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A Winter’s Tale

December 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , , , ,

One memory from this time of year that’s still as crisp in detail as the night it happened was when I was eleven. That was more than thirty years ago, a time before cell phones or Taylor Swift. A time when I hadn’t yet left the magic of childhood.

My Uncle Charles picked me up several days before Christmas to buy a tree. It was our annual outing, just he and I. My family celebrated the holiday, but my parents didn’t care whether our tree was live or fake. In fact, I’m told we had a fake silver tree decorated with glossy red balls for the first few years of my life. I have no memory of that.

At some point, my uncle stepped in, insisting that we have a fresh-cut tree even if he had to foot the bill. And, he said, I was to be his yearly assistant; my Aunt Ruth was too busy to join us on our search for the perfect tree.

The year that’s so vivid has the late afternoon sky spitting snow when my uncle stopped by for me. I grew up in a suburban Bucks County neighborhood, but Uncle Charles wasn’t interested in buying a tree from one of the tree lots that sprang up at the area malls. He drove me out to the Springtown Holiday Tree Farm, which covered acres and acres of Pennsylvania countryside with Douglas fir lined up in neat rows. 

He and I shared a game each year: As we walked up and down the lanes of trees, we pretended we were judges, intent on selecting that season’s winner. Once we had our top three picks, the tree that ranked first was the one he bought. In addition, he always purchased a second tree for himself and Aunt Ruth, even if it wasn’t as lovely or full, even if it had a few less-than-perfect branches.

That year, with a light snow dusting our hair and shoulders, we cast our ballots. My favorite, and his, was a tree that stood a good head taller than my towering uncle. Without fail each year, we picked the identical tree as the “winner.” Looking back now, I think that my uncle only pretended to vote; he ultimately ceded the decision to me.

After paying for the two trees, he expertly sawed each down. I’ve always wondered at his skill with the saw. My father—his brother—had no affinity for sharp tools—or any tools, for that matter.

My uncle gently placed the trees in the back of his pickup and tied them down carefully so they wouldn’t be damaged on the journey home, a good forty-five minutes away.

By the time we were ready to head out, the snow had increased in intensity. Thick flakes now blanketed the fields, and the long farm drive had maybe three inches on it. 

I was nervous about the weather. My mother hated driving in snow, so I must have inherited that autonomic fear from her. 

“Don’t you worry, Elf,” my uncle said, using his nickname for me as he started down the drive toward the main road. “It’s just a little snow.”

But once we were on the two-lane highway, the snow worsened into a squall. Switching the wipers and defroster to high, my uncle slowed his speed to a crawl. It was difficult to see the road ahead, and the rear window was iced over. No one else seemed to be out, not even the plows. In that time before cell phones, we couldn’t call my parents to let them know we would be later than we’d hoped.

On one sharp curve, the tires on the truck slipped, and we skidded toward the edge of the road. The brakes were useless, and although my uncle tried, he could not keep the truck from sliding into the ditch.

He cursed softly, but immediately checked on me. We were both unharmed, yet the vehicle was mired in the snow. He fought his way out the driver’s side door to make sure the tailpipe wasn’t buried, and then turned the engine back on to keep us warm.

One hour became two, became three. Uncle Charles switched the engine off every so often. The slender self I was at eleven got cold even with the heater on intermittently, and Uncle Charles dug out a thick Carhartt coat from behind the seat to snuggle around me. He also discovered a few wrapped chocolates and a stale package of crackers in the glove box, and we shared that scant dinner.

While we waited, he told stories of his own childhood. I learned things about my father’s family no one had ever mentioned: Uncle Charles and Dad had had a sister who died of the measles at age three. My uncle thought the world of Dad, although Dad always seemed to resent him. 

Even in the darkness that surrounded us on that silent stretch of roadway, the cab was illuminated with a glow and a warmth I can’t explain. I must have drifted off.

When I awoke, I was riding in the jump seat of a tow truck. Uncle Charles was in the front seat with the driver. The pickup was trailing behind us as a tow. 

“Almost home, Elf,” my uncle said. He handed me a paper cup of hot chocolate. The snow had stopped, and the sky was lightening toward dawn. The plows had cleared the road, and we made good time.

