Merry Christmas From Marion Station - 2013

Merry Christmas from Marion Station, that little hamlet on Maryland’s Eastern Shore set between Westover and Crisfield that was named for a little girl whose father donated land for a railroad station. When local officials asked him what he wanted to name the station he said, “Marion after my daughter.”  A town grew up around that train station, a town that was an important agricultural shipping hub, particularly for strawberries.  Strawberry barons built ornate Victorian homes flanking the lane across from the station.   The locals called it “Millionaire’s Row.”  It’s the same lane Dan and I live on today some hundred years after the boom when all that wealth was created, though it’s a bit more humble in its surroundings these days.  The spirits of those who built Marion Station still creep into this old landscape, and little Marion Horsey’s name lives on through all of us who call Marion Station home.  There’s a palpable connection to the past here.  And somehow, we sense that we belong in this particular place.

2013 was a year of beginnings for us … and a few sad endings.  We lost our Uncle Sonny (Lou Granados) last summer.  We remember him for hosting our Granados clan every Easter when we were kids, and for preserving much of the Granados heritage so that we 500+ living Granados descendants of Ramon and Maria Concepcion could feel that connection with our ancestors.  Every time I made my way down to Ocean City to see Uncle Sonny he’d have a family story to share.  I’ll miss those visits.  While it’s a sad ending for the Granados’, those stories and family memories he left us will help keep us connected.  

As one life left us, a new life arrived.  This year we welcomed grandchild #9 – Catalina Morgan who has the face of an angel.  She belongs to Al and Ruthie who live in Georgia.  Dan and I haven’t met her yet but we’re excited that she’ll be visiting this Christmas with her big sister, Bailea.  Our eldest grandchild, Ben is graduating high school and has decided to serve his country in the US Army. We’re so proud of the young man he’s become. His 11-year old brother Connor spent a week with us and made us remember how fun eleven year olds are.  Like most his age, Connor thinks deeply about things, has a lot of wisdom and can have fun without feeling awkward about it.  He hasn’t quite reached that age where he think most adults are stupid.  He’s young enough to find the wonder in flying a kite old enough to do it with style and skill.   

Last summer our 9-year-old twin granddaughters Mia and Grace came to stay with us while Amber (their mother) interned at the Crisfield Pharmacy.   We did the beach (often), we rode bikes through Janes Island, flew kites at the Inlet, went to the Boardwalk, rode all the rides at Jolly Roger, did Theater Camp, toured St. Michaels, Oxford, Cambridge, and almost all of the Queen Anne’s County nature trails.  We rode the Lewes Ferry to Cape May and the twins got a tour of the Bridge and visit with the captain (thanks Shari).  We went to the Sea Glass Festival, a ghost tour in Berlin, a cemetery walk in Crisfield, fishing with Grandpa, ice cream in Chincoteague, and snowballs and fireworks in Crisfield. We watched all the Harry Potter movies and created enough artwork to fill a gallery.   

 I saw the twins last month and asked them, “What was your favorite thing of all that we did last summer?”  I recounted much of what I mentioned above to refresh their memories.  Mia said her favorite thing was coming into my office in the morning and talking when it was just the two of us.  Grace said, “My favorite thing was the walks we took at night when it was dark and we could see the stars.”  Go figure. All that entertainment and what they liked best was staying at home.  This made me realize that the entertainment was really for me, trying to squeeze every bit of fun out of our time together… to make important memories.  Silly me.  I was missing that the strongest part of lifelong memories is the people you spend it with, not so much the place you visited or the things you did.  The memories of being with people who teach us about ourselves are the stuff that life is made of. And I learned a lot about me this summer. It was one of the best summers of my life.  

Primrose's sweet little face.

