The photo above was taken in the Public Garden in Boston. The duck is a statue of the mother duck from the book, Make Way for Ducklings. The mother duck is dressed for Christmas. Here is a photo of the entire string of ducklings and the mother duck. Notice the kids riding the ducks.
For those of you who have read the books in my Front Porch Promises series, you know the original first three books are set in the Boston area. I have added a new Book 1, set in Montana, to the series, but the reader will discover how a secondary character takes the series from Montana to small towns near Boston. I mentioned in last month’s blog post that I had received the rights back to my Harlequin Love Inspired book, Montana Match, and that I have given the book a new cover and new title, A Match to Call Ours. Here is the complete set of books in the Front Porch Promises series. The new book 1 is available for preorder. You can find the buy links here.
Although the books are set at various times of the year, two of the books have a Christmas related scene, A Family to Call Ours and A Place to Find Love. I’m going to share a little of the Christmas scenes from these two books.
Excerpt from A Family to Call Ours
The following Saturday evening, Tara held one of Hailey’s hands while Caleb held the other as they made their way out of the T station at Government Center in downtown Boston. The cacophony of noises coming from an orchestra warming up and the sounds of conversation, shouts, and laughter filled the cold evening air, creating a sense of anticipation.
“That was cool.” Hailey looked up at Caleb. “I’ve never been on the subway before.”
“I’m surprised, since you’ve lived in the area for a couple of years.” Caleb looked over the top of Hailey’s head at Tara.
“We always took cabs, or someone drove us to town. Most of the time Hailey was not well enough to take the T.” Tara didn’t want to remember that time—the time when she didn’t know whether Hailey would ever be healthy again.
“Then I’m glad she could have that experience now.” Caleb dropped his gaze to Hailey. “You’re gonna love these Christmas lights. It’s a spectacular show.”
Hailey looked up at him, her eyes full of excitement as she skipped along between them. “I can hardly wait.”
Jostling with the crowd, they made their way to Faneuil Hall. Joy radiated throughout the area. Tara thought she could almost reach out and touch it. She wished she’d kept her mouth shut and not said anything to Caleb regarding her uncertainties about their relationship. Even though they were on another date, she sensed a distance between them that wasn’t there before. A week of self-examination had made her regret the things she’d told him, and she feared there was nothing she could do to change things now.
“Let’s go this way. It doesn’t seem quite so crowded.” Caleb steered them toward the edge of the walkway.
“I see the tree.” Hailey pointed ahead. “It almost reaches to the sky.”
“Wait until you hear the music and see the tree all lit up.” Caleb guided them toward the open plaza.
Frowning, Hailey gazed up a Tara. “Mommy, I don’t think I can see everything cuz I’m short.”
“I can solve that.” Caleb picked up Hailey and hoisted her onto his shoulders.
Hailey giggled. “I’m really tall now, and I can see everything.”
Tara touched Caleb’s arm. “Are you going to be okay like that?”
Caleb nodded. “She’s not that heavy, and the show starts in a few minutes.”
“Mommy, don’t make him put me down.”
Tara smiled indulgently at Hailey. “He’s spoiling you, you know.”
“That’s okay.” Hailey grinned down. “This is cool up here.”
Caleb chuckled. “She has the best seat in the house.”
Tara nodded. She wished she could back up time and undo last weekend’s conversation. But they had prayed about things going forward. She should enjoy their time together and not worry about where it would lead. God would guide them. She had to believe that.
When the show started, lights danced everywhere as Christmas music filled the air. Awe painted Hailey’s features. Her eyes filled with wonder, and Tara’s thoughts overflowed with happiness for her child. The brightness and beauty of the colorful lights reminded Tara that being with Caleb brought brightness and beauty to her world.
He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer as the lights blinked from tree to tree around the plaza. The beauty and the wonder of Christmas reflected on the faces of the people in the crowd. For a moment contentment settled in Tara’s heart until she thought about Hailey’s one wish for Christmas. A family.
