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This Week's Issue: Isabel discovers that sometimes simple pleasures create the happiest memories of all. Some of life's greatest gifts don't come in fancy wrappings. This year, Santa Claus brings Isabel Cinders, and she just couldn't be happier. Cinders?!!Semantics, folks, merely semantics!

A White Christmas For All (Part III)

Christmas Day dawned to both joy and loss. It turns out that Dr. Stubbs would not have to euthanize Daisy after all, because she died peacefully in her sleep -- curled up on a large wool blanket in Isabel's small sitting room. Not wishing to cast a pall on the new day, Dr. Stubbs had already moved Daisy and placed her in his pickup truck before most of us had awakened to the smell of brewing coffee. No one seemed to know exactly what to say, but later Lisa put it best when she lifted her mug of coffee and proposed a short toast; "To a good friend and gentle soul who has left us today. She has left behind a tiny black legacy of joy. To Daisy!"

The storm had ended just before dawn, leaving behind well over a foot of snow which had drifted to a depth of over two feet on the porch and in the yard. Dr. Stubbs had not only dug a path to his truck, but he had been industrious enough to shovel a route to the wood supply that had been stacked on the porch adjacent to the portico. Louella was busy cutting out some of her marvelous cranberry scones, and the splendid aroma of Iabel's specially blended coffee was beginning to fill the Inn.

Just after 9 a.m., Micah and Hank called Isabel, about ten minutes apart, to see if we were all right, and to ask if there was anything we needed. Isabel deduced that the Post Office was suspending Christmas Day deliveries and thanked them for their concern. Suspecting that neither Micah nor Hank might have a place to go for dinner, Isabel immediately invited them to join us for the Christmas meal. Although they both declined Isabel's spontaneous invitation to dinner, she also invited them to stop by for some coffee and scones if they were going to be out and about this morning.

A little later in the morning I discovered Isabel sitting in one of the leather chairs near the fireplace feeding the puppy. The little guy was enjoying every moment and was sucking eagerly on the nipple of a plastic baby bottle that Louella had retrieved from the Inn's ''lost and found.' I could tell from the look on Isabel's face that she was hooked. "I think that we should call this little fellow 'Cinders,' because he's pitch black and all." I could tell by just looking at Cinders that he was mostly a Lab; with probably a Plott Hound in his ancestry somewhere, based on his tan eyebrows and the tan blaze on his tiny chest. I was definitely not sure if there was room for another dog here at Faded Glory, but the way Isabel was carrying on with the little guy, my continued singular canine status at the Inn was not looking good. Soon, there was no doubt in my mind that having named him, Isabel was open to adopting the new puppy.

By 11 a.m. we could hear the sound of snow plows scraping the highway below us, and at around noon Ed Hightower arrived, having driven down from his home in Hiawassee.

The outside temperature was still at sixteeen degrees, and the wind was gusty but somewhat diminished. The snow was by no means melting, but the DOT, county plows, and sanders had obviously gotten the 'upper hand' on snow control during the night.

While Ed Hightower and Dr. Stubbs busied themselves rejuvenating the wood fire in the common area, Isabel, Louella, Lisa and Pauline peeled, diced and sauteed the delicacies that would later become Christmas dinner at Faded Glory. Anybody want to guess where I was during these precious hours? Yep, I was in the kitchen making sure that the floor remained untainted by scraps and crumbs! Just doing my job, folks; just doing my job!

Even though Dr. Stubbs would have easily been able to return to his home in his Dodge 4 X 4, Isabel asked him and Lisa Tipton to stay on for Christmas dinner, and they both gladly accepted. Isabel paused for a moment to wonder just what Ben Stubbs and Lisa Tipton would have done about Christmas dinner had Daisy not gone missing. Isabel smiled, chalked it up to 'Kismet,' and she joyfully informed Louella that she should plan for two additional guests at our Christmas Day table. Since the stuffed turkey already roasting in the oven was huge, our two additional guests had little or no impact on the day's meal preparations.

At 1 p.m., Isabel responded eagerly to the yipping of the puppy and hauled him out of his box to give him his bottle. Little Cinders was both appreciative and adorable, and he snuggled into Isabel's lap like a long-lost waif. I could see that he was stealing her heart. I was torn between watching the feeding or returning to the kitchen area to forage for scraps. My penchant for 'instant gratification' won the battle, and I cut my visit to the sitting room short and headed back to Louella's kitchen. "Make hay while the sun shines," I always say. It works for me!

Dinner was everything I had hoped it would be -- and more. I think that Dr. Stubbs must be getting nearsighted because he managed to drop more food onto the floor than many of the toddlers I have seen over the years. I was literally chowing down under that tablecloth for well over an hour, and 'food eyes' were never necessary. So much food, and so little time! Now I know where "doggie bags" comes from. I made sure to get out of there before Dr. Stubbs got his hands on a cup of hot coffee, however!

Isabel didn't seem to want the dinner to end. She was truly caught up in the moment. The conversation was spirited, the food was excellent, the guests were well matched, and, as Isabel later confided to Louella, "I can't remember a happier Christmas gathering." I'm not sure, but I think this was the first Christmas at Faded Glory that didn't revolve around Christmas gifts. As far as I know, this wasn't intentional, but unless you classify Isabel's new puppy, Cinders, as a gift, Christmas at Faded Glory this year was defined by joy. love, caring, and good food.

The Inn is warm and cozy, the last of our Christmas guests have gone, I can hear the steady roar of Louella's commercial dishwasher coming from the kitchen, and Louella is snoring in front of the fireplace with her mouth wide open.

A few minutes ago, I saw Isabel on her hands and knees, down on the rug in the common area, playing with Cinders and laughing like a little girl. Somehow, I think that Isabel has rediscovered her inner child. Isabel won't be reading Charles Dickens this year!

Merry Christmas everyone from all of us at Faded Glory Farm!

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