Gig Line: Ole timey Christmas memories

Published 10:16 pm Friday, December 24, 2021

This beautiful time of year, more special than any other (while there are many), brings such precious memories of years past, doesn’t it? As an older adult, I remember my sweet childhood when we had a black and white TV and an antenna that you had to twist around outside on the pole it was attached to hoping to catch a signal and even then, the television picture was often snowy and the network shows were scarce. Daddy’s favorite was Gunsmoke, Mama’s was Johnny Carson.

Just before Christmas we would pile in Daddy’s truck and go to one of the wooded areas on the mainland and look for the “just right” tree. Then after a family vote, Daddy would chop it down and we’d haul it back home with anticipation and joyful hearts.

Once home with our fragrant treasure, we would anxiously wait for Daddy to trim the trunk just enough to fit it into the tree stand’s round opening with the key screws that held it tight and upright. It smelled so good, and it was fun even untangling the lights (mostly colored back then because you rarely saw all white tree lights), hanging the clear plastic icicles and ornaments we had either made at school through the years or recently purchased at the old Ben Franklin store downtown. The top was always adorned with an angel as nothing less would do.

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Once decorated, we would sit and stare at it for the longest time as if it would entertain us or perform magic tricks, but it already had. It had magically transformed the northeast corner of our living room into a beautiful space in time. When I fixed my eyes upon its influence, I would remember past Christmases when we once had a little powder pink tree when Daddy served in the U.S. Coast Guard and we lived in Miami. The ornaments I had seen on our neighbor’s tree across the street were like glass medicine eye droppers with bubbly liquid inside, orange, green, red, blue and yellow. Oh, and let’s not forget the tinsel that easily tangled even after carefully placing it back in its box from the year before.

We were anxious for this extra special holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth, attending Christmas plays at church, eating a lot of carb-filled goodies and giving and getting countless hugs – as you can imagine – no Covid-19 back then to worry about. Our houses all smelled so good with scents of the season and the aromas of Fraser fir, green spruce, cedar and pine. They were the kind of scents you would never tire of, warm and welcoming. Because we didn’t have tons of tree embellishments, the ones we had were dear to our heart and popcorn strings were a given – no butter or salt! Of course, simple, plain popcorn we would pop in a big pot on the kitchen stove; then we would sit in the living room around our oil Siegler heater stringing each one while telling funny stories. We would joke about how Daddy loved to open his gifts with his finely sharpened pocketknife; little by little, he’d cut the edge of the package or slide it just under the Scotch tape ever so slightly making us all wait until he finally revealed his prize inside. Most of the time it was undershirts, socks or drawers and sometimes cans of his favorite Planters peanuts or a box of peanut brittle.

As a family, none of the gifts we gave each other were extravagant. Mama and Daddy had saved money over the years having sold property; Daddy running his fishing charters; Mama managing an insurance office; my sister waitressing and being younger, I babysat in addition to our allowances for doing household chores, but our gifts were sensible, not frivolous and well thought out beforehand and appreciated none the less.

Because we had a mature yielding pecan tree that Daddy had planted when it was very small that had grown tall and healthy, he’d gather up the fallen pecans in an empty tin can he had nailed to a broom stick scooping them up wherever they had fallen, then fill our nut bowl that had the metal nut pickers (I called them) standing upright in the middle. Sometimes when you came inside from the cold, the scent of roasted nuts he had spread out in a tin plate and set on the top of the Siegler heater filled the air. Just another typical and good “Daddy thing.”

And always before Christmas he would take us to Manns Harbor to one of his favorite stomping grounds, Tom Totes general store. It was a wood floor country store with glass jars of goodies, candies, pickles and the like and one of Daddy’s favorite treats was the cartons of sweet cream he would get there. Mama had preserved the plump figs that grew on our fig bushes in the yard, roll out and bake fresh buttermilk biscuits and as soon as they made it out of the oven, Daddy would scoop out the figs from the glass Ball jars with its sweet syrup and lay them on the biscuit and pile on the sweet cream, another special treat he looked forward to in the wintertime on Roanoke Island, his homeplace.

Golly I love this town. I love these memories. I loved my parents, my sister and the memories we made together as a family. Then in later years, I was blessed to have a family of my own and we continued, like you, to create new traditions and memories.

Time is precious. Life is, too, but it is short even if you live to be one hundred, if you’re a happy soul and you love life and those around you. In the grand scheme of things, at one hundred, life is still short.

This Christmas we are blessed to be alive. We are blessed to have precious children in our life and joy in our heart. Those of us who have lost a loved one recently or even years and years ago still grieve for them, miss them, remember them and how they made Christmas special each year they were with us and for that matter, holidays, especially Christmas, will never be the same. But we have to go on. We have to cling to those old black and white pictures, slides and memories from days past. We still must hold our chin up and look toward Heaven where they are and rest in the knowledge that they are safe, healthy and happy.

Our veterans lost to war, our veterans who have lost their limbs and those who have lost part of themselves because of what they went through are to be remembered with honor and praise. So many have died to keep us safe and to live our lives in a country that is free and beautiful.

When we consider past Christmases and we thank our dear and precious Lord for the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ, think too about the sacrifices of our soldiers, airmen, seamen and Marines. And in the new year coming, it would be great if we all became Fishers of Men and made ourselves the best we can be for others, that we look for others to help, to witness to about the Lord and his love for all of us and that none of us are beyond forgiveness when we ask for it.

Also, what if we make a sincere effort to mend fences with family members, we might be estranged from – for whatever reason, legitimate or unfounded – and decide that we don’t want to start the New Year 2022 as it is. Let’s start fresh, let’s talk about our differences openly and honestly and try at least to bring our loved one back where they used to be – in the fold. How about that? Can we try? None of us are perfect, all of us make mistakes, even and especially God forgives us. Can we just forgive each other? Where am I coming from on this? Because I know families who are dealing with broken hearts, who deeply love their family members and who don’t always realize the extent of the heartache they may have caused or received because of misunderstandings, misinformation or just because we, as humans, are sometimes just plain stubborn and avoid conflict even when it makes it worse. All I ask is that we all at least think about it. Christmas is a blessing and love is the greatest gift of all. It’s free and available to everyone.

Until next time my friends, I hope your Christmas week is extraordinary this year and that you feel the love that you give to others, which I hope is abundant! I love you all. I thank you for reading Gig Line and in this new year, I wish you and everyone you love good health, safety and happiness. Call me if you’d like. My cell number is 252-202-2058 and my email address is giglineheroes@aol.com. Check out www.giglineheroes.com. Please pray for our troops and by all means, stay tuned!

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