Today is December 23. Christmas Eve is tomorrow and everyone is excited. Two of our children and one daughter-in-law are already here and the other son and his wife are on the road and will be here early in the morning. Nothing is more joyful than spending Christmas with family; your immediate family and extended family.
Christmas, especially in the South, is really about traditions and family. Today Jo Ann and I have been getting a head start on our Christmas Eve and Christmas cooking. We worked on my Momma’s Carrot Cake, Maw Maw Cotton’s eggplant casserole, Nana’s cornbread dressing and my famous Pecan Pies. We’ll work on more stuff tomorrow and Christmas morning we will make sausage/cheese biscuits and then cook my Root Beer glazed ham, which are also both Christmas traditions around the Harrison house.
Christmas is also a time to remember the good times we had in the past. Both my Mom and Dad have been gone for some years now, but I still remember fondly how joyous Christmas always was in our house when I was growing up. I realize now how hard the both worked to make Christmas special for my sisters and me. One thing that always happened was that Santa Claus always came to our house in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. I think that started way back when my Daddy worked shift work and was not home early on Christmas morning. So every year on Christmas Eve, my Momma would tell me or my sisters it was time to take a bath, or go next door to visit Grandma or do something else that would get us out of the way for a little while. And, miraculously, Santa would come to our house while we were otherwise occupied. For some reason we, or at least I, never figured out that whatever Momma had to occupy us was a ruse. I distinctly remember one Christmas Eve when I was bout 7 years old. My sister’s friend, Frances Graves came over in the afternoon. My Mom suggested that my sisters, who were 17 or 18 at the time, get Frances to take me to the old Cool Shop for some ice cream. We did and when we got home, you guessed, Santa Clause came while we were gone. And as usual, my Daddy swore he saw him and that we had just missed him because he had just left!
Another great Christmas memory is spending time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen. Depending on what year we were supposed to spend with who, we would either load up and head out to Maw Maw and Paw Paw Cotton’s house, or head next door to Grandma Harrison’s house. Christmas at both places was special. But I particularly remember Christmas at Grandma’s. Her house was right next door, by Watson standards, and I lived next to her until she died when I was 21. A typical Christmas day involved her four children, their spouses and 14 grandchildren piling up in a little frame house. Plus various spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and fiancees of the grandkids. How we all fit in that house is still a mystery to me.
But the best memory I have about Christmas at Grandma’s house was the Christmas tree. She was a simple woman and this was the days before store bought trees and professional decorators. Every year around the 10th of December, my Daddy and I would go in the woods behind our house to find a Christmas tree for Grandma. It was usually a small cedar or pine, which we would chop down and haul back to her house. The tradition was that the grandchildren got to decorate the tree. By the time I was old enough to remember, that usually meant me and my cousin Sharon, since we were the two youngest grandchildren. The other cousins were too old and too busy for that kind of thing. My Daddy would put that tree in a stand and Grandma would drag out a huge cardboard box of lights and ornaments. Not fancy, matching ornaments mind you. These were plastic and cheap glass one that she had acquired over the years. Not surprisingly, I don’t think any two of them actually matched. There was gold garland, plastic flowers and silver plastic tinsel. Sharon and I would spend all day decorating that tree, under Grandma’s supervision. She always assured us we were doing a wonderful job. When we were done, she would tell us it was the most beautiful Christmas tree she had ever seen. We thought it looked like this:
Looking back, I know now that it really looked like this:
But that was okay with Grandma. And for her, it really was a beautiful tree, because my Daddy cut it for her and we decorated it.
And Christmas around those trees was so much fun. One thing about Grandma’s house was that everyone, and I mean everyone, had a gift with their name on it under that tree. She loved us all and wanted to make Christmas special for us. Because for her, Christmas was about love. It was about the birth of her Savior and the love he showed for us. It was about the love she had for us and the love we shared with each other. She always remembered what was important: Love and family. And making memories.
Which brings us full circle to the story earlier about food. Today I made a Pecan Pie is a simple white bakeware pie pan with the pie recipe printed on the bottom. It’s nothing special and you probably couldn’t get a dollar for it in a garage sale. But I wouldn’t trade it for all the tea in China. You see, that was the last Christmas present my Grandma gave Jo Ann and me before she passed away. And every time I look at it I think of ugly Christmas trees and wonderful Christmas memories.
Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.