Tara wondered why she ever thought a bicycle was the one thing that would make her daughter happy. The bicycle had been on layaway for weeks. Just a couple more payments and the bicycle would be hers, but the one thing Hailey wanted Tara couldn’t give her. The thought robbed Tara of any joy, but she manufactured a smile and remembered the reason for celebrating Christmas. It wasn’t all about the gifts for each other, but the greatest gift of all—the Savior who had come to earth to save the world from sin. That should bring her joy of the greatest kind.
When the show was over, Tara, Caleb, and Hailey wandered through the market area and looked at the carts where folks were selling all kinds of things. Caleb bought a bottle of hot sauce for his dad, a wind chime for his mom, and a toy for Hailey.
The gift bag swinging by her side, Hailey romped a few feet ahead as they made their way back to the T station.
Caleb leaned closer. “I hope I’m not in trouble for buying that little trinket for Hailey.”
Tara let out a sigh. “You always ask after you’ve given her something.”
“So I am in trouble.”
Tara let out a halfhearted chuckle. “No, I appreciate everything you do for Hailey. Really.”
“Okay. I’ll take you at your word.” Caleb took her hand and squeezed it. “You and Hailey are very important to me. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our relationship.”
“You haven’t.” Tara wanted to reassure Caleb. She needed to talk with him when Hailey wasn’t around. She doubted that would happen tonight. It would be too late when they got home. He had to take care of Sadie, and she had to get Hailey into bed.
“So what’s on your Christmas wish list?”
Tara glanced up at him. Was he trying to figure out what to get her for Christmas? She didn’t want him to spend money on her, because she didn’t have money to buy a gift for him. She planned to make something for everyone on her Christmas list. “I don’t have a wish list.”
“There must be something you’d like to have.”
“Sure. There are lots of things, but I also know I don’t have to have any of them.”
“Just indulge me and name one thing.”
“Okay. I saw the most beautiful nativity set in one of the stores in downtown Hawthorne. I would love to have it, but it’s way too expensive—an extravagance. I like to go by the store and just look at it in the window.” Tara sighed as she slipped her arm through Caleb’s. She wanted to tell him not to even think once about buying it for her, but that would be presumptuous. So she kept her mouth shut.
On the way home, Hailey talked and talked about the Christmas lights. Tara thought for sure Hailey would fall asleep, but she kept up her nonstop chatter until Caleb pulled his car to a stop in front of his parents’ house.
“Mommy, can I go with Caleb to walk Sadie?”
Tara should’ve anticipated that request. “Not tonight. It’s late, and you have to get in bed. Tell Caleb thanks for taking us to Boston.”
A pout forming on her face, Hailey mumbled her thanks.
Caleb nodded as he opened the car door. “You can help me tomorrow.”
“Okay.” Hailey hopped out of the car and raced to the steps.
“Thanks again for taking us to Boston. It was a fun day.” Tara smiled at Caleb as he rounded the front of his SUV. There was so much she wanted to say to him, but she still didn’t see this as a good time.
“You’re welcome.” He took one of her hands in his as she stopped on the bottom step. “I’m just thankful that you agreed to go.”
Tara looked up at Hailey, who stood at the door. “Here’s the key. Let yourself in, and go brush your teeth.”
Hailey’s bottom lip protruded again, but she took the key without saying a word. Breathing a sigh of relief when her child obediently went inside, Tara glanced up at Caleb. Could she at least say she was sorry for her attitude last weekend? “I’m just glad you offered to take us. I’m really sorry about what I said after our last outing. I—”
Caleb put a finger to her lips. “No need to apologize. I understand. It’s good to be truthful, and it’s not always easy to figure out relationships.”
“Thank you for understanding.” Tara wished she had the courage to tell Caleb how much he meant to her, but the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe this was enough for now. “And thanks again for a great day, a great evening.”
Caleb nodded as he took both of her hands and held them. “Would you like to ride with me to church in the morning?”
“Hailey has to be there early because of practice for the children’s Christmas program.”
“No problem.” He smiled as he leaned a little closer.
“Sure.” Returning his smile, Tara nodded, her heart thundering. Was he going to kiss her?
