In every individual the word “Christmas” conjures up a different picture or idea, if you will, of what Christmas means; and each of us has memories of “Christmas past” which we hold dear and others which touch our hearts with sadness and melancholy.
In my own life, looking back, I realize I was truly blessed in many ways! We always had enough; that is to say, brother and me always had a little something under the tree and a little candy and some fruit. it is the idea of the sacrifices made to provide us with those little extra that tug at my heart.
I remember one Christmas long ago, when I was very young (maybe 4 or 5). Money was very scarce that year. I don’t remember what happened exactly. Maybe Dad’s crop failed; there just wasn’t any money to buy gifts with. My mother wore a sad expression, although brother and I tried to be cheerful, we sensed something was bothering mama.
Brother cut a lovely cedar and put it up in front of the window of the old family room. We popped corn and strung it on the tree. Although we didn’t have many decorations, I thought the tree was very beautiful.
Christmas Eve I went to sleep excited about the next morning, wondering what I would get.
The next morning, as I opened my one little box, Mama’s eyes were glistening with tears. Inside was a dolly with a bisque head and cloth body, wearing a pretty gingham dress.
Children can be thoughtless at times and I still feel awful when I think of what happened next.
“Mama,” I cried, “This is my old doll, the one with the broken head.” “I know, honey,” she said. “But look, I glued the head back, good as new. And I made her this pretty new dress.” I sat there with my head down. “I’m sorry,” she sighed, “It’s the best I could do this year.”
And it was … I realize that now.
Another Christmas, our church, Caney Fork, was having a Christmas program. Daddy had butchered hogs earlier that day and my brother had pestered me - all day long. So, I decided to fix him! I got one of the big curly pig tails and putting it in a box, I wrapped it up real pretty and put his name on it.
As luck would have it, he took his girlfriend to the program.
When they handed out the presents, they presented brother with the box I’d slipped in earlier.
He smiled at his girl, “Awe, you shouldn’t have,” … and proceeded to open the box. I’ll never forget the look on his face. First he turned kinda white; then red as a beet! As he looked across the pew at me, he mouthed the words, “I’m gonna kill you!”
Course everyone laughed and had much fun over the incident; and brother didn’t kill me, although maybe he should have. I was a terrible pest too.
At Christmas time, when I was around 18 or so, I had my first job working at a drug store in Auburn.
It was Christmas Even and boy, what a snow! It was really coming down. This was the first time I had money of my own. I started saving in August for Christmas. I saved enough (money went farther back then) to buy Daddy that special pocket watch he always wanted! And for my mother, a beautiful wedding band. My mother never owned a gold wedding band and I knew she had always longed for one … I was so excited! But the roads were getting bad. Where was Daddy? He was supposed to come get me.
As I stared through the windows of that drug store, watching the big snowflakes drift down, I thought, “Maybe I won’t make it home for Christmas!”
But suddenly, I saw Daddy’s old car plowing down the street. My heart leaped for joy! That night as we gathered round and opened those gifts, I saw Daddy smile and Mama cry over her ring, I felt the true meaning of Christmas! It was truly a happy time. I shall never forget that Christmas!
And I remember another Christmas many years ago. I remember walking through the mall, carols playing all around me, people scurrying everywhere trying to do their last-minute shopping. There I was with tears running down my cheeks. My heart so heavy, I felt it would burst.
Brother lay in Logan Memorial Hospital with an inoperable brain tumor, near the point of death. It was so hard to be amongst all the beauty and cheer of Christmas, when inside, my heart was breaking.
Later, when I went to his room, I stood looking at his feeble body and hollow face. Tenderly, I touched his cheek and whispered, “I’m here. I love you Brother! You will always be with me…”
Turning his head, trying to see me through eyes that were nearly blind due to the tumor, he whispered softly, “I love everybody … tell them … tell them to stop and smell the roses … tell them for me!”
“I will … I promise,” I choked between sobs. He died shortly afterwards and he “is” with me … in my memories and my heart, especially at Christmas time.
And so as you, my dear readers, gather with friends and family this special season, treasure each moment. I believe the greatest gift we can give is “Love.” Love for those dear neighbors. Love for our wonderful families. Love for those poor strangers who may be less fortunate than ourselves.
For centuries ago, God gave us the greatest gift of all … His gift of Love… baby Jesus.
And please take time to “smell the roses” in this life! I promised to tell you!
‘Til Next Time.