Once upon a time, in the town of Mount Christmas, a couple from the big city had recently arrived. They’d come to visit a relative who lived at the local retirement home. Courtney and Lewis were in a great mood as they walked up to the reception desk at the Mount Christmas Motel.
The pair talked excitedly with the clerk as he looked for their reservation. When he handed Lewis the keycard, he advised that the couple write down “D-8” since the room number wasn’t written on the card. Then, he wished them a pleasant stay.
The tourists thanked the clerk and went to park their car in front of their room. Carrying a heavy suitcase, Lewis was just about to slide the keycard through the slot when the door opened to reveal a young woman holding a baby.
“Que faites-vous à ma porte, monsieur?” she asked in French, sounding confused.
“Uh… sorry, I don’t speak French,” Lewis stammered.
“This is our room,” Courtney said slowly and clearly. She pointed to the keycard and then to the number on the door. “Uhm, notre place,” she tried.
The French woman shook her head as she pulled on a pair of boots. Wrapping a blanket around herself and the baby, she stepped outside and closed the door. Using her own magnetic keycard, she unlocked the door without a problem.
The woman closed the door again and looked at Lewis, pointing to the card in his hands. Lewis understood, but when he inserted his keycard, the door wouldn’t budge.
“Ma chambre,” said the young woman, smiling.
“I still don’t understand,” Lewis muttered.
Just then, a bright red bird landed on Courtney’s suitcase. It was Octave, the magical cardinal who watched over Mount Christmas. Since the bird spoke several languages, he offered to translate.
With Octave’s help, the French woman introduced herself as Sandrine. She explained that when she heard a car pull up outside, she thought it was her husband, Laurent, who’d gone to buy milk. This had been their room for the last three days, she added.
Lewis and Courtney confirmed that they’d also been assigned to room B-8. Perhaps the motel had made a mistake and rented the room twice. Leaving the luggage at the door, the group headed to the reception desk to find out what was going on.
“B-8?” the clerk said incredulously after Lewis explained the problem. “Sir, I think you misunderstood. Your room is D-8.”
Embarrassed, the couple apologized to Sandrine, who laughed and said it wasn’t a big deal. They thanked Octave for his help and returned to B-8. Sandrine waved from the door as Lewis and Courtney got back in their car and drove over to the right room.
The next day, the couple headed to the retirement home where Courtney’s grandmother lived. They found her playing cards with another elderly woman, a young man holding a baby and… Sandrine!
Surprised, the French woman greeted the couple and explained to her husband that these were the people she’d met the day before.
“What a coincidence that our grandmothers are friends,” exclaimed Laurent, who spoke English since his grandmother, whom he’d come to visit, grew up in the area.
“Wow, what are the chances?” Courtney shook her head in wonder.
The newcomers joined the group, and they all enjoyed each other’s company so much that they decided to celebrate Christmas together.
By Sarah Beauregard and Johannie Dufour / Translated by Katya Teague
Easy DIY Halloween decorations
Creating a spooky atmosphere in your house at Halloween doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Just a few easy-to-find supplies, a couple of hours and parental supervision (if kids are handling the project) and you’ll have your house Halloween-ready before you can say boo.
Supplies: Black construction paper, pencil, scissors, tape.
Instructions: Make a stencil first — visit firstpalette.com/printable/bats.html for a printable version. Trace the outline of a bat onto the construction paper with the pencil and cut out along the lines. Repeat until you have any many bats as you want. Tape on the walls along a staircase or a hallway. You can add depth by cutting out bats in different sizes.
Supplies: White medium-sized garbage bags, rubber bands, old newspaper, string or yarn, black tape (optional)
Instructions: Ball up the newspaper and stuff it into the end of the bags to make ghost “heads.” Loop the rubber bands around the head to give the body some shape. Use the black tape to make eyes and a mouth if desired. Hang from trees or lampposts with string or yarn.
Floating witch hats
Supplies: Fabric witch hats, clear fishing line, plastic pony beads or bulky wooden beads, strong tape or adhesive to suspend the hats from the ceiling, battery-operated tea lights (optional)
Instructions: Decide where you want your floating hats to hang and how far down, then cut your fishing line accordingly with a bit extra for stringing through the hat. Tie one end of your fishing line around the bead — this will act as an anchor to keep the hat on the fishing line. Thread the other end through a sewing needle and poke through the peak of the hat, then remove the needle and suspend from the ceiling. To use the optional tea lights: Leave an extra fishing line under the anchor and tie securely around the “flame” of the tea light to let it float inside the hat.
U.S. Census Bureau: Celebrating 245 Years of America
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As we celebrate this Independence Day, we reflect on how our Founding Fathers enshrined in our Constitution the importance of statistics as a vital tool for measuring America.
The following facts are possible thanks to responses to U.S. Census Bureau surveys.
Did You Know?
The estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation in July 1776.
Source: Historical Statistics of the United States: 1789-1945
The nation’s population on April 1, 2020.
Source: 2020 Census
The number of signers of the Declaration of Independence.
It is also worth noting that:
John Hancock, a merchant by trade, was the first signer. In 2019, more than 1 million business establishments nationally with paid employees like Hancock were in the retail trade industry.