 And the grandchildren keep coming.  We expect grandchild #10 to arrive in a few weeks.  Lara and David are having a baby girl next month.  Her name is Primrose.  She will be sleeping in her mother’s crib, wearing her mother’s baby clothes and hugging the teddy bear Lara used to hold.  Primrose’s arrival is much anticipated and her 3-year-old big brother Tristan (aka Muffin Man) is getting excited about the arrival.  Lara dug out her old Cabbage Patch doll from our attic and gave it to Tristan so he could have a baby too.  He feeds it, puts it to bed, wheels it around in his little shopping cart and occasionally spanks it for being bad.  Then hugs it, kisses it and says, “Awww, don’t cwy baby.  It’s okay.”  That kid should have an agent. Though Tristan looks like his daddy he has his mother’s laugh.  Could it really be that long ago that I was hearing her little laugh?  My love lived inside that little girl’s laughter. Now I see it coming around again only now it’s her love inside Tristan’s laughter …. and time circles around us.

All our grown kids are doing well though we don’t see them as often as we’d like. We keep in touch weekly (sometimes daily) via Facebook, texting and Facetime. 

This year I launched a series of ghost walks in Eastern Shore towns.  We named the series Chesapeake Ghost Walks, and due to the current popularity of ghost walks, they were very successful. I led a total of 29 tours in 2013 through Easton, Cambridge, St. Michaels, Denton, Crisfield, Princess Anne, Pocomoke City, Snow Hill, Berlin and Ocean City.  All but three sold out.  In September I led a tour through the northern region of Ireland and got some great press coverage, one media outlet stating that our Thin Places –Discover the North tour was the most comprehensive commercial tour of Northern Ireland that anyone knew about.  Both of these successes gave Dan and I the courage to officially start a tour company - Travel Hag Tours (Dan wishes the name was different). Through the company we’ll run Chesapeake Ghost Walks, tours of Ireland and eventually local group tours targeted at women who want to travel with girlfriends.   Dan is doing all the behind the scenes research and admin work while I craft the itineraries and develop the products.  So far, so good.

One of our friends asked me why I keep going back to Ireland. Why not Scotland, Wales, France?  I didn’t have an answer.  Then I started to think … “Am I in a rut?”  But on day 3 of our Ireland tour this year we visited Glencolmcille on the Slieve League Peninsula in County Donegal.  As my tour group scattered, exploring the glen, the graves and the old stones, I walked around  to the back of St. Columba’s Church and looked out across that glen. In one single moment I knew why I kept returning to Ireland.  In some strange way, I ‘m connected to that land. There’s magic in the landscape. It transforms me.  It transforms Dan.  Why go somewhere else? 

The Dark Hedges - County Antrim

The picture on the front of our card this year was taken last year in Northern Ireland.  It’s known as the Dark Hedges, and is Northern Ireland’s most photographed spot.  This lane leading to an old County Antrim plantation is lined with beech trees that were planted in the 1750s.  They’ve now grown to create the ethereal canopy of silver-limbed branches.  The Dark Hedges was the setting showing the Kingsroad to Winterfell in the Game of Thrones series.  It captures that “sense of the otherworld”  - the thin places where the two worlds mingle in the magical Irish landscape.  The picture of Dan and me on the inside of the card was taken on our anniversary at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.   This year we’re running two tours to Ireland, one in May – Discover the North repeating much of the 2013 tour but with an overnight stay on Tory Island, and a 2nd tour in September – Castles, Saints and Druids where we’ll visit 7 castles (including an overnight visit at Barberstown Castle), 10 monastic settlements and 8 megalithic sites.  We’d love for you to join us.  You can see the complete itinerary at  <---  shameless plug.

An Irish friend told me that he missed the days when Christmas was celebrated with only food, friends and the Christmas candle in the window.  The current commercialism clutters his Christmas experience.  I told him I loved the glitz, the lights, the trees, the carols, the decorations, the cards, the parties --- and yes, the presents.  Sure some people make Christmas all about things but those folks would have difficulty with any kind of Christmas because their hearts empty.  But for me the lights and decorations create an anticipation of something great to come, they frame a meaningful experience. And there’s something about seeing a wrapped gift with your name on it.  What’s more personal than your name, handwritten on a tag attached to a gift someone chose for you – a gift they wrapped in pretty paper to make it a surprise? Exchanging gifts gives us joy.  Presents are the physical manifestation of love, like a wedding ring or a sliver cup for a new baby or new bike for 7 year old.  

