Hey Gang: I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, New Year!
We are almost ready to begin a new year and frankly, I am ready for a new start; I want to put 2015 behind me.
Most of November and a couple of weeks into December, I was ‘under the weather’ (understatement of the year – I was so sick I thought I would have to get better to die – what Mom used to call ‘walking pneumonia’.) Yuck! I wouldn’t even wish it on a ‘terrorist’ – well on second thought, maybe I would. I even had a right-brain-side TIA (mini-stroke), scary sucker, but I am better now and looking forward to a better 2016.
Lots of folks coming and going during this busy holiday season, Christmas at Grandma Pat’s house was this past Saturday and it was great! Almost all of the family (and a friend or two) was here for dinner (24 folks) and a family get-together. The driveway could have passed for a fairly respectable car lot.
On top of our Christmas celebration, we were also celebrating granddaughter Jeni Gibson’s graduation from nursing school; she is now an R.N. (still has to pass her State Boards of course and we have full confidence in her ability to do so.)
Ana and Bob Slover had most of their family home for a Christmas family celebration and dinner on Saturday also; granddaughter Hannah Slover had to work but came in to visit with her grandparents Sunday. Ana said they had a wonderful time.
Ana and I phoned back and forth during the Bengals game Sunday afternoon (they won) and discussed how we thought they should have played (we make ‘back-seat drivers’ look good.) Ana had to leave for a children’s church program before the game ended but I left the final score (and a few comments) on her answering machine. We will go over the plays again sometime Monday morning – us ‘back seat coaches’ have a tough job, Ha!
Julie Hazeldean told us a church Sunday morning that she had talked to Peggy Eckerty; Peggy had an ‘infusion’ treatment this past week and told Julie it went very well. Coming up soon, Peggy will have more treatments so please keep her, and her caregivers too, in your conversations with the Lord.
We also heard from Mary Davenport’s granddaughter Amy, that Mary was admitted into Hospice; please remember Mary and her family in your prayers too. Mary was a long-time resident of Switzerland County and an active member of our church as long as she was able.
Several women from Markland Baptist, along with several friends, went to the State Hospital and held a small party for some of the residents. Melissa Park told us that the patients enjoyed it so much that the ladies are planning to go back around Valentine’s Day. If any of you ladies would like to participate, give Melissa a call (after the holiday – she is a little busy now) at (812) 427-3619.
Grandson Josh Carr was in an automobile accident on his way to work one morning but praise the Lord, neither he nor the other party, was seriously hurt (details of the accident were in last week’s paper.) Josh’s car was totaled but he soon got another (young men are lost without wheels.) On the day he got it, he was coming up the Pike to show his parents (Sam and Cyndi) his new vehicle – lo and behold, the front wheel came off. Josh said he looked up and the wheel was rolling up the road ahead of his car. The dealer (upon being called) came and got it, apologized and repaired the problem, and Josh is once again, a happy traveler.
Since I was not ‘up-to-par’, Sam and Cyndi put up my Christmas tree (it is getting a little old and has lost a lot of needles but after the lights and decorations were put on, it looked pretty good – kind of like me, ha.) It reminded me of Christmas trees of long ago; yeah, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast but 60 or 70 years ago is a snap.
We lived in Florida, outside the city limits of St. Petersburg; there was nothing around us but piney woods and cow pastures, the nearest neighbor was a fair distance down the road – now it all sub-divisions.
Back then, along about the first week of November, mom would bake up a passel of fruitcakes, then carefully wrap them up and store them under my bed.
Mom made fruitcakes and Daddy made ‘hooch’ in the shed out back (I don’t know how potent it was but it sure was flammable – Daddy had to rebuild the shed at least three times that I remember; he used to tell folks that lightening struck it but everybody knew what really happened.)
Each Saturday Mom would pour ‘hooch’ over the fruitcakes then re-wrap them and put them back under my bed. Come Christmas week, the Postman got a fruitcake and the milkman, I remember his name was Clyde, (yes, young people, milk used to be delivered to your house in bottles) got a fruitcake and a pint of Daddy’s hooch.
The garbage men, three to a truck (Daddy always knew, and was friends, with all the service people), during the holiday season, stopped twice a week on pickup days, ate fruitcake and had a nip (or two) with Daddy. At Christmas, they each got a fruitcake and a pint to take home. Needless to say, we had the best service in the County.
The year I was 10 and my sister Jo was eight (65 years ago – told you I could remember years ago) was not a good year, Mom had been really sick and she said we would just have to ‘make-do’ this year for Christmas. (Strangest thing, Mom’s health was always poor and Daddy was healthy as a horse; I can’t hardly remember him even having a cold – Mom lived to be 90 and Dad died at 58, go figure, where is the logic in that?)
