|My Mama as a teenager growing up the the Western N.C. mountains|
|Mama with me and my brother Jeff on Christmas morning in Georgia|
My baby sister was born when I was 12... so for most of my growing up years, it was me and my two brothers... stairsteps, two years apart... I'm the oldest... and the bossiest (or so the boys say!) We always got new pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve (I used to think Santa required it! But I realize now that it was partly so we looked extra cute in the Christmas morning snapshot-fest)... and up until I was 8 or 9 years old... we hung one of Daddy's big ol' work socks on the mantle before we went to bed on Christmas Eve... we obtained "proper" stockings a few years later... but there's nothing quite as exciting as digging apples, oranges, candy, and nuts out of one of Daddy's long stretchy brown socks...
|Jeff and me and our ongoing silliness (we haven't changed much)|
My brother, Jeff's favorite candy was always orange slices and Mama made sure they were around at Christmas... as well as Daddy's favorite, chocolate drops... orange slices and chocolate drops, as well as the scent of oranges always said Christmas to me.
|My favorite cousin Sharon and me in front of the tree (I'm the short one on the right)|
I remember the first time I ever "saw" Santa... I was five years old and we were living in a remodeled apple house in Swannanoa, NC... it was an A-frame house with a big basement... my brother, Jeff and I had our bunkbeds in the big basement bedroom... Santa peeked around the door at the bottom of the steps to make sure I was asleep... but I saw him... next morning there were "socks" filled with goodies, my baby brother Kevin (who was about two) got a "ride-on" train, Jeff got one of those metal fire truck pedal cars... and I got a record player with some little yellow 78rpm records, Midge to go with my Barbie, a Barbie case and a ton of Barbie clothes.
|My brother Jeff and I in our basement bedroom where I first "saw" Santa|
I got that record player for Christmas that year!
Another Christmas when we lived in Tennessee, I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service at church and, since we had the grandparents and aunts and uncles there, being put to bed in a row along with my brothers and the other cousins, on a pallet made of stacks of quilts and pillows in the floor in Mama and Daddy's room... I was snuggled up to my new cloth body baby doll somebody at church had given me (I guess I was six or seven)... we awakened the next morning to the first White Christmas I had ever seen... snow had fallen overnight... it was a magical place to be a child...
|Our little house in Tennessee and the ol' station wagon|
We never bought a Christmas tree when I was a kid... we chose a Saturday a couple weeks before Christmas and we took a walk... the whole family, Mama holding our hands and helping us over fallen trees and around briar patches... Daddy with his ax over his shoulder as we searched the woods for that year's perfect tree... some were more perfect than others... one year the pickin's were pretty slim and we've teased Daddy ever since over our skinny, sparse cedar tree we had that year... our own "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree"... but once we got it home and in the old metal tree stand... and covered it with those big ol' bulby lights, ornaments (glass bulb ornaments as well as all those we had proudly made at school over the years) and tinsel and icicles... it was transformed into a thing of beauty and pride.
|The three of us with our "best" cousins|
The Christmas after we had moved to our land (Mama and Daddy had sacrificed and scraped to purchase 115 acres with a house, barn, and outbuildings... an adventure in our lives, but money was tight)... we had sold our van and bought a VW Beetle to save money... Daddy drove it to work... he had purchased an old International one ton truck for hauling pulpwood (there were LOTS of scrub pine trees on our land, great for pulpwood)... not long before Christmas, Daddy was hit by a semi-truck as he returned home from work... totaled the Bug... Daddy walked away with one bruise on his knee... but that year our Christmas shopping (we went together, the entire family... by then we had my baby sister, she was less than a year old)... was done in the big truck... all six of us riding in the cab (this was before mandatory seat belts and car seats)... Daddy drove... Mama beside him with Beth in her lap, I was next and my brother Jeff was squeezed against the door... my little brother Kevin (about 8 years old at the time) was relegated to sitting in the massive, uncarpeted floorboard of the truck... and on the way home he was joined by all the bags, boxes and packages we had acquired... Daddy helped us shop for Mama, then he went away and Mama helped us shop for Daddy and each other... we tried very hard to be secretive... on the way home after this family shopping trip, with Kevin in the floor amongst the packages... he starts saying over and over... "I'm getting lotion all over me... somethings leaking... there's lotion everywhere down here..." Jeff began kicking him over and over... to which he replies "What? What did I do?" Jeff says... "Shhhhh.... be quiet..." and continues to kick... (Jeff had purchased Mama two big beautiful glass bottles of lotion)... to which Kevin says after realizing his faux pas..."Well what did you want me to say... Lah-Shan!!!" Mama and Daddy and I were in stitches, tears rolling... the boys were not so amused... they laugh NOW when we bring it up! Mama received ONE big beautiful glass bottle of lotion from Jeff that year.
|Lots of extended family celebrating|
That same year we woke up Christmas morning (we had been warned ahead of time that Santa didn't have a lot of extra money that year so to not expect as much as usual)... each of us three older kids had a pair of boots under the tree (I was 12... mine were black lace up boots... so cool!)... Beth, the baby had several baby toys, a walker... the stockings (proper ones by this time) were filled with candy, fruit and nuts...
I must interrupt this thought with ANOTHER unusual tradition my family celebrates every Christmas morning... my uncle Robert and his wife Linda went in with my parents to purchase the land... they lived next door... My Daddy and my Uncle Robert sort of competed each Christmas morning to see who was awakened by excited children the earliest... Daddy usually won... we were older than my uncle's kids and more excitable... so to announce to the other one that he was awake... Daddy (or Robert) would shoot the shotgun loaded with fine shot up in the air... the shot would fall down on the roof of the other, awakening them to the magic of Christmas morning and excited children!
|Mama on the famed Christmas Mini-Bike|
On the Christmas morning of the boots under the tree... Daddy insisted that we ALL accompany him in the shotgun shooting tradition... outside... in the cold... in our new pajamas and boots... and lo and behold... parked just at the bottom of the steps to the back porch, Santa had left a little orange mini-bike with the three Smith Kids names on it!!! Talk about some excited kids!!!! Me, being the oldest, and the bossiest... announced that I got the first ride... I cranked 'er up and took off, forgetting about the rock wall around the yard... yep... my glory was over in 20 seconds... no one was injured (only my pride)... and the riding continued, with us taking turns and being more careful, until the aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents arrived for our traditional Southern Christmas Breakfast.
My Mama's gift to the extended family and really to the world, was her gift of hospitality... that woman knew how to make everyone feel welcome and warm and special when they visited... on Christmas morning she cooked... for everybody in the family (with most everyone contributing a little something to the meal)... every year we had country ham, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, coffee, milk, orange juice, bacon, sausage, grits, hash browns... and more... then the grownups usually settled down for Christmas naps... while we kids played (outside!!!) with our new toys... we rode bikes, (and mini-bikes), tromped the woods in our new boots... pulled each other in our new wagons, or coasted down the hills in the same wagons loaded as full as we could get them with cousins... crashing and getting back up again to climb the hill and do it all over again... you see, we rarely had snow at Christmas (only three times in my life that I can remember)... and much of the time it was warm...
I have so many Christmas memories of my childhood... some good, a few not so good (my Nanny passed away the day after Christmas when I was 14... THAT was a sad one)... but as I look back and remember... the most memorable moments that stand out in my mind had little to do with the gifts I had received... we did a lot of home made gifts and decorations, we ate well... and had a LOT of family together time... that's the stuff I remember!