Category Archives: Family

Holiday memories

OrnamentsI never gave it much thought growing up. Every year just after Thanksgiving mother would start dragging boxes down from the attic marked “Christmas.”

Inside these cardboard cubes was her collection of Christmas lights, decorations, and other paraphernalia associated with turning the average picket-fence home into a holiday wonderland. Or at least that’s how it looked from the eyes of a child.

To talk about ornaments you first have to talk about the tree. In the Mills household we always had a tree.

Aluminum TreeI don’t know if you remember those aluminum foil trees with the rotating wheel of multi-colored lights. We had one of those for many years. I think it was mainly because it was so easy to put up and take down. Mother was known to use every short-cut at her disposal where managing the house was concerned. But come Christmas she went all out in spite of the work involved

In later years I claimed squatter rights to the rotating color wheel. It found its way into my bedroom as a compliment to the blacklight and Jimi Hendrix posters. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I’m pretty confident we retired the silver spruce when mother upgraded to the new and improved artificial tree. No muss, no fuss, no pine needles to clean up. We had arrived.

Ceramic tree

I don’t exactly know when but somewhere along the way mother picked up doing ceramics as a hobby. I know before it was all said and done, and she moved on to her next hobby, she had made enough Christmas trees and candy dishes to decorate The White House and half of congress.

She had these little ceramic Christmas villages that would take up table tops, window sills, and mantel space all over the house.

It makes me wonder today what happened to all that stuff. I’d put out a little Christmas village of my own but this little spotty dog would have it in the backyard before breakfast. We can’t have anything nice.


Meet the Dennings

Sometimes — every now and then, you stumble across the neatest people on the internet.

Meet the Dennings.

What an incredible story. I don’t want to tell it for them. To see what they are about click the photo and it will take you to their site.

What I will tell you is what their story touched in me. I don’t think my childhood is that much different from many others in my generation. A father who worked all the time and gone a lot, a mother somewhat out of touch with reality (although she would never say that.) I was a strong willed child carving a framework of rebellion from an early age. I guess what I am getting at is I never had a sense of family growing up. My brother and sister were much older than me so they were gone before I ever started to school.

In many ways I was taught to be independent. I was shipped off to military school at an early age so I learned the advantage of a good geographical cure. “If you can’t solve it, move it.”

Anyway, reading this family’s experience I think back to the family stuff I missed in my childhood for various reasons. And then carrying those difficulties of connecting with family into adulthood and how I interacted with my children. It’s hard to break that cycle.

So when I read their story and I began to think about the courage, the zest for life and adventure these children will develop in their journeys, it touched me in hidden places.

Let me know what it touched in you.

Meet the Denning family at:

Every Picture Tells a Story

Occasionally, I will pull out an old photo album, dig out a picture and tell you what it means to me. Maybe along the way you will learn something about the Prodigal Scribe that you didn’t know.

Like this one for example. This picture was taken in 1954, the year of my birth. I would spend a large part of my childhood in this house. To quote lyrics from one of my favorite songwriters, “Some of it’s magic and some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.” There are relatively few memories of those years spent living here.  I’m the youngest of five children born to Tom and Maxine Mills.

By the time they moved into this house, just two blocks off the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle beach, SC, they already experienced tragedy parents should never have to know. As they were bringing a new baby into the world – me – they were dealing with another young son fighting a losing battle with leukemia.  Years before, they lost another son in a tragic accident. I would not know or come to understand until many years later how those unconnected deaths would affect me.

I grew up an only child with a brother and sister.  By the time I started school, they were gone, one to the altar, the other to the army. I don’t want to toss around any blame for the things that went on in this house when I was growing up. I was a strong willed child and for various reasons my parents didn’t have a clue how to parent. I can look back today through the eyes of an adult and can see things I was not able to see then. I couldn’t see how damaged my mother was from the loss of two sons. I couldn’t see a father suffering the same loss and dealing with it the only way he knew how, by throwing himself into his work, his friends, and the jug. With clarity of sober eyes I can see the places I went wrong when I hit my early teens and rebellion dogged my every step. I’m not blaming them for the way things unfolded. I look at it today like everything happens for a reason, and in spite of  our mutual mistakes, I think I turned out okay.

By the time I hit my early teens, my parents felt that the influence of the beach was the root of my problem.  They sold this house and we moved to Alabama. I was not a happy camper and our relationship worsened – my fault, not theirs.  It was what it was. I didn’t stay in Alabama long, deciding that I was old enough to take care of myself. I was wrong.

This is that same house courtesy of Google Street View as it stands today. At times through my life I have thought how different things might have been if this had happened this way or that had happened that way. I don’t do that anymore. I believe one of the hardest things anyone does in life is to grow up. I was in my thirties before I started.

But that’s another story…


Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
~Robert Fulghum