December touches our hills lightly with a cold hand, freezing over the water puddles and hanging icicles on the rock cliffs. Although the sun is shining from a clear, blue sky today, it is evident that colder weather is on the way. Chilly winds invade our hills and winter is lulling the land to sleep. The hills are covered with a brown blanket of leaves and will soon add a counterpane of white. It is a resting time after a season of furious growth — a well-deserved slumber until spring rouses the land once again.
December, month of joy and glad tidings, is waiting to usher in snowflakes and jingle bells. The child in all of us feels an excited thrill at the changing of the seasons. I have a letter that my Grandpa Hooge wrote to Mom back in December 1942 that begins with the opening line, “This is Christmas month!” ‘Tis the season to crack a bowl of black walnuts, dig out the favorite candy and cookie recipes, and indulge the family with some luscious goodies. Sometimes I wish I weighed less than a hundred pounds so that I could have the pleasure of eating to my heart’s content. I am afraid that is not the case.
I can feel a streak of sympathy for one of my grandsons. He has always been a little chunky and came home from school in a furious mood. His mother questioned, “What on earth is wrong with you?” He gritted the words out between clenched teeth, “Someone called me the ‘F’ word!” (He was only six at the time.) Scandalized, his mother screeched, “Spell it for me!” He whispered, “F-A-T!” I know the feeling. Christmas may be for children, but we older folks are tempted by the alluring display of holiday treats. I have never understood why our popular women’s magazines have an article on one page titled, “I lost 15 pounds in two weeks” and on the opposite page a delectable picture and recipe for “Chocolate Toffee Marshmallow Sour Cream Cheesecake.” It’s not compatible.
I remember drooling in the supermarket over the pecan and chocolate chip display and mentally whipping up a batch of candy. I noticed a strange man watching me curiously. “I’ve gained five pounds just smelling this stuff,” I explained sorrowfully. “I know,” he sympathized. “I’ll tell you how I cope. I am a diabetic, and when my wife bakes pies, I look at them and say, ‘I hate that! I hate that!'” I tried to tell the chocolate chips and pecans that, but my heart wasn’t in it. I bought some. Many of us battle a weight problem, and the holiday season is a difficult time. My niece’s husband says with dignity, “I have to eat a lot — I need to maintain my height.” I can always use the excuse that I have to bake for my horde of grandchildren.
Our little ones can bring cheer to any season. My sister Jeannie had a welcome crowd of family and friends for Thanksgiving, and the house was filled with merriment. Her niece Kim admonished her five-year-old Danielle, “Now eat all of your food, and you can have a reward. Do you know what a reward is?” “Sure,” Danielle answered airily. “It’s one of those bumps that gets on your skin!” That reminded me of my grandson Adrian when he shot a mole with his BB gun. “Hey, Grandma — I shot a wart!” he yelled. The funniest expression came from Jeannie’s 4-year-old grandson, Seth. He came running in from play crying, “Whobody hit me in the head!” Come to think of it, wouldn’t “whobody” be as descriptive as “somebody”?
It would be a lonely world without these little ones. Since I will be unable to send Christmas cards this year, I’d like to get an early start and wish all my friends, family and readers a wonderful holiday season. All of them have meant so much to us this past year, sharing in our sorrows and rejoicing with us in our happy times. May the Lord bless all of you abundantly and keep you in the hollow of His hand. (I have been asked about the availability of my books, “THIS HOLLER IS MY HOME” and “HOMESICK FOR THE HILLS.” I do have a supply of them here and can mail them out for Christmas giving. They have been quite popular with folks who have moved away from the hills. The price is $15.33 each, which includes tax and mailing costs. I can autograph them as you wish, and mail them directly to the recipient. My address is: Alyce Faye Bragg, HC 72 Box 1-F, Ovapa, WV 25150.)
This is a nostalgic time of the year. It is hard to focus on the Christmas present, when the ghost of Christmas past keeps intruding upon the mind.
Have a Very Merry Christmas,
love, Cousin Alyce Faye