Home for Christmas

I love Christmas Day. But I particularly loved it when my children were young.

Up early, they’d check to make sure Santa had eaten his cookies and the reindeer had gnawed adequately at their carrots, before ripping open gifts to discover new toys and playthings.

Next was the once-a-year breakfast of cream cheese bread. Making the bread is a two-day process. But I happily prepare it, then and now, because the smell and taste equals Christmas for my daughter.

Then would come the best part. I went home for Christmas.

My husband would pack up the car, which we called the Santa Sleigh for this particular jaunt, and we would all pile in to drive to Asheboro—where my Christmas would begin. Where my parents, called Nana and Dahdah by my children, waited for us and I could revert to being a child along with my two children. Where mystery presents waited for all of us under the Christmas tree. Where my mother had spent two days baking an Italian Cream Cake, because the smell and taste of that equaled Christmas for me.

I still love Christmas. But my parents are no longer alive, and strangers live in their home. I can’t go home for Christmas anymore.

Here in the Middle

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Sounds of Love and Life by Kim Love Stump

I’m hardly out of the driveway when my phone rings. It’s my father, I recognize the ringtone.

“Hey, Honey,” my dad says.

“Hey, Daddy, I’m sorry I missed your call earlier.”

“What did I call for?”

“I don’t know, you didn’t leave a message,” I say in response.

“Oh… right. I couldn’t. Your phone said your mailbox was full.”

“Really? It shouldn’t be. But thanks; I’ll check it right now. Love you, see you Thursday.”

“Ok. Bye. Love you. See you Thursday.”

Sigh. I hang up, frustrated. I still don’t know why my father called earlier in the day, and I’m confused over why my new phone’s voicemail would be full already. I didn’t realize all the messages from my old phone would transfer over. In anticipation of losing them and in a fit of extreme sentimentality, I had transferred a bunch of saved voice messages that I couldn’t part with to a CD, a permanent record of my family’s and friends’ voices.

As I drive out of the neighborhood, I speed dial my voice inbox and delete the two new hang up calls someone, presumably my dad, has left there. The automated voice then says I have thirty-eight saved messages. The thirty-eight I had so carefully saved.

“Hey momma – it’s me! I just wanted to call and say ‘thank you’. Thank you for all you do. I could not possibly do it without you! You are the best! I love you!” my daughter’s then-high-school-senior voice chirps in my ear. I smile and press 9 to save the message, again, rationalizing I can keep a few messages from my family on this new phone to have near me.

I have a good idea of what will follow. Next will be a voice message from my dear friend Ruth E., a smile in her voice telling me she’s booked a dinner reservation for my husband and me in her now hometown of Raleigh. I decide to delete that one, confident a CD holding all thirty-eight messages is safely stored back at the house in my office.

Next Betsy, my best friend here in Charlotte, will ask me via the saved voice recording where I am. The Y or Laughing Buddha is her guess. It was a good guess at the time she left the message, but I haven’t been to Laughing Buddha in probably three years. That’s how old some of these messages are. I delete this one, too.

The saved voices continue, “Hey Mom,” my then-junior-in-high-school son rumbles in my ear. “I saw you called, wanted to say hi, I won’t be here later tonight – I’m going to a party. Oh, and your friend, Sherry? Sherry Hasting, or something like that, called and asked me to go to church? Anyway I don’t know who that is. Talk to you later. I love you.” Even three years later I feel thankful for Shereé’s offer to take my reticent son to church when she was visiting Chattanooga and he was in boarding school at McCallie. I can’t bring myself to delete the message. I save it, rationalizing I can keep a few messages from my husband and children to have with me.

“Hey, Babe, this is Mom. I’m on my way to get my hair done. If I’m not home when you get there, I’ll be back around 12. I love you.” I carefully listen to the instructions to press 7 to erase and 9 to save to make absolutely sure I don’t erase my dead mother’s voice. Can she possibly be dead, when I’ve just heard her sweet voice talk to me? I think as I… [This essay is copyrighted until 2017 for sole use of Here in the Middle. The book is now available on Amazon.]


