‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!
About Wendy McLeod MacKnight
Wendy McLeod MacKnight is the former Deputy Minister of the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Education. She grew up in the small town of St. Stephen, with a library card as her prized possession and with her own Pig Face and Ralph. She now lives with her family In Hanwell, New Brunswick, Canada. She is partial to glittery things, a stack of books, and Ganongs’ Chicken Bones, if you’re looking to surprise her this holiday season.
For me, the holiday season is a magical time of year, when the rules governing space and time are replaced by flickering silver glimpses into other worlds we usually keep at bay. I continually bump into various versions of myself as I unpack Christmas decorations, listen to favourite music, or watch favourite movies and holiday specials. Long-dead family members and friends are met at every turn, so fully alive to me I would not be the least surprised if they stepped out of a photograph and resumed the conversation they were having pre-snapshot. Their stories and my memories allow me to be visited by far more ghosts than the four Charles Dickens gave to Ebenezer Scrooge.
It’s the 1930s and my great-grandfather is passing out five dollar bills to everyone after dinner, a fortune to my pre-school aged father. Meanwhile, my mother goes to bed in a house with no Christmas tree and wakes up to discover Santa has left one in the night, lit candles adorning its branches and decorated with ornaments that will one day hang on my tree. It’s 1952 and my grandmother is sketching my grandfather on a scrap piece of paper she’s torn from a brown paper bag as they sit beside the Christmas tree drinking sherry.
Then it’s me, trying not to look too disappointed when I see what Santa has left my brother and sister, only to discover the air hockey table hidden behind the dining room door. Then I’m older, thrilled with a haul of Jane Austen novels, then sobbing through the first of what will be many showings of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Suddenly I’m a mother and all the baby cares about is wrapping paper. A bell rings. Angel wings and it’s the first Christmas I don’t have a mother. There are so many things I need to ask her and the only way to find her is through choral music.
Pokemon Christmases. Harry Potter Christmases, Lord Of The Rings Christmases. Video games, Lego, books, board games, dolls and trucks litter the floor.
Then my father is dying and we are playing his favourite Christmas records, the holy trinity of Nat King Cole (his favourite), Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland (because he’s off to see my Mom and she’d expect us to play that) and I am reading him Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas In Wales and telling him to let go.
I pour myself a drink on Christmas Eve. I can hear my grandmother tell my father she’s certain it’s 4 parts alcohol to one part mix. It’s a snowy Christmas Day and I am on my tiptoes lighting candles in church. There is a dog, then none, then others. The holiday players are shape-shifters, blown in with the cold winds when we open the front door. I am seven-years-old, delivering chocolate fudge and getting new mittens in return. I am reading Archie comics, Rolling Stone magazine, then a cookbook, because how do you cook a goose? The trees as skinny, fat, short, tall, but always real and sometimes there is an empty nest hidden within. A tree falls, is tied, falls again. There are tears and laughter. Someone slams a door. Someone is crying. Happiness is measured in gallons some years, with teaspoons in others. The guest list expands and contracts like my waistline.
I sit alone beside the tree and yet I am never alone. I wonder at the passage of time and remind myself of the happiness of being together with those I love, even if they are no longer with me physically. I feel the truth: they’ve never left, just as I will haunt other places I will never see. The bells chime. In the end, time and space bend in on me and all that’s left is love. However you celebrate the holiday season or the passing of another year, know this: I wish you peace.
Title It’s A Mystery, Pig Face!
Author Wendy McLeod MacKnight
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Mystery, Adventure
To Be Published February 7th, 2017 by Sky Pony Press
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Eleven-year-old Tracy Munroe and her family have just gotten back from their family vacation — why did no one realize that her little brother, Lester, a.k.a. Pig Face, was allergic to sand, salt air, and the ocean before they decided to go to the beach? — and now she has three big goals to accomplish before she goes back to school:
1. Figure out a fantastic end of summer adventure with her best friend, Ralph, budding Michelin-star chef. (And no, Ralph, perfecting a soufflé does not count.)
2. Make sure Pig Face does not tag along.
3. Get the gorgeous new boy next door, Zach, to know she even exists.
But when Tracy and Ralph discover an envelope stuffed with money in the dugout at baseball field (and Lester forces them to let him help), they have a mystery on their hands. Did someone lose the cash? Or, did someone steal it? St. Stephens has always seemed like a quiet place to live, but soon the town is brimming with suspects.
Can the trio discover the truth before they’re accused of the crime themselves?