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Christmas Letter 2007

December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas from Marion Station. We are into our sixth year of living in rural Eastern Maryland, and our children keep asking us when we’ll move back to civilization. We just smile. Some days I miss having stores, restaurants and shopping within 15 minutes, having my post office carry more than two types of stamps, having access to 7 network TV channels, and being able to hop in the car and get to the Smithsonian, Franciscan Monastery, National Zoo, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Red Hot and Blue, the Theater, and the Blue Ridge Mountains in under an hour. From Marion Station it takes me an hour just to get to Cambridge.

I don’t miss the traffic, the crime, lines at the MVA, 8 to 10 lanes of cars, and seemingly endless vistas of concrete and asphalt. The Eastern Shore has a sense of place not repeated in Maryland, with its rolling farmland, endless marshes, miles of shoreline, waterfowl, and small towns that have more churches than stores. Our newspaper headlines are more about community than crime. A December front page headline in the Star Democrat read, “Traffic Light planned for Preston.” This is big news if you’ve ever tried to drive through Preston at peak hours. The truth is, we love the Eastern Shore more every year we live here. We are home.

We bought a camper in June and took it to Dan’s home state of Maine for a two week vacation. We traveled up the coast and spent about four days on Deer Isle, famous for its pink granite, and being the kayaking Mecca of North America. I read Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck in June. Deer Isle was one of the towns Steinbeck visited when he wrote the book in 1960. His Deer Isle description sounded much like Crisfield and intrigued us enough to make it a vacation destination. In truth, it was much like Crisfield, only the waterman were called fisherman and they were after lobster instead of crab. Kayaking in Maine was much the same as Maryland, save for the occasional seal that swims by and scares the hell out of you. The lighthouse on our Christmas card is East Quoddy Head, on Campobella Island in Canada. We took a day trip there when we were camping in Eastport, ME – the eastern-most point of the United States. I snapped this photo just before sunset.
 

Burgoyne Christmas Card 2007The best part of the Maine vacation was seeing Dan’s family. Dan’s siblings, David, Steven, and Kathy and many of their children and grandchildren live on a parcel of land in central Maine that spans over two hundred acres. The Burgoynes can celebrate on a moment’s notice, offering endless hospitality. I had an easier time understanding the Maine accent this trip – though I got confused when a nephew asked his wife why she’d taken his khakis, and she responded that he’d taken her khakis. I finally figured out that they weren’t confiscating each others’ pants, but the implements used to start the car… “car keys” for those of you in the southern states. The Burgoynes are fascinating, artistic, and hilarious. I feel fortunate to call them family. They have a passion for life, devotion to their children, and a love for each other that is subtle and boundless… qualities in my husband I so admire. It makes for an exciting shared life having Dan’s love and steady constancy compliment my crazy, non-stop, obsessive, talk-a-mile-a-minute approach to life.

In February I went for to Ireland to do some final research for the book I’m writing, Thin Places; Travels through Celtic Holy Ground. I spent most of the three weeks in the south of Ireland following the paths of saints and druids, visiting some thirty stone circles, church ruins, holy wells, and monastic sites. I stopped when I felt the subtle urge to join a convent. I took a diversion from all things holy when I interviewed a retired policeman in Bandon (outside Cork City). He wanted to talk more about the conflict between Catholics and Protestants than thin places, and told me he could introduce me to someone who could identify and name Michael Collins’ assassin. I declined the introduction as any sensible almost-fifty year old American female traveling alone would have. On this trip I also discovered yet another setting of St. Patrick’s breastplate that speaks of clothing oneself in Christ’s presence as a light to guide, protect, and reveal. Part of the setting appears on the front of this Christmas card.

Last month, Arcadia Publishing Company released my second book, Easton – Then and Now. It’s similar to my first book Snow Hill about another Eastern Shore small town. Easton – Then and Now is an historical picture book chronicling Easton as it began as Maryland’s Eastern capital, to how it evolved into the cultural hub of the Eastern Shore with upscale restaurants, museums, art galleries and shopping – still keeping that small town feel. The Snow Hill book had great success last year selling over 1000 copies (one third of the total printing) in its first month. I attributed this to having 500+ relatives and several hundred friends. Here’s hoping you’ll all be just as interested in Easton. The book is available on Amazon.com.

Our children are all moving along well in their lives. Albert and Ruth , married just after Christmas last year are expecting their first baby – a girl – January 17th. Becky, Harry, Connor and Benjamin are in New Jersey, all doing well. Dominic is a graphic artist, living in Columbia. Lara and David are still nearby, living in Salisbury. David just graduated from Salisbury University. Daniel and Amber moved to Culpeper Virginia this year, and little Daniel, Grace and Mia are growing fast. Big Dan went back to the Iron Workers Union making more money with fewer headaches. I still work for the State of Maryland.

I was cleaning out our attic just before Thanksgiving and came across an old book of Christmas carols. My grandfather bought it for me when I was very little. The cover had a sketch of a family singing carols around a pump organ. Grandma told me the sketch reminded her of her own family when she was little girl, and her mother would play carols while the family sang. I remember my mother playing from that same book at our piano during the Christmas season, singing those carols to me, and teaching me to sing them. I also remember her choir coming to our house after Midnight Mass and singing around the same piano… along with much laughing and general loud partying. I repeated a similar process with my own children – music, choirs, and parties after Mass on Christmas Eve. It is these types of random experiences that weave the tapestry of Christmas memories we share - parties, food, friends, family, music, good times and some sad times like Christmases marked by loneliness or loss of a loved one. Christmas is like a great magnifier that examines our life and makes everything – good and bad - seem larger. I’m happy to say, this Christmas, all is good in our home.

St. Anthony of Padua said, “Love is eternal; so that without love, all efforts are vain, no matter how much good we accomplish.” Love is what lies beneath the surface at Christmas, and best flourishes in the spirit of humility. Every year someone will invariably proclaim disgust regarding the commercialization of Christmas, but I generally ignore these proclamations. Commercialism doesn’t diminish Christmas. It’s rarely the presents or shopping or decorations that we recall in our Christmas memories. It’s always the people we remember, and the experiences shared with people; experiences that occur when possessions and the trappings of this world are stripped away, and humility – the true understanding of who we are – arises and creates magic moments where time stands still. These become our Christmas memories… the affirmation of a child’s imagination, school pageants, singing Christmas carols, little hands gripping the banister during the rush downstairs on Christmas morning, family dinners and gatherings, the first Christmas away from home, the first Christmas in a new home… these are the things we remember, and it’s the warmth of these experiences that generate meaning and cause us to continue to look forward to Christmas year after year.

If you’re receiving this letter and card, then you are someone we remember this Christmas – someone we care for and are likely to never forget. You may be a friend we met just this year, a relative we’ve known all our lives, or you may be someone we’ve not spoken to in a long time - but know if we saw you tomorrow we could pick up where we left off as if time and distance never separated us.

Dan and I wish you a very Merry Christmas. May God bless you and those whom you love during the coming New Year.
 

   

Copyright 2006 -2017 by Mindie Burgoyne  All Rights Reserved. 
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