ICU and Captain Kirk

I don’t believe in my family being in the hospital alone.

What that meant in the spring of 2011, was that Presbyterian Matthews Intensive Care Unit room number four became my home for seventeen days and nights. I’m an only child and my dad was a widower.

During the days, I watched every bag that was hung, answered every question that was asked, and offered every observation that I made to the doctors—of whom there were many. For seventeen nights I dozed on the six-foot long green vinyl bench in Daddy’s room. Nurses, whom I knew by name and personality and kindnesses, came and went as I read in a hospital chair or snoozed on my makeshift bed.

I learned things I didn’t know. Things like my dad’s blood type, that I could trust my friends to keep me in Starbucks and lunches, and that dead bodies are accompanied by a uniformed policeman to the morgue.

The sounds within the walls of our ICU room varied. The IV machines constantly dripped, clicked, hummed, and eventually set off an alarm as the bags they controlled reached empty. The ventilator kept a constant meditative rhythm, doing the work of breathing for my father. The sound of a hospital bed bumping out of its room and rolling past our door could mean one of several things. When escorted by family voices it meant the patient was improved and moving to the step down unit, when attended by hurried feet and tight voices it meant tests had been ordered STAT—meaning immediately—and when accompanied by joking nurses and a transport employee it was business as usual on an improving patient.

Frequently seated just outside the wall of windows in our room, was my favorite doctor, the intensivist, who was the ultimate authority in coordinating the care of the ICU patients. He often sang as he processed the night’s happenings—seated front and center at the ICU’s command center. It reminded me of Star Trek and Captain Kirk.

But unlike Star Trek, the dangers the voyagers of the ICU faced were real. And despite the captain’s best efforts, not everyone survived.

1 WFU Senior + 1 First Year Babcock Student = 35 Years and Counting

In the early 80s, Friday afternoon happy hour at Simo’s was an institution. And on Friday, February 13th, 1981 I was there as usual with some friends.

Across the way I recognized a Babcock student I knew. I worked my way across the room to say hi. He introduced me to a large circle of guys and when he got to a cute blond with blue eyes I perked up. He’s cute, I thought. I could date him!

I filed his name away and drifted back to my undergrad crowd. Later that night was a school-wide Valentine’s concert that I attended with some girlfriends. When we arrived, who should be on stage hanging out with the band, Janice, but the blue-eyed guy from Simo’s. Cute and fun! I could definitely date him! I thought. But unfortunately, we didn’t run into each other that night.

Wednesday night of the next week found me dancing away at another institution of WFU life in the 80s, TOG. Up walked the cute guy.

“Hello, Kim Love,” he said. Just from the tone of his voice I could tell he had not remembered my name from Friday’s introduction. But I took comfort in the fact that he was at least interested enough to ask someone then come over and speak.

“Hello, Tim Stump,” I replied. I, the world’s worst name rememberer ever, had not forgotten anything about him at all.

We closed TOG down that night — slow dancing to the always last song in those days, Goodnight, My Love.

Our first official date followed on Saturday, February 28th and our wedding sixteen months later on June 5, 1982.

Tim’s still cute and fun (at least to me!) and after 35 years we often say we’re still on our first date – because it feels that way!

Thanks for the opportunity to share!!

All the best,


Mom’s Cup

Featured in Charlotte Observer

By: Andrea Weigl

Kim Love Stump, 55, of Charlotte, wrote about the measuring cup that belonged to her mother, Betty Keeling Love.

The measuring cup was a first anniversary present from my father to my mother. The only measuring cup of my childhood, it was constantly in use. I learned to cook using its lined measurements. For 50 years, it sat on the counter in my mother’s kitchen. When she died, it remained in place, greeting my father each morning. When he died, I locked their door and left everything of monetary value. I would deal with those things later. But the cup? It came home with me that very day. It now sits on my kitchen counter, offering a full cup of sweet memories.

Read full article here.

Photo by: T. Ortega Gaines, Charlotte Observer