Twenty-four years ago my father, Walt Johnson, passed away on December 10th. His first name might sound familiar—I borrowed it for one of my lead characters in the Haunting Danielle series.
Our family (my husband and two small children) moved to Lake Havasu (where I had lived as a teenager) in 1991, to help my parents run Havasu Palms. I wrote about that experience in Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances, and again in Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover.
At the time, my father had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and he would pass away about a year after we moved to Havasu Palms. The Story of the Christmas Village began shortly before Dad’s last Christmas, in 1991.
Scott, our oldest, was twelve that year, and our youngest, Elizabeth, was nine. It was a few weeks before Christmas, and I needed to give them something to do, so I handed them a stack of index cards, scissors, tape, and colored markers, and told them to make a village. And they did. They created an imaginative Christmas village, complete with a windmill, bridge, and houses with lights on the eves and cozy fireplaces inside the homes.
My mother was quite impressed with her grandchildren’s accomplishment, and proudly arranged the village around her Christmas tree. When Christmas was over, she carefully packed the village away in a large cardboard box.
Time passed. The years rolled by. Dad was gone, we lost Havasu Palms, and we were now living across the lake in Lake Havasu City.
Mom was visiting my sister when Don and I decided to empty the storage unit we had been renting. One of the boxes we found there contained the Christmas village. Mom had given me strict instructions to take care in handling her precious village.
Unfortunately, the storage box was huge, and we had nowhere to keep it. I came up with an idea—photograph the village and write a story about it, which I would then self-publish as a Christmas gift for Mom.
I never intended for the book to be anything other than a gift for Mom. I never intended to offer it to the public. But then my sister happened.
Before my sister Lynn retired a couple of years ago, she was an elementary school teacher—over the years teaching first, second, and kindergarten classes. That year I gave Mom the book, I also gave a copy to my sister. Lynn did something with the book that I never expected. She read it to her class every year before Christmas, and her students loved it! After reading the book with the class, she would have them make their own village with index cards.
Lynn urged me to publish the book. Actually, she wanted me to package it with index cards and markers. I met her half way, and self-published the book, first through Lulu and then with Amazon.
It’s never been a big seller. Some who’ve read it, love it—and get what it’s about. After reading the book with their young children some readers get out the index cards and markers, and the real fun begins. Of course, there are some who pick up the book and scowl, wondering why I bothered publishing an obviously personal story that only my family could enjoy.
But of course…not every book appeals to every reader. Not even The Story of the Christmas Village.