My mother remembers it differently. She says that we were not stuck in the snow for nine hours, but only for about two. That I was home and in bed by midnight. That my uncle had more personal problems than I was told about at age eleven.

But I know what I recall: It was the night my uncle saved my life. Unfortunately, he passed away several days afterward, having succumbed to a bad case of the flu. 

And the tree we brought home? I still have a photo of it, ablaze with extra lights from Aunt Ruth, and glittering with tinsel and glossy cellophane candy canes. Decorated with love.

I take the photo out every year and prop it on my mantel. To remind me.

Read more of Dianna’s stories in the following anthologies:

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November Featured Author: Sally Paradysz

November 13, 2017 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , ,

In Memory of Sal | Emily Murphy | A Slice of Orange


In Memory of Sal

October 29, 2017

Emily P. W. Murphy


Two weeks ago, we unexpectedly lost a very dear friend of mine. Today her friends and family are gathering together to remember her life. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there.

It has taken this long for me to get my mind around writing about our loss. Sal was a remarkable, inspiring, enigmatic, gentle, loving soul. She inspired so many, and made every one of her many, many friends feel special, valued, and loved. I am so sorry for the loss felt by her family and friends, but also truly sorry for those of you who will not get to meet her.

Sal had a lot to do with who I am today. I’ll never forget the morning she wrote asking if I would consider professionally editing her memoir. This was before we were great friends. She felt shy even asking me, when in fact she was offering me an incredible opportunity. See, this was before I identified myself as an editor– honestly, before I even felt truly comfortable saying I was a writer. Yet, she trusted me to help shape the way she presented her life story to the world. What an honor. As we worked together, Sal’s faith in me helped me find faith and confidence in myself.

[tweetshare tweet=”In Memory of Sal by @EmilyPWMurphy ” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]

Her memoir, From Scratch, is now a publication that has reached countless readers. Sal’s commitment and hard work produced a book that is so much more than just an interesting story from her life, but also a source of inspiration for others. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so. I’ve read it more times than I can count (in all of its various incarnations) but you can bet I’ll be rereading it in the near future. Once my heart can handle it.

I miss you, Sal. ♡


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Sally Paradysz, November Featured Author

November 7, 2017 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , ,

Sally Paradysz | Featured Author | A Slice of Orange

In memory of Sally Paradysz 


Carol L. Wright


Sal was at the first-ever meeting of the Bethlehem Writers Group in 2006. She had written several vignettes that she hoped would be inspirational, and brought them to the group for a critique. I remember it well. We had never met before, and here was a bright-eyed, white-haired woman with short bits of writing on several aspects of life and spirituality. The only problem was . . . they came across as preachy.

All of us who knew Sal know she was never preachy—but that’s how her writing came across. And that’s what we told her.

Instead of being discouraged, she went home and tinkered with them some more. At the next meeting she brought another draft, then another and another at the meetings that followed. She told us later that after each meeting she would go home and Mel would ask, did they like this one better? She just shook her head. Nope.

But, in true Sal fashion, she never gave up. She kept writing until she finally found her voice—by writing about her life. And when she did, she wrote from her heart.

One of the first such stories was about being in her writing cabin and looking out the window to discover that someone had stolen her Vespa. In her story, she went through the stages of grief over losing her beloved scooter, only to find as she walked back to her house . . . that she had parked it somewhere else.

Sal could laugh at herself.

[tweetshare tweet=”In Memory of Sally Paradysz by Carol L. Wright @GracieWriter ” username=”A_SliceofOrange”]

Once she found her voice she wrote about nature. She wrote about recovery. She wrote about strong women, good friends, and spirituality. And then she combined the best of all of them when she wrote about building her house.

It took her years to complete her memoir, From Scratch: Why I Walked Away from My Life and Built This Home. At first, it was hard for her to share her private pain with members of the writers group—let alone imagine sharing it with the world. But every time she gave more of herself to her story, she lent it a truth that, when published, helped others in pain to find their path to healing.

When she finally published the book, all of the writers group family celebrated. And, in the months that followed, she learned that her words were inspirational—and anything but preachy.

She stayed with our writers group for the rest of her life. Over the years, Sal became so much more than a fellow writer. She became a cherished friend.

We are so happy to have been part of her journey, and feel very blessed that she was a part of ours.

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