Christmas in the Country – with Sable and a Contest
Before I start rambling, the winner from last post is Ginger Robertson for a book of your choice from me. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to collect your prize. To qualify for a chance at a copy of Justice when it comes out, tell me something special about your Christmas traditions.
I spent a lot of my youth and young adulthood in the country. Dirt-road country. Places where the roads were so narrow that the trees met in a canopy overhead. There were no residential neighborhoods where the houses are only six to ten feet apart. The more likely distance between neighbors was measured in acres or miles. Still and all, as my grandmother used to say, we enjoyed getting together, especially during the holidays. But things don’t always work in the country like they do in the city.
Take shopping for instance – we had to drive two hours to a mall, an hour to a Wal-mart – so Christmas shopping was usually relegated to a one-day extravaganza excursion or we did it by mail-order. I can remember getting up before dawn and driving to Beaumont with full intention of getting all of my Christmas shopping done in one day. Of course the day would be punctuated by frequent stops for hot chocolate, croissants, burgers or pie – – but, still, it was a long, tiring and usually frustrating day. We approached Christmas present giving a little different than ‘normal’ folks. We went all out, but we used the gift-giving to purchase for one another things we really needed – like clothes or tools or appliances – things other folks would buy during the year, we bought during the holidays. Some gifts were frivolous, but mostly they were things we needed but wouldn’t buy for ourselves. Oh, but there was one important thing – – we had to make tripledamndog sure that everyone got the same number of gifts. If someone got more than the other it was a disaster. Because when we opened them, we did it one at a time and taking turns and if one person was left with three extra after everyone else was through – well, it wasn’t pretty. And we all had our gifts wrapped in one color – I was red, Jess was green and so forth.
Our Christmas tree was always real and came out of our own wooded pasture. Sometimes it was a pine, sometimes a cedar – but always imperfect. We would go out to find it about the second week in December because we didn’t want it to dry out and be a fire by Christmas day. The ornaments were collected over time, some ragged, some cheesy – all meaningful. I’m a proponent of multi-colored lights on a tree. None of that all white or all blue for me. The tree, the lights on the porch, the ones on the hearth – they are all multi-colored. And I collect Santa Claus – big ones, little ones, figures, some almost as big as me. And geese seem to play a big role in my decorating, I have several wooden ones that wear these huge bows during the holidays.
And Christmas dinner wasn’t just at Christmas. Let me explain. Nana was the primary chef at Christmas and she baked like her mother used to – and by that I mean, you didn’t make one pie, you made four. She would start about mid-December and make fudge and pralines and Martha Washington candy. Then came the fruitcake, then the chocolate fudge layer cake and then the layered white nut cake. There was pecan pie, chocolate, mincemeat and coconut and later, when my aunt married, cherry was added to the mix. We had ham, a turkey, a roast, a pork loin – cornbread dressing, 4 salads, chicken and dumplings, gumbo – it was an endless banquet for about three weeks. There was one part of our house that was always cold, the dining room and some of the desserts, etc, would be out in there all the time and you went in and got something when you wanted it. To a child, this was magical, like a gingerbread house where treats were always available.
I believed in Santa Claus, still do. I can remember hearing the reindeer hooves on the roof and finding presents left outside with snow on them, which was a feat since we rarely had snow. Santa would come early on Christmas Eve night, if I would hide and be good – I never saw him but my folks would yell and laugh after they opened the door to the living room where the tree was and find that he’d been by. Now, we save some gifts to open Christmas morning, but when I was young we did it all on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was always a let-down and more for visiting and religious stuff than fun. So, speaks the spoiled child that was Sable.
One precious memory I have is caroling. I love to sing and I love the outdoors. We couldn’t carol like folks in the city could by walking from house to house. So, we combined three good things. We got to sing for neighbors and have a hayride at the same time. One of our neighbors who had a big wagon would fill it with hay, hook up the horses and pull us up one road and down the other so we could fill the countryside with a joyful noise. Sometimes they would bring us out treats, but mostly we left that for when we got through and all ganged up for hot chocolate, roasted hot dogs or some other type of goodie.
As I got older, those caroling trips took on a whole new light when I started cuddling with boys under blankets in the hay. Gave a whole new meaning to ‘keeping warm’ in the chilly weather.
Nowadays, things are a little different. It happens to all of us. We grow up. We lose family. We move. Our interests change or mature, I guess you could say. But in my life some things don’t change. I still go all out. My tree is full of presents for family. Stockings are hung by the chimney with care and two of them are for the dogs and they know which stocking is theirs and they sit under it and try to stare it off the hook. I won’t cook as much this year, I live in a place where there is decadent food on every hand so I don’t mind telling you that I haunt this French bakery for the perfect pastry.
Instead of caroling on country roads, I will walk on the huge, magnificent Trail of Lights down by the Colorado River in downtown Austin and I’ll post pictures of that on my post on the 27th. And it probably won’t snow – it might before winter is over – but snow is rare here. Today, it is a sunny 66 degrees and the next cold front won’t come in until Friday where we’re expecting a low of 37 on Saturday. I started to say I’d build a fire in the fireplace, but I have one on now. My feet stay cold.
It’s sad to say, but true. I won’t be going to church. I will take care of my spirituality at home, just me and the creator. Some things are better taken care of in private – that way I won’t offend anyone.
Writing wise, I’m striving to finish a book before Christmas and I have four more that have to come out in the next couple of months. So, I have a lot to do. But I will take time to make merry – for just a little while.
I hope you do, too.