Merry Christmas Y'all

It’s summed up best, I think, by Sir Paul McCartney. “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time.”

I had remarked, on everyone’s new favorite mode of communication, Facebook, or fb to the more seasoned hip readers, such as myself….ahem, that it was going a be a slim Christmas in the Vi house. A gal’fran commented that sometimes those are the best and that is the truth.

We ending up with not a big stack of loot, but a meaningful one, as there were no “standard last minute gifts”, but each reflected something we love. Those gifts give both ways. To the receiver, a new view of a cherish icon. I received a paperweight with a drawing of the Eiffel Tower under a glass dome. If you find yourself on my side of the bullpen, stop by my cubicle and I’ll show it to you. To the giver, the gift of knowing your choice and the story that goes along with how it came to you is something that will be remembered and told and retold. How the Eiffel Tower thing you had planned on getting because the giftee said back in August that she loved it, was sold at Kirkland’s and you found an even better gift at Pier One, and it was hiding under a display table. Something drew your eyes there, and there it sat. “Bonjour, I am over here.”

I received the gift of appreciation. Economic circumstances have led me to be that lady that gives baked gifts. I’ve always heard that those were the best gifts, but I wasn’t sure I believed it. It certainly requires a lot of work, even if it is cheaper, by the time you add man hours, its value rises. Of course, the giftee doesn’t see that part; they see and experience yummy goodness (hopefully). I took Friday, Christmas Eve, off from work to prepare the buffet that preceded our gift exchange. The house filled with savory aromas, background noise provided by Turner Classic Movies with their Christmas movie line up. Mel and Sk8rBoi did whatever housekeeping chore I asked of them, and Mel never even complained or whined, that was a gift in itself. I’m proud to say my cooking endeavors were met with oohs and aahs and what Dr Frederic Frankenstein would refer to as “yummy sounds”.

Christmas is a magic time. Forgiveness comes easier; the kid in you comes out to play with all other kids that come out at Christmas time. In the sitting around and hanging out that comes after the gift blitz, we reminisce about crazy things we’ve done, how we found the perfect gift. We enjoy a second trip to the eats, maybe have a cocktail. Laugh, love and wonder at the things we learn about each other.

As I was helping Mel put her new down mattress topper on her bed, I noticed a quarter on the floor. “I’ve been practicing with that,” she said and took it from me. She began to roll the quarter through her fingers, clumsily, cos she’s still perfecting her moves, but it’s something I can’t do, would never have even thought of trying. I was amazed; it was an extra little Christmas surprise. This morning, waiting for X2 to pick her up, she told me how she had been practicing for three days as she rolled it over her fingers. Her Dad came in and began explaining how it is done. He’s an explainer, you know. Ask him the time, he tells you how to make a watch. Turns out, when he was Mel’s age, he also taught himself this trick. I’m always astonished at the things we inherit. This isn’t the first time Mel has exhibited X2’s phenomenal ability to self teach. This is a gift he passes onto his daughter through DNA. My gift to her is to the ability to make people laugh and the love of words. Mel’s gift to us? Showing us the younger version of ourselves with renewed hope and promise.

Christmas 1995, I received the greatest gift ever. News that I was with child. I found out Dec 23 that Mel was on her way. Very apropos, too, as I had prayed for this miracle and news of it came to me as we commemorate that most important birth.


Boast of Christmas Past

Well, friends and neighbors, the Yule Tide Season is in full swing. This Christmas is going to be small, materially, but we’ll do all right.

The tradition in my family has always been to open presents on Christmas Eve night. When we were kids, DoodCuz, DrCuz, Kat and I, we quickly ate our light supper, hot dogs usually, then sat in front of the TV in the den until the grownups decided that it was “time”. Many times, we’d hold the present with our name on it that most intrigued us, loving it before we even knew what it was. I remember reading the words “Head to Toe” through the paper on a present, and I went crazy trying to imagine what it could be. That was 1971. You couldn’t just type “Head to Toe” in a search engine, you had to sit there and wonder.
Most years we were able to successfully beg to one just one present Christmas Eve Eve. “Head to Toe” ended up being a Dawn doll with three wigs, short to long, hence head to toe. Dawn was a tiny Barbie-ish doll.
After presents had been exchanged, we played with our new toys for a bit, the grownups would gather round the table and play cards or a board game. Once 9:00 came we four kids piled up in Auntie Virg and UncaHoney’s king size bed. The adults continued their games, enjoyed a few cocktails and waited for Santa.
After Santa had arrived, we were woken out of hard achieved slumber to see what Santa Claus had left. It would be like 4am. We’d run out to the den and find our individual stack of loot. The adults stayed up, made sure we saw all the stuff, including stockings, and at some point slipped away to bed without our notice. When the sun peeked into the windows, with her rosy pink glow, we sacked out on the couch, or floor, our new favorite toy sleeping beside us.

Later, we would awake to Dot, Auntie Virg and Mama Lou in the kitchen, our Christmas meal prepared as if our late grandfather were supervising. Everything his recipe and the manner in which he would have made it. My mother worked to peel oranges slices, riding them of their filmy skin. Next she would chop pecan finely, pecans from Auntie Virg’s pecan orchard that conveniently came with the house. Auntie Virg was bravely chopping peppers and onions and cabbage for the hot slaw. Mama Lou attached