Source: 2019 Geography Area Series: County Business Patterns, Table CB1900CBP
Benjamin Franklin, who represented Pennsylvania, was the oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence at age 70. Pennsylvania had a resident population of 13,002,700 on April 1, 2020. Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was the youngest signer at age 26. South Carolina had a resident population of 5,118,425 on April 1, 2020
Source: 2020 Census
Counties and census incorporated places that contain the word “Liberty” in the name.
Source: Vintage 2019 Population Estimates
Counties that have “Union” in the name.
Source: Vintage 2019 Population Estimates
The national happy march satisfies the urge to conduct the band
If you are older, you may not have heard it for a while. If you are younger, you may never have heard it.
Either way, on July 4, find The Stars & Stripes Forever and listen. You’ll want to conduct the band with abandon and smash the cymbals.
It’s a giant, jubilant march, with stirring lyrics which, for fun, you can also substitute for a duck song (Be kind to your web-footed friends…).
John Philip Sousa — Marine, musician, and bandleader — was returning to the United States from a vacation in Italy in 1896. It was Christmas Day and from the deck of an ocean liner, he heard the march in his head.
“Suddenly, I began to sense the rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain,” Sousa wrote in his autobiography Marching Along, “It kept on ceaselessly playing … the imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody.
“I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached the shore I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed,” he wrote.
The song repeats distinct melodies in sections, called strains, using different instruments to repeat and lead. So the song begins with a hearty introduction by the horns with great smashing beats on drums, followed by the melody. Woodwinds repeat, and later, the famous response of the piccolos. The trombones thunder in with a bold counter melody. Then, the entire band plays together — and, by then, we’re all marching.
While it is the official national march of the United States, the tune has also been adopted by soccer fans in the UK, sung as ‘Here We Go,’ once called a working-class march. Cartoon character Popeye fought bad guys to the song. Comedians invented the duck lyrics. The Grateful Dead played it to retire.
One strange Stars & Stripes Forever fact: Circuses in the early 20th century loved to fire up the crowd with march music, but they never played The Stars & Stripes Forever. This tune was a secret signal, only played when a life-threatening disaster was imminent. When they heard it, emergency personnel would try to quietly disperse the crowd, not always successfully.
Franklin’s quip reveals the high stakes of independence
It was a blast heard around the world, a declaration of treason as much as independence by a handful of colonists living on the other side of the Atlantic from the most powerful country in the world.
Congress in America voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. A month later, on August 2, they signed the document. Eight days after that, the English King had a copy.
Following the natural rights theory of John Locke, the document proclaimed the equality of ‘all men’ and their ‘unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ Thomas Jefferson, helped by others, wrote that governments were established to secure these rights; when they failed to do so, the people could abolish them.
That last bit was a nice thought, but King George III would disagree.
And so, at the signing of the Declaration, John Hancock worried that some would lose heart and their fire for independence would wane. He said, “We must all hang together.”
Always the sharp wit, Benjamin Franklin smiled and said, “Or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”
The love between a father and his child
Across the country, families will be celebrating Father’s Day on June 20th this year. This is the day when you can tell your dad how much you love him. It’s also a great time to show him how grateful you are for everything he has done for you.
He taught you how to ride a bike. He helped you with your homework and encouraged you to work hard and succeed. He listened when you were going through tough times and found words of comfort. He guided you and showed you the “right path.” He shared his positive values. He showed his love for you in a million ways. Now is the time to let him know that you appreciate and love him.
If he has given you that much, it is because he, too, benefitted enormously from the love that ties him to you. Contact with his children provides a father with intense happiness and incomparable satisfaction. He also becomes a better person thanks to this special contact. It makes him more aware of his emotions, and he learns how to express his feelings. He makes a connection with the world of children that helps him stay young.
This relationship of mutual benefits serves to bring a father and his children closer. This is a link that will never be broken. Regardless of the age of your father, show him all the tenderness that you feel for him and celebrate Father’s Day with love and happiness.
How to celebrate Dad with a special meal
This year for Father’s Day, celebrate your dad by offering him a meal he’ll savor and enjoy. Here are a few different ways you can spoil him at suppertime.
• Five-course dinner. Offer Dad a whole gastronomical experience starting with an amuse-bouche followed by an appetizer. After, serve up a delicious main course. Then, set out a cheese plate before ending with his favorite dessert.
• Barbecue. If the weather’s nice, take advantage of it by cooking outside on the grill. Choose a dish that suits Dad’s tastes and matches your culinary talents, whether it’s burgers, surf, and turf, perfectly seasoned ribs, or a variety of skewers.
• Catered affair. Opt for a meal you don’t have to cook by hiring a local catering company. This is also a great option if you can’t see your father in person. You can select a supper he likes and have it delivered to his home.
• Restaurant. Dining out is a simple way to celebrate the occasion. In addition to their regular fare, many restaurants create special Father’s Day menus. If you prefer to eat at home, order a meal for pickup or delivery.
To serve Dad a meal he’ll remember, there’s no shortage of options. Just be sure to plan ahead, so you can be certain he’ll have all his favorites.