Jo and I decided to go out in the woods and chop us down a Christmas tree so we struck out across a few acres of four- and five-foot palmetto palms (palmetto fronds cut you up like walking through tall corn so you had to wear long pants and sleeves and keep a watchful eye out for rattle snakes) to cut down a pine tree. We couldn’t find any little ones so we climbed a big one and cut the top out of it.
Now Florida pines don’t look like our pines up here – they have long bare branches with a bunch of six- to eight-inch needles hanging off the end of the branch – in other words, it wasn’t a very pretty looking Christmas tree but after we got it decorated it wasn’t too bad (well all right, it was still kind of ugly but it was a Christmas tree – it is the thought that counts, right?) They had big pinecones though that made really pretty decorations – spray them with hair spray and sprinkle them with something sparkly or even paint them and they were real pretty.
Daddy was a hunter and we almost always had meat on the table (we ate a lot of game most of which I liked but don’t let anyone ever tell you that rattlesnake tastes like chicken, because it doesn’t.) For some reason that year we didn’t have any meat (maybe Dad was too busy taking care of Mom or something, anyway we were having cornbread and beans for Christmas dinner. I didn’t really mind, I liked cornbread and beans but Jo whined about it – course she whined about everything else too.
Christmas Eve Mama, Jo, and I, would go to Midnight Mass with the Koch family (Celeste and Bill and their boys, Butch and Bobby), they lived down the road apiece and had a car big enough for all of us to fit in. I can’t remember (ok, so I am not perfect) what kind it was but I remember it was green.
After Mass, everyone came back to our house for pie and eggnog (Clyde always left Mom a couple of quarts free, kind of like a return gift.) Mom baked her “Christmas Pie” (Christmas was the only time she ever made them); it was a black walnut cream pie; Aunt Merle [Mrs. Howard Taylor] (they lived in Ohio County), sent Mom a box of black walnuts every fall. Picking the meat out of black walnuts is not easy but I really did like that pie. It was so rich you could only eat a little piece at a time; boy was it ever good, yum!
Jo and I had to wait until 9:30 a.m., to come out of our room on Christmas morning and see what was under the tree; no matter how bad the year was, Mama always made sure we girls had some gifts under the tree: some she or Daddy made (Mom used to cut patterns out of newspaper and sew us pretty blouses and things, sometimes she traded stuff (yard sales weren’t around then but Thrift stores were everywhere), you get the idea, she always ‘kept’ Christmas for us girls.
We had strawberry shortcake for breakfast; Daddy and I always went over to Plant City (on the other side of Tampa) and picked gobs of strawberries during the season and Mom would freeze part and make jams and preserves out of the rest. Our shortcakes were sweet cinnamon biscuits; I didn’t know shortcakes were actually supposed to have a sponge cake base until many years later – I still make mine with biscuits (and piles of whipped cream of course.)
Later that morning, a friend of Daddy’s that he worked with (Daddy called him ‘Blackie’, I think he was Italian and I remember he had real pretty black wavy hair) came in with a big bottle of champagne (I don’t think he had been to bed yet because I remember he was kind of rumpled looking.) That was the year we had cornbread and beans and champagne for Christmas dinner.
Some memories never fade (that doesn’t count what I had for breakfast though) and memories are an important part of our lives and sometimes shape, or at least influence, the kind of persons we become. I remember, years before, Jo and me in the tub for Saturday night baths, getting all scrubbed up and our hair washed (of course Jo always got soap in her eyes and whined – I am sure you know by now Jo was a whiner), and Mom would lay out our best clothes for Sunday morning.
Jo and I had rickets (now I know it was caused by a vitamin deficiency but back then, we just had sore feet) and had to wear ugly high-top shoes but on Sunday, we got to wear pretty patent leather, low-top, shoes. Aunt Toddie, in the fall would send us each a pair of black patent leather dress shoes and in the spring, a pair of white patent leather shoes, which we got to wear for special occasions.
Sunday morning, Mom would get us dressed and send us off to Sunday School while they went to work. Sunday School was where I learned about God and how He loved us (not that I really understood it back then – but I remembered); church children’s Christmas programs told me about Jesus and why we celebrated Christmas, the birth of the Christ Child, the birth of hope for a lost world.
I sometimes wonder today if we have lost that knowledge, the reason we celebrate Christmas. I am always elated when I run into ‘pockets’ of the true reason for Christmas amid the reveling of parties, gift giving, and general ‘business’ that seems to take over our modern lives. I pray you too have remembered and told Him so.
Until next time, my prayer for each of you is that God will turn His loving face on you and grant you the inner joy in your heart (no matter what your circumstances) that only comes from a relationship with Him. God Bless!