“Great. See you in the morning.” He gave her a peck on the cheek, then rushed back to his vehicle.
Tara stood there as she watched him drive away. Despite his declaration that he understood her feelings, his hasty exit did little to change the distance he had created between them. Could she blame him? He probably had reservations, too. He said it was good to be truthful, but was she really being honest with herself and with him?
Being honest meant acknowledging that she had fallen in love with Caleb Fitzpatrick. That was why she was so worried about what would happen in the future.
This love wasn’t the teenaged, gooey-eyed infatuation she’d had with Blake. This love came from respect, caring, and understanding. Yeah. There were still the heart-racing, pulse-pounding sensations when she was with Caleb, but it was so much more. He listened. He made her look on the positive side of life. He encouraged her. She had to grab on to this and never let go.
Here is the tree they were going to see. I didn’t get a photo of it at night.
In the fifth book the series moves to East Tennessee to the small town of Pineydale, when one of the secondary characters from the Massachusetts books, Amanda Reynolds, wants to become a singer-songwriter in Nashville. But she takes a slight detour when her car breaks down on the outskirts of Pineydale. Amanda’s story contains no Christmas scenes. We have to go to the final book in the series to find Christmas in A Place to Find Love. You can read an excerpt below.
“Whitney, we’re back in Pineydale.”
Whitney’s eyes fluttered open, and she straightened in her seat. She looked around. “Pineydale? What are we doing here? Did you forget I don’t live here anymore?”
Jeremy turned to face her, one arm resting on the top of the steering wheel. “I brought you here because I have something I want to show you.”
“Come with me.” Jeremy got out of the car and went around to open the door for her.
Whitney followed him as he made his way up the front walk. “How can I see anything when it’s dark?
“Just wait right here.” Jeremy took the steps to the porch two at a time and leaned over. “Watch.”
In an instant the front of his house was flooded with colorful lights. The tree in the yard sparkled with tiny snowflake lights. Lighted candy canes lined the walk. A large star lit the nativity scene on one side of the yard.
“Wow! You’ve already decorated for Christmas.”
Jeremy grinned. “Yeah. I remembered from when I was a kid how much you loved looking at Christmas lights. I wanted to surprise you.”
Whitney raced up the steps and hugged him. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. He’d missed her kisses. He’d missed her bossy attitude. He’d missed her laughter. He didn’t want to live without those things in his life ever again.
When the kiss ended, he held her at arm’s length. “I’ve got one more thing to show you, but it’s in the backyard. Come with me.”
They traipsed through the house to the back door. Jeremy motioned for Whitney to go ahead of him out onto the deck. She turned and looked at him. “More Christmas lights out here?”
“Wait right here and you’ll see.” Jeremy plugged in a cord, and just like the front yard, the backyard became a fairyland of Christmas lights.
“Jeremy, you’ve outdone yourself. When did you have time to do all of this?”
“When I was trying to figure out how to win you back.” Jeremy put an arm around her shoulders. “Janelle knows about us.”
“So does Jimmy. What about the rest of your family?”
Jeremy shook his head. “They don’t know, but Janelle knows because she saw us together over in Johnson City one night. She’s the one who told me I should apologize and grovel in order to win you back.”
“Yeah. Did I grovel enough?”
Whitney laughed. “You didn’t need to grovel, but I like the Christmas lights.”
“Good. I’ve got one more little surprise.” Jeremy flipped one more switch. On the far end of the property that backed up to a wooded area, multicolored lights glowed in the darkness.
“What’s lit up way back there?”
Jeremy grabbed one of her hands. “There’s a creek back here and an old footbridge. I didn’t know it was there until I started decorating and cleared brush away from the creek. So I decided to decorate it, too.”
“Is it safe to walk on?”
“Absolutely. Let’s take a closer look.” Hand in hand, they raced together to the bridge.
“I’d like to see this in the daylight, too.”
“You’ll get to do that.” Jeremy reached into his jacket pocket and fingered the padlock and key that he’d purchased yesterday. “I have something else to show you.”
