Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memories

For today's blog, I've asked several friends to share some of their Christmas memories. The first is from John Cofield of Memphis, originally from Oxford. The second is from Mary Dixon Glenn from Meridian (now living in Baltimore, Maryland). The third is from yours truly, and the fourth is from Dean Burchfield, a native of Hurricane, Mississippi (near Pontotoc) and now a resident of New Albany. In addition to these memories, the Rev. LaRue Owen from Jackson wrote that one of his favorite memories was from Christmas Day in 1963, when he went water skiing!! After today's downpour here in central Mississippi, water skis might have been in order! Thanks to all those who shared their memories and here's hoping that all have had a wonderful Christmas Day 2012!!


I'll Be Home for Christmas. You Can Count on Me

I'll pack the car and leave from wherever I'm living and go back to Oxford, Mississippi where the old house I was raised in is standing once again. Martha Glenn and Jack and my heart are there. All is good. Daddy is in the living room in his rocking chair, watching football and the driveway for everyone to arrive. Christmas music is playing while Momma's in the kitchen working on the feast. Soon my old Granddaddy Cofield & Aunt Tommye Jane will be here and my Grandmother and Grandfather Stephens will be coming up the driveway from New Albany with a back seat stuffed with presents! All is good. Ah and I'll look down the path between the two houses and spy the Goodman's coming up for a Christmas toddy...a tradition that has lasted 40 something years now and continues to this day. Sara's smile and laughter will light up the whole house. All is good. Allis Blinder just called to say she's coming over and mom's getting together a big plate of goodies for Mr. & Mrs. Levy. All the while Bess will be underfoot, looking wide eyed at all those people...and presents! A knock at the back door and its Mark Havens looking for Glenn. They're loading their brand new pellet rifles and about to head out. No squirrel within 6 houses in either direction is safe. All is good. As it all winds down Dad will ask, "Who wants to go riding and look at the Christmas lights?!" The five of us pile in the car and off we go. The first stop will be the Parhams's house behind Handy Andy and the last is always the Peddle's house and lights. Then the Cofields will turn the car back to 627 Park Drive...another Christmas done. All is good. Yes...



Our family tradition was that on Christmas morning my sister and I had to stand in the hallway waiting for our mother to open the door to the living room where the tree and presents were. My daddy would get set up by the tree with his camera and take a picture of us as the door swung open and we saw the tree for the first time. One year, in my excitement, I squeezed my sister's hand just as the door flew open - forgetting that she had jammed her finger the day before. The picture that year showed Christi screaming her head off and me grinning delightedly at the tree - or maybe because I had made my sister scream her head off.

One of my fondest memories -- and most embarrassing -- is from the late 1960s, maybe 1967 or so. While dates are a bit fuzzy, the scene is forever "burned" in my brain. We were living in Dekalb, Mississippi, at the time, where my father was pastor of the Methodist Church. At Christmas, of course, we had the standard nativity pageant at the church, complete with bathrobes and foil halos. This particular year, we also went caroling, complete with a big red bow. It snowed on this occasion, no doubt adding to the beauty and excitement. Unfortunately, we were holding candles, and I somehow managed to light my bow on fire! My memory is that I was put out by being rolled in the snow. If that's not really how it happened, it's how I remember it. I still love singing Christmas carols and enjoy caroling, but to this day I always make sure not to light myself on fire!!


A loud pop sent my mind reeling backward into my memory as I stood enveloped by thick gray smoke while burning red oak leaves in our backyard.  After being asked to write about a Christmas memory over a week ago and having pondered which memory to write about, the thought burst upon me with the sound of an exploding oak acorn.

The popping sound emitted a shower of glowing sparks up the fireplace chimney with a few bits of burning embers scattering about the hearth. The embers were quickly and expertly brushed back into the ashes of the fireplace by my grandfather as he had been doing since his childhood.  He was Squire Hudson’s son, one of four boys birthed into the Hudson clan that had settled land on the Lafayette/Union County line just a few miles west of the Pinedale community in the hill country of Northeastern Mississippi.

[Note: Dean sent a cherished family photo showing several members of his family, including his mother Lavern Hudson Burchfield. I was unable to reproduce the photo for the blog at this time, but will post in the near future]

My mother has her right hand resting upon my uncle’s right shoulder as he had just returned on leave from Germany after its surrender. She was so delighted that her little brother made it home from the war safely, although he had orders to ship out for the invasion of Japan.  However, VJ Day ended World War II before that trip was made.  My mother and aunts' dresses were made from material that flour was sacked.  Thus you had flour and material for cloth.