The Christmas glitz provides a backdrop for an experience of remembering  - remembering our blessings, remembering that there is value in this crazy life as long as we cling to love, remembering that there’s always hope no matter how bad things seem, remembering a little boy who was born away from home to frightened young parents who had to run for their lives shortly after his birth, who didn’t even have a shirt to clothe him in – the same little boy who grew up and told the world to welcome the stranger, include the marginalized, liberate the oppressed, feed the hungry, comfort those who mourn, to stop judging and start loving.

Christmas is the road we follow back home every year. It’s the place we stop to remember the good things when time circles around us. Christmas is about connection and knowing every good thing in life comes through connection. It's knowing that nothing is ever accomplished or gained without being connected to others. No one rises from the ashes of despair without relying on a friend.  It’s what we hunger for – connection to our ancestors, to the land, to those we love, to nature, to our Creator.  And sadly it’s a time of despair for those who can’t grab onto anything because their disconnection is magnified by a world of people seemingly fixated on remembering everything they ever loved. 

Here’s to being connected to you, our friends and family.  Though we many not see you often, you matter to us.  Nothing is ever lost to the heart, which is why we can pick up where we left off the next time we’re together and know our affection for each other has not changed even though our hair continues to grey and our faces have a few more lines.  May your new year be blessed with connections that fill your life with joy and love and laughter.   

May your road be easy, may you find new friends and may all your Christmas wishes come true.   

May God bless you and those you love. 

Dan and Mindie Burgoyne
Marion Station, MD
December 19, 2013

Happy Christmas, Hanukkah and Festivus for the Rest of Us
The Santa Diaries - A Private Look at Christmas in St. Michaels
5 Tips for Writing the Perfect Christmas Letter
An Eastern Shore Solstice - Darkness is Ebbing
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  1. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas! Ylee

    1. You are welcome, Ylee Kyoti. May your Christmas be magical.

  2. Katie Bridget7:37 PM

    I love the Northwest of Ireland. Did you happen to stop at Kathleen Meehan 's cottage on your way up to Slieve League? Kathleen knits the most beautiful Aran sweaters, she is most gracious in welcoming guests into her home, the kettle is always on! I too am drawn back to is in the DNA! Best wishes on your new adventures!

    1. Katie, I'm not familiar with Kathleen Meehan's cottage but I'll look her up next time I do the North. Thanks for the suggestion and for taking the time to read the post. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  3. Chincoteague!!! Can NOT believe you live near there. Unbelievable and unforgettable memory of canoeing there and fishing for small mouth bass.But NOT knowing of the ponies, and whoa...there they were. And then, NOT knowing of the migration of the monarch butterflies, and whoa...there they were. Quite magical, as I also caught my fill of small mouth.

    1. Yes, Leslie. Chincoteague is magical. I go there all the time in the summer - especially with the grandchildren. I never tire of seeing the ponies and I am always awestruck. To think that they are descendants of wild ponies from long ago ... still there on that old island. Glad you found it the same. Best to you and yours.

  4. Hey there, I stumbled upon your blog looking for advice on writing Christmas letters (great suggestions, btw.) Then I noticed you live on the Eastern Shore. My in-laws live in Onancock and my husband grew up in Salisbury. (We live in Seattle) Small world.

    1. It is a small world indeed, Kali. Onancock is such a gorgeous little town. It seems people who grew up here and move away always want to come back. I wonder if your husband feels that pull. Seattle is a very different landscape but certainly beautiful in its own right. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Stay in touch.

  5. Anonymous9:11 PM

    thanks for inspering way your wrote your letter, it gives me hope to write mine !