Dog gone if I know how it happened, but I am about to take in the sights and sounds of my 75th Christmas. (Like you I’m sure, I didn’t believe it either until I scratched it all out on a piece of paper.) And I look forward to sharing with family next week in North Carolina.
The limb on the Lee family tree that represents Daddy is about to wither away. I am the oldest of three siblings. My brother has no children, my sister has an adopted daughter and neither son Kevin or daughter Kim have offspring. Which tends to make family gatherings even more special.
And to be honest, most of the Christmases I have ever experienced have long faded from memory. (But at this age, what hasn’t?) But the ones that still conjure up memories usually go back to more than 60 years ago and my grandfather Lee’s very, very modest little house at Rt. 2 Red Level, AL.
Calling it modest is being kind. Daddy told me it was built in one week in 1936. However, when you don’t have electricity or running water or insulation, just a fireplace and chimney and five small rooms, construction goes quickly. In the style of most farm houses of that period, it stood on brick pillars and had a “swept” front yard. (For you youngsters, that means the yard was bare, sandy soil–not grass. A bundled armful of branches from old hedge–a yard broom–stood at the ready should Grandma spy a blade of grass trying to grow in her yard.)
The fireplace was in the living room. It’s where grandpa got out a wash pan to bathe his feet before going to bed and where grandma rocked away contentedly and sent a stream of what once was snuff at the flames from time to time.
The Christmas tree was in a corner of the front bedroom. Usually a small cedar Grandma found in the woods behind the house. Decorations were sparse. Maybe one strand of lights, some tinsel and not much else. Presents tended to be practical, like a shirt, socks or underwear. Sometimes a baseball glove. Or a basketball or football.
Presents were always unwrapped on Christmas Eve. Santa came down the chimney the next morning.
Oft times we had a special treat on Christmas Day. Grandpa drove a school bus, which was his very own, not county property. So we would beg and beg to ride in the school bus and he would oblige, heading along red clay roads passing other very modest homes where children played with the toys Santa left them.
Were these the “good ole days?”
Not really. But they were much less complicated. And they certainly made a lasting impression and today cause me to reflect on ancestors who endured lives we have a hard time relating to so that we can be at this moment in time giving thanks for them.
Have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.