It was Christmas time and all the kindred were gathering at my grandfather’s home for my mother’s side of the family.  Each year, either before or after Christmas we would gather for family time and exchanging of gifts.  Over the years you could always find smoke rising out of the chimney in the living room where my grandfather and grandmother spent their time when not working outside in winter. However, on this special day there would be smoke rising out of the chimneys at both ends of the house.  The front room was where we would gather for exchanging of gifts on this special day, and my grandfather had a roaring fire in the hearth.  It was the only day of the year this room was heated with a fire, unless one of the granddaughters used it to play the piano located within.

As I sat with my grandfather in the living room with the fire warming us all after eating our Christmas dinner always filled with laughter, jokes and smiles among his three siblings and their children.  My mom, who was the first born, her sister, the middle child and little brother, the last of the children birthed into this family.  It was always great to arrive first and watch my grandfather in his excitement as each of the other families arrived.  At that age I did not perceive what this meant to him as his children and grandchildren came home.  Having lost his first wife, my grandmother to breast cancer no doubt made it even more special to see all arrive home once again. He would always come out on the front porch to meet and invite you inside with this huge grin upon his face.  I remember his huge powerful hands all knotty and gnarled from working long years at the family sawmill/gristmill as a young man.  He was an expert woodsman, one that kept a razor sharp ax at his wood pile. Looking back at those memories I remember seeing tears welling up in his eyes as he would see each one.  No doubt so welcome to see his children coming back home all together at one time, even though they all lived within neighboring counties and visited frequently throughout the year.

These were always joyous times.  Sometimes reminisces of my father’s service on Saipan or my two uncle’s service experiences would come up.  These would always be a memory with funny stories, not those unpleasant experiences they did not wish to talk about.  Years afterward I would discover that my uncle while serving with the 45th Infantry Division helped to liberated Dachau!  He would later be moved into the 2nd Infantry Division late in the war. My grandfather told me about when my uncle returned home that he would only sit in a restaurant corner of a room or with the wall to his back.  This was due to his experiences in Europe during World War II. 

During the 1970’s one of my cousins whom had met and married a Yankee from the Dakotas!  We were transfixed with him.  Never had we heard someone that could talk as fast as he, nor ask question after question.  He was a wonderful person and one that had a heart of gold.  However, it was a football game that brings us to a close of this tale. 

It was 1975 and all had gathered and feasted, though some quicker than others.  It was not the usual Christmas get together.  A request was made to my grandfather by his northern grandson in law.  The request was if we could turn on the TV to watch a playoff game immediately after the meal and gift exchanging.  It was granted, thus we would have to forget about sitting around talking while listening and watching the fire in the fireplace, a rather pleasant experience I thought.  The front room would be abandoned quickly and all interested would be huddled in rocking or straight back chairs in the living room watching a NFL playoff game between guess whom?  Remember the year is 1975, the month is December and the day is the 28th.

The game was already on and Bob exclaimed that it was halftime.  Being from the Northern part of the United States of America, some asked us to guess whom he would be supporting to advance.  We of course knew, he being born and reared in a neighboring state of the northern opponent, we guessed it correct.
The funny moment happened when glued to the set as a long pass was tossed by the quarterback of America’s team and it was caught for a touchdown with seconds ticking down.  Our northern kinsmen in law exclaimed with a thunderous roar, “Did you see that?”  “Did you all see that?”  “HOW DID HE DO THAT?”  We were all more amazed at his bewilderment than the touchdown. 
With the YouTube link below, please watch 7 minutes 33 seconds of the playoff game: 


He had analyzed all the options and variables and was sure that his team was advancing to the next round.  There was good natured ribbing by all those in the room.  This event was recalled for the next several years even when our northern cousin in law accepted a job in Florida teaching at a university. Many years have passed, only one of my maternal grandfather's children remain today. This summer we were able to all reunite at their home for a get together.  For once, all the cousins were present.  They were from Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Again, laughter and jokes were heard among my maternal grandfather’s kid! 

Christmas is a time of making memories and remembering them.  A time when gifts are given to symbolize The Greatest Gift of All!  Emmanuel
God Bless us everyone!

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