward to that every Christmas. She tried to teach me to do it, but I failed spectacularly. To this day, I cannot figure out whether the fudge is a “soft ball” or not.
We trot these memories out every year, and they help tie the current Christmas into all those that went before. The warmth they bring makes the empty chairs seem not entirely empty.
That first Christmas without my dad, though, was hard. It inspired The Last Favor, my story in Christmas at Caynham Castle. The hero, a covert agent, goes to the castle hotel to receive an award on behalf of his recently deceased father. Because an assassin has targeted him, his partner goes along so she can watch his back. For different reasons, the two agents envy the families celebrating the season. Christmas was never a warm, loving time for her. It was for him, but that died with his dad. As the long-suppressed attraction between them flares, they have choices to make.
If you celebrate this holiday season, I hope it’s a merry one for you and yours. If it isn’t this year, I hope you have memories to weave through the holidays to come.
For more information about Nancy and her books, visit her website, www.NancyNorthcott.com. Because she spends more of her free time on Twitter than is probably good for her, you can also connect with her there, where she’s @NancyNorthcott.
Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the magic, romance and high stakes she loves in the books she writes.
Married since 1987, she considers herself lucky to have found a man who not only enjoys a good adventure story but doesn’t mind carrying home a suitcase full of research books. Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.
Nancy’s Social Media links:
Christmas at Caynham Castle A Collection of 7 Holiday-Themed Novellas
A seasonal ball,
A charming town on the Welsh border,
And an ancient castle with adventure, mystery, ghosts and romance in every corner.
Celebrate the Christmas season with seven authors, each telling the story of the holiday at Caynham Castle in her own spectacular style.
Her Heart in His Pocket ~ Donna MacMeans
A surprise reunion of a pickpocket turned lady’s maid and a mysterious unexpected footman occurs just in time for the Christmas Frost Ball at Caynham Castle. The past of each could jeopardize the future of the other, and the future of Caynham Castle itself.
A Perfect Grey Christmas ~ Anna Sugden
In order to win the ultimate cooking prize and the right to cater the Ice Castle Charity Ball in Caynham Castle, a former hockey player, turned restauranteur, must work with the woman he once loved, but who then left him to marry an English lord.
The Ghost of Christmas Past ~ Jeanne Adams
Dr. Denby “Bee” Alden, is a bee expert from Haven Harbor, Massachusetts. She’s at Caynham Castle to research ancient beekeeping techniques…and to escape. The ex-boyfriend who dumped her is getting married and staying for the wedding would be salt in the wound. While at Caynham, she finds an Earl, a dastardly thief, and a ghost. Can the castle ghost help Bee and the Earl find something to celebrate this holiday season?
Christmas Crossroads ~ Caren Crane
A young woman from Cross Springs, NC, who was orphaned young and has not found a place to call “home” until she lands in Caynham-on-Ledwyche and meets a local man who is reconnecting with his hometown.
Still ~ Seressia Glass
Morgan Lafayette is a Light Witch with a Shadow problem. Injured while trying to rescue a young psychic, Morgan is in a race against time and the blight growing inside her. Her family sends her to Caynham-on-Ledwyche to meet with Meg Davies, a powerful healer. She doesn’t expect to meet Meg’s son and fellow astral traveler Arthur Davies or have him become her literal knight in shining armor. With the blight growing and threatening her nascent relationship, will Morgan put her trust in Shadowchaser Kira Solomon, knowing the Chaser will literally hold her life in her hands?
Crewel Fate ~ Gail Z. Martin
When Teag Logan and his fiancé Anthony Benton travel to England to celebrate their engagement, Teag’s magic and supernatural experience hone in on restless spirits, an old scandal and century-old secrets that could turn deadly. Can Teag and Anthony solve the mystery and settle the spooks before the Ball, or will more people join the ranks of the castle ghosts?
The Last Favor ~ Nancy Northcott
Grayson (Gray) Kane comes to Caynham Castle to pick up an award for his late father. Dealing with his loss amid the families celebrating the holiday makes him question his solitary life as an covert agent. His partner, Laurel Whitney, joins him to protect Gray from an assassin. As the long-suppressed attraction between them flares anew and a killer closes in, she must decide whether she has the courage to seize what she has always wanted.
Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081PKV8D5