December Issue 2004 I Still Believe!
Christmas is here again! Can you remember how long it took for Christmas to come around when you were a kid? Now it is here again before you get the wreath off the door and the lights put away. I moved recently and finally after three years was forced to take my tree down! I saw no need to take it down Christmas time seemed to arrive faster and faster every year. I suppose this must be a part of the aging process.
I have so many wonderful Christmases in my past. My cousins little boy said once, “way back in the black and white days.” The holidays are spent now with many new family members. As with most of you my holidays have always been centered on lots and lots of family. Thru the years now it is less and less of the family that I remember as a child. The young children of all my cousins fill the holiday with Christmas noise now. Of course my Christmases now are for my niece (she is any only child, an only grandchild and an only niece) she tells me “I’m her favorite!”
When I was a child our Christmas Eve’s were spent in Dubach. My daddy once said “All roads lead to Dubach” maybe he is right. That’s probably the way all people feel about their hometowns. Both of my parents are from the Dubach, Hico area of north Louisiana. We moved to Minden when I was a year old, so my hometown is Minden. Deep down I have strong feelings for the piney hills of Lincoln parish I guess it is part of my DNA, it is an inner feeling, like some people feel that they are drawn to an ocean or the mountains.
On Christmas Eve we would load up with presents piled high and maybe a pan of chicken and dressing riding cautiously in the trunk or on the front floor board of the car between my mothers’s feet. We sometimes went to my pa-paw and me-maw Brown’s house. My daddy’s parents lived in the country in Hico, La. off Hwy 167. My great-grandmother lived there with them we called her Nanny or Grandma Brown. She was my pa-paw’s mother. She had long grey hair that she kept in a bun. One of my few memories of her is sitting by a space heater wearing a cotton dress and sweater. She always had juicy fruit gum wrapped up in handkerchiefs hid in an old chiff-a-robe in her room. Nanny always had to give you a piece of gum or some other small token when you went to their house for a visit.
I remember how cold it always seemed at Christmas time back then. When we went to the Brown’s for Christmas the windows would frost up on the inside and you couldn’t see outside unless you rubbed your hand in a circle to wipe away the moisture. They lived in a small house and it was overflowing with family members. A small tree was always on a table in front of the window. I remember one year getting a silver dollar that was wrapped in gold paper and thinking I was the richest kid in the world. I think I still have this silver dollar somewhere tucked away with important possessions. My pa-paw was a share cropper and later worked with the state highway department so they never had a lot of material things. Looking back now that was one of my good Christmases. I don’t remember what else I received or what Santa brought me that year but I do remember that tiny house filled with family.
Other good Christmases were spent at my granddaddy Huffman’s in Dubach or my Aunt Ellen’s. They always had so much food and it was the best food ever. It must have taken my grandmother Ruth and my aunts days to cook all this food. They always had a large cedar tree with bubble lights and lots of icicles. Granddaddy’s house has a fireplace and I loved to sit by it and listen to it crackle and pop.
After all the food was consumed and the gifts were opened we would load up and head back to Minden. I remember one Christmas riding home in our old black Chrysler with the big fins we called it the Bat Mobile. We were listing to the radio and the DJ was giving the Santa report. My daddy kept saying he could see Santa following the car. I was scared that Santa would get to Minden before we did and that our house would get skipped because we weren’t home. When we finally got home I remember running to get in the bed so that I could hurry up and fall asleep!
Christmas mornings were always the same for me. I would wake up sick to my stomach! I guess I worried too much about what Santa would or wouldn’t bring me! I usually felt better after a few hours but it was every Christmas just like clock-work. It isn’t the best part of my Christmas memories but you can bet all my family remembers it and still laughs about it.
Christmas day was always so magical. We had to wait at the living room door before we could go in to see what Santa had left us. We had separate piles waiting for us one for me, one for my brother and one for my sister. We would wade through boxes and paper until noon when we were forced to take a break and eat our lunch or the breakfast that was still on the table.
One particular Christmas sticks out in my mind as the best Christmas ever. It was the Christmas of 1994. We all loaded up and headed to Arkansas to my Aunt Bobbie and Uncle Pete’s house. I tied a commode seat painted like a Christmas wreath on the front of my mama’s van. Instead of HO! HO! HO! It said OH! OH! OH! My Aunt Bobbie’s house has only one bathroom. With 30 or 40 people piled in for Christmas that can be a problem. We got a lot of strange looks from other travelers on that trip!
It snowed that year and the interstate between Little Rock and Fort Smith froze over. We lost electricity for a short time but that came back on. My cousins went to a hardware store and we bought plastic disc sleds to slide down the driveway on. We got bored with the driveway and decided to go to the river! This wasn’t the brightest idea. It was a steep hill right by the water. My cousin Craig was the first to slide down and all seemed ok. Next in line was my brother-in-law David. He seemed to pick up more speed than Craig had! Craig was still at the bottom of the hill waiting on David to get to the bottom. David was going so fast that Craig had to dive at him and knock him off or he would have sailed over the cliff and onto the rocks below and into the water. Well that was the end of that; the emergency room was not what we had in mind for the day. We went back to the safety of the driveway!
Cousin Craig was in charge of smoking a turkey that year for Christmas Day. He had the smoker fired up and the turkey all prepared for its Christmas Eve slow cook in the back of the house. The yard was so frozen we didn’t think about a fire! My sister, brother-in-law and I were sleeping on the back porch. It was so cold that ice was on the inside of the windows right by our heads. We had stocking caps and long underwear on just to stay warm. About midnight something woke us up outside. It was fire!!! The yard had caught on fire from the smoker. A large portion of the back yard was blazing and my Uncle Pete’s water well truck and storage building along with a yard full of our cars were about to go up in smoke! We ran to wake everyone except the little kids. We were all outside in our gowns and long underwear. One problem, the outside water faucet was frozen. We ran back inside and formed a line passing pans of water outside to douse the flames. We finally got the fire out but the next morning we had a charcoaled yard. The story was that when Santa took off his new rocket booster sleigh caught the yard on fire! That is probably one of my most memorable Christmases.
I have had so many good Christmases and I know I will have others even though many of the people that I love our gone I still have many that aren’t. I have my little niece that I want to create good memories for. After all I do still believe!