“No, this.” Jeremy held the padlock in the open palm of his hand and put it under one of the lights on the bridge railing. “See what’s written on it?”
I hope you’ll want to know why Jeremy has the padlock and what is written on it.
Christmas lights are part of both scenes. Do you like to take in Christmas-light displays? What is the best one you’ve seen? I’ll be giving away my Christmas novella, Puppy Love and Mistletoe to one person who leaves a comment. I’ll draw the winner on December 13, 2019 at 9PM MST.
kim hansen says
I live in the downtown area so I would say the displays downtown.
Merrillee Whren says
What downtown area? Lots of big cities have marvelous Christmas displays in the store windows. I’m thinking Chicago and NYC.
Paula Marie says
I love to drive around and see the light displays!
Merrillee Whren says
Paula Marie, when we lived in Illinois, the small town we lived in had a huge drive-thru Christmas display. I’ve also seen another one near Peoria, IL and San Angelo, TX.
Hi Merrillee! Love the pic with the kids enjoying the ducks. Our SW Michigan town is on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Last weekend was Light the Bluff with lighted archways, many lighted figures, and the city’s Christmas Tree. Even the Maid of the Mist our summer fountain is surrounded in lights. Always fun to take a drive through town – no tourists at this time of year.
Merrillee Whren says
Renate, that all sounds wonderful. I love to look at Christmas displays. We have a house in our neighborhood that is all lit up to music.
Laurie Larsen says
I love your colorful covers. I’m excited to attend “Night of a Thousand Candles” at Brookgreen Gardens tomorrow night which starts with a huge tree lighting!
Merrillee Whren says
Laurie, a thousand candles sounds amazing. I remember how cool it was to attend the tree lighting in downtown Chicago a number of years ago.
There’s a street near where my sister lives everyone that lives on decorates for Christmas! They go all out! They even had drinks for the people coming to look, and some had candy to hand out! Lots of people drive over just to see what they’ve done. They have to find a place to park and then walk. One year, I drove to my sisters and then we walked from there to see it. Now, I just see what I can on my street.
Merrillee Whren says
Trudy, I’ve lived in several places where everyone on the street decorates. My older daughter lives in Baltimore, and the folks on 34th Street near her go all out to decorate. They even have a special day when all the lights come on.
That sounds fun, too!! This street goes out for Halloween, too! My sister took her boys there, and at one house, they were grilling hotdogs for the trick-or-treators and their parents, another house gave out cokes, and then candy. Candy at Christmas, too! Their fire department even gets in on Christmas! They drive around in their engine and give out candy from Santa in the back!!
Gina Johnson says
Your Books are so sweet and heartfelt.
Merrillee Whren says
Thanks, Gina! I appreciate your comment.
Lelia (Lucy) Reynolds says
The best light display I have seen was when I lived in WI and the local park decorated the whole park and collected food for the local food pantries for entrance. Thank you for the chance. Merry Christmas 🎄🎁
Merrillee Whren says
Lelia, that sounds like the town where I lived in Illinois. I love the drive thru lights. You don’t have to get out in the cold.
Lila Diller says
My family has a tradition of driving around looking at lights with my in-laws. My FIL curates the best houses from the newspaper, as well as ones he has passed. But sometimes he takes us to a drive-thru place. There are two good ones near us–the Zoo and Tanglewood.
Merrillee Whren says
Lila, that sounds like fun. When our daughter and her family still lived close we went up to Phoenix for a weekend. They have a lights display near Phoenix where you ride on a train through the lights, and they even have real snow (made with a snow machine).
Kim hansen says
Always check out the lights downtown.
We take our five year old grand-girl around to see the various lights around the neighborhood. She gets so excited, especially if they put up those huge blow-up snowmen or Santa or whatnot in the yards. Some people really do up their yards nice!
I’ve been binge reading Christmas books and enjoying them so much. Melody Carlson ones are some of my favorite :-)
Merrillee Whren says
Trixi, the blowup ones look funny lying on the ground when the air isn’t going through them.