Gig Line: Indelible Christmas memories

Published 10:30 am Saturday, December 24, 2022

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Christmas is a holiday that makes us happy, brings us joy, reminds us of warm and special times with folks we love and, without question, those we miss.

I remember the hard Christmas candy in a jar that stuck together so you’d have to pry it out, rarely knowing what flavor your mouth would taste. Peppermint? Spearmint? Licorice? It was a gamble. Then there were the fruitcakes. Some folks plain don’t like ’em or they pick out the pecans or the candied fruit or eat only the cake portion itself and slide the rest to the side.

I remember one time at work when someone sent a fruitcake to our office for all of us to share. We opened the box, extracted a slice of the dense rectangle holiday treat and gave it a whirl. It was undoubtedly the best fruit cake I had ever eaten and the taste was different than any I had tried before. I wasn’t familiar with the ingredient, but someone else said it was “rum” – I would say in considerable portion! After I had eaten several small pieces, I started getting the giggles! What? The dessert was professionally made with a fancy label on the box and not your ordinary fruitcake! At that point midday, I found everything to be funny. Case in point: if someone gives you a fruitcake, try it!

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Mincemeat pies? I can do without it; the big, beautiful, made from scratch apple cakes my Aunt Evelyn (Evans) used to make? Oh my … out of this world! Mama made the best cookies, pies and Christmas dinners fit for royalty. Christmas is all about that, you know, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who taught us the deepest kind of love and sacrifice.

After having prepared a tin pie plate full of peanuts in the shell or pecans just cracked open, Daddy would put the pie tin on top of the Siegler oil heater in our living room while everyone else opened their gifts. Then, he’d sit down with all the attention on him to finally open his using his favorite pocketknife, taking forever it seemed opening his presents. Sometimes it was a box with his favorite britches, khaki pants; a flannel button up shirt; Hanes T-shirts; socks or drawers and almost always there was a box or two of peanut brittle that he savored.

Our Christmases were simple, no huge fanfare, but that special time when Daddy cut down the perfect tree himself that we’d embellish with popcorn strings, the old crinkly silver tinsel, lights and ornaments our family cherished. Simple, not elaborate in any way, but good, healthy and memorable.

At age 17 I fell in love with and married the most incredible man in this world (no offense to the rest of you fellas!). My sweetie pie Billy was the one true love in my whole life, the best of the best, humble and immensely proud of his family. He had a personal relationship with the Lord and he had leaned on Him countless times, especially while serving during TET in Vietnam. Billy taught me what heartfelt gratitude is, what appreciation for our country, our freedom and our safety really meant. He showed me the incredible blessing of being able to lay my head down on a clean bed pillow, shut my eyes and not worry about the sizzle of a rocket overhead or a bomb exploding nearby. Back home, he could now live and sleep in peace.

While he silently recalled horrific memories of the war and the “Hell” he and so many of our men and women suffered, he kept it together and just thanked God he had come home in March 1968; we married in July ’68 and only months later (September), we realized we were pregnant. He was home, married and God had not only bought us into each other’s lives, but He had created a growing family. We didn’t buy fancy or expensive gifts for each other, but we had so much love and thankfulness to God that no words can fully describe it. The Christmas tree lights were pretty and emitted just enough light for me to see the tears in his eyes – happy to be home in contrast to where he and so many others had been. God bless all our service men and women wherever they may be today.

I don’t know why this Christmas – almost seven years now since Billy passed – I feel his absence so profoundly, but I imagine I will for the rest of my life. Maybe part of it is what we’ve all been through in the past couple of years, realizing unwelcome changes in our traditions we have held so dear throughout our lives. I don’t know. What I am sure of is that somewhere a desire to hurt our nation beyond belief has taken its toll. Deliberate measures to undermine and cripple our values, structures and policies have unfortunately prevailed in some cases. It’s incredibly sad and unnecessary. Good people with good intentions and success in so many areas have been all but annihilated so I pray for good politicians who genuinely care about our nation, her safety and her protection against all that would do her (us) harm. I pray too, that those who thrive on hate and who stir up prejudice realize what they have perpetuated and stop causing heartache across our nation. If my red, white and blue through and through patriotic husband was alive today, he would die all over again.

I’ve never served in our military, but I respect each who have; I don’t take lightly how so many must feel in this day and time; I pray for their safety every day and for God to enable them to do their best to survive the battles they face overseas and even here at home. On Facebook I see almost constant requests for prayer for our country; courage for our leaders to do the right thing and for people to realize what we’ve had and what we’ve already lost. I also see hope in other writings – a desire for our nation to keep traditions, protection for our churches, clergy, and believers in the gospel to be unwavering.

At Christmas time we have much to celebrate but for those who have lost a family member, a friend, a prayer partner or a mentor it is also a difficult and sad time. If you could benefit from some support, I strongly recommend that you mark your calendar to join the rest of us in an upcoming class.

A new Grief Share Class for men and women – valuable beyond words – is free and it lasts 13 weeks; starting the second week in the New Year on Wednesday, January 11, 2023 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (Manteo – downtown) at 300 Ananias Dare St. Peggy Snead presents the class, and she is an exceptional spokesperson. I know because I’ve attended her classes and recommend it to everyone! Again, there is no charge for the class and if you wish to buy a class workbook, it’s only $15 and worth every penny. The workbook offers scriptures and coping mechanisms to deal with the loss of a loved one. It’s such a help because everyone in the class feels the pain of loss; everyone is going through the same thing. No one has to say a word if they wish to keep to themselves – attendees do not have to talk about their heartache and everyone is asked to keep stories spoken confidential. Both men and women are encouraged to attend the class because men suffer too, and this program encompasses in the testimonies you read about and watch on the videos of men who have lost their wives, children or other family members. No one is pressured in any way to say or do anything. The class is awesome, you realize you’re not alone in your grief and that we’re all in this together. Peggy lost her husband only months after I lost mine and she loved him with all her heart. She gets it, she understands and she cares about all of us adjusting to life every day without that special person we miss so much. NOTE: It’s important that you call the church office at 252-473-2089 to register to attend and order the workbook in advance if you want one.

I thank the good Lord for each one of you because you’re in my thoughts and you share my heart. Remember the praise song, “Count your blessings … name them one by one … count your many blessings, see what God has done!” Be healthy, safe, and happy – love others like it’s your last chance to do so. My Gig Line website was created by my neighbor Gabe Dough. He’s a friend and another one of the many blessings in my life! Okay folks, take care until next time and remember – I love you all! Stay tuned!