2017-12-13 / Editorials

Don Lively


It's beginning to look a lot like...well... you know.

The cynics among us will point out that the first signs and symbols of Christmas began appearing in our neck of the woods shortly after Labor Day.

That's a bit of an exaggeration.

It was closer to Halloween, nearly two months before Santa is scheduled to make his annual appearance at every nook and cranny on the planet. One local radio station started playing Christmas music before the Trick or Treat candy was even close to being gone. And of course, in our little corner of the Blessed South, there are folks who leave their Christmas lights up all year.

That's just fine with me.

I'm one of those rare grown men who actually likes Christmas and all of the hustle and bustle that accompanies the season.

I like the songs.

I like the decorations.

I like the goodwill that's brought out in most folks.

I like aggravating the grumps by hollering Merry Christmas at their pinched faces.

I like Christmas.

I always have.

When I was a young boy growing up on the farm I couldn't wait for school to let out for Christmas break. The anticipation of Christmas Day finally arriving was one of the highlights of my year.

A week or two before Christmas Mama would take us on the long drive to the big city of Augusta to do our Christmas shopping. Long before the constant worry about children being snatched up by strangers, if she was going to buy a specific gift for one of us, Mama would have that child go off by themselves to some other part of the store while she bought the special gift. None of us every got kidnapped and she was always able to keep whatever was in the brightly colored shopping bags secret until Christmas morning.

Every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night leading up to Christmas day I would compare notes with my cousins and friends about what they wanted to find under their trees.

Other church activities revolved around participating in the annual Christmas play. One memorable year I was chosen to play the lead, a church janitor by the name of Scotty McGregor. I was directed to try to sound Scottish. I was twelve but I'd seen plenty of Tarzan movies with British folks always trying to convince Jane to leave the jungle and return to London and I'd also seen a couple of James Bond flicks. I was certain that my squeaky, pre-pubescent voice perfectly mimicked Sean Connery's baritone brogue.

That's doubtful but I'd pay a pretty penny to see a video of that long ago performance.

Daddy always waited till a week or so before Christmas before we'd go looking for a Christmas tree. He'd load us all up in the truck and head to some cedar thicket that he was familiar with. Of course the four of us couldn't agree on which tree was best so Daddy would pick one. After a few swings of his ax the tree was claimed and we headed home to put it up. Not one to use tree stands, Daddy would put the tree in a five gallon bucket and pack dirt around the base. Our trees stayed very fresh.

Those Christmases past hold many other fun and wonderful memories.

Christmas was the only time of the year when we had walnuts and Brazil nuts at our house. We used metal nutcrackers to open them and stuff ourselves.

It was also the only time of the year when Claxton fruitcakes appeared. Daddy was the only one who would eat them.

But the most unforgettable part of those yester Christmas Seasons, to me, was the annual arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Wish Book.

We called it, simply, The Toy Book.

My siblings and I spent many happy hours poring over the bright and colorful pictures of toy guns and bicycles and coonskin caps and, for my sister, baby dolls galore. Any toy you could imagine was in the catalog. We all made lists of what we wanted and giddily turned them over to Mama so that she could convey the information to the North Pole, or buy it herself, we didn't care which.

I don't ever remember being disappointed on Christmas morning.

A Southern Christmas in the country is hard to beat.

It still is.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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