I am back in the old Jenny Lind house of my childhood, and it is almost Christmas time. Waves of memories are washing over me.
It is snowing, and the wind is rising. It howls about the eaves of the house where the icicles hang in crystal spears and creeps in around the window facings. We turn the open gas stove up higher and pull our chairs closer to the welcome heat.
The Christmas tree stands regally in the corner of the front room, dripping metallic icicles and glass ornaments, and tinsel roping is twined all around. The topmost star brushes the 9-foot ceiling, and it is a magnificent sight to our wondering eyes.
Memories of Christmases past keep flowing through my mind. I feel again that keen anticipation as we waited eagerly for Christmas morning and the presents left under the tree. The events leading up to that morning flicker in my memory.
Preparations were made many days in advance of the Big Day. We scrounged and scraped for pennies to do our “Christmas shopping.” Triangular shaped bottles of Gardenia and Orange Blossom perfume could be purchased for fifty cents at Opal Jarvis’ country store, and bottles of red brilliantine waited on the shelf.
It was hard to stretch our money far enough to buy for each other, but we managed to get something for Mommy and Daddy. I remember one year when my youngest brother, Ronnie, sold enough garden seeds to get two pairs of salt and pepper shakers for me and Mom. They were made of plastic and shaped like candles in a holder.
That was more than 65 years ago, and I still have them.
In my mind, we are excited as we go with Daddy to cut a Christmas tree. There is snow on the ground as Daddy pulls the homemade sled across the field and up the hill to a patch of hemlocks. We run along beside the sled, sometimes stepping into a dip where the snow was deeper and would fill our boots.
When Daddy found just the right tree, he would chop it down and load it on the sled. What a thrill to see the big tree fastened to the floor and ready for ornaments! We used the same ones over and over each year, tinsel and glass balls carefully saved and hung just as carefully. Garlands of red, green and silver encircled the tree. Each year we said the same thing, “This is the prettiest tree we ever had!”
Our Christmas dinner was practically the same each year. Mom would spend days baking special goodies, rows of pies–spicy apple, caramel, butterscotch, coconut cream, pumpkin and lemon—all made with a lard crust that would melt in your mouth.
Dinner consisted of baked chicken with fluffy dressing made with home grown sage, mashed potatoes, bowls of vegetables, tossed salad prepared by Daddy, fresh cranberry sauce, fruit salad, hot rolls, and orange-coconut cake.
We had the same traditions, year after year, and never tired of them. They were fresh and new each time. I think now of how important family traditions are, and how comforting they were to a child. It was the sameness that established a sense of security; the knowledge that our world was stable.
I wonder if that is not what we are searching for today. Almost every Christmas song that I listen to has the same theme, the longing to go home for Christmas—back to a time when our world was secure and safe. In a world that is filled with turmoil, terrorism, wars and rumors of wars, unspeakable crime and hate, it is comforting to let the mind drift back to the past.
The memories of home have a magical quality, and one never gets too old to remember and long to go back.
I ran across a poem that my cousin Bobby (Frank Samples) sent me several years ago which described our condition.
Here I sit, short winded, full of turkey and ham.
Stuffed to the gills–that’s what I am.
Wishing I’d let a few things pass by
Like that chocolate cake and rich pecan pie.
So I guess I have cause to find a solution
With a recycled old New Year’s resolution.
But it seems, of my gluttony there is no end
And the next holiday I’ll do it again!
by Franks S. Samples