Christmas Time at Home

Listening to Rhonda Vincent’s “Christmas Time at Home,” I can’t help but let my mind wander back 40 years and more, to the late 1960’s, to Christmas at my grandmother’s house, when I had yet to reach the cares and concerns that seem to have crept upon me when I reached the treacherous years that began with the double digits.

There is only one word for Christmas to a child of 5 or 6 or 7: magical.  The tree—always a red cedar, because that was the only evergreen that grew near my grandparents’ tiny house in South Central Kentucky—was trimmed in those big old light bulbs of red and blue and green, sparkling with strands of tinsel, adorned with a few ornaments.

The music of the season played on the AM radio.  The feast of the holiday was prepared in the little kitchen at the back of the house, a large, black wood-burning stove in the corner for heat.  I always sat on a stool at the corner of the table.  The food was never too fancy, but always good.  There would be the “good” food, sure, but the desserts were memorable:  Chess pie, pecan pie, jam cake—the foundations for a tradition that would last for years. 

I remember one year when my sister conned me into wearing funny cut-out pointy paper ears, and I was an elf.  It was fun.  I remember the year my gifts included Johnny West and Chief Cherokee from Louis Marx toys.  I still have what’s left of them.  A lot of years made their plastic brittle.  But not their memory.

I remember the anticipation of Christmas.  I remember the Sear Wish Books from that era, and memorizing specific pages that had the things that I not only wanted but felt that I needed to make my life complete.  I was always accused of getting mean around that greatest of holidays.  It was not by design.  It was more by default.  But I was never shut out of gifts for my bad behavior.  I was always more than blessed.

Through the years, my parents made sure that “us kids” had some things that we wanted for Christmas.  And I know there were years when it must have been hard making those dreams come true.  But all I knew was that I got some really neat stuff. And deep down, without a shadow of doubt, I knew I was loved.

My grandmother has been gone for over 40 years.  I still hear her voice, I see her eyes, her smile, I feel her warm hugs.  I know she loved all her grandchildren equally.  But I always secretly believed I was her favorite.  After all these years, remembering her at Christmas, like any other time, really, makes me smile.

And I think with deep and abiding love of my mother, who was to me the very soul of the holiday.  Like my wife—who (either oddly enough or not surprisingly) is so much like her in so many ways—she planned the holiday carefully.  She wasn’t much for singing, but she broke into a chorus of “Christmas Time’s A’Coming” at the appropriate moments.  She made sure the Christmas breakfasts and dinners were perfectly choreographed.  And she made sure that we were happy, like she tried to make sure her grandchildren were happy.  Perhaps it was her example that taught me well by living a most important principle: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I hope my children will have good memories of the Christmases of their childhood.  I hope they will treasure the trinkets that marked their younger years, but I hope they will know more than anything else, they are loved.  Despite the cares of the everyday world.  Despite the difficulties of indifferent fate.  They are loved.    

Embrace the memories but don’t stop there: seize the opportunities to bridge the years, the generations with the same love that made those memories dear. It wasn’t the presents that made Christmas special, but those who were present.  And they always will.

The season is young, but I’ll start early: Merry Christmas.   

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One Response to Christmas Time at Home

  1. Doris Lee says:

    I agree Darrell. There was no place like Granny’s (in my case) on Christmas. All of the Aunts, Uncles and cousins would ‘ come home’ to a meal that I am sure took days to prepare. There was never a lot of material things but lots of love and laughter. I think traditions are carried on from one generation to another, whether they be bad, in some cases,or good. One day your children will look back and reflect on the carefree days of their childhood and the hikes in the mountains, church on Sunday with Dad, and the loving home that you and your wife have provided as well as many other good memories. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Darrell and give those sweet babies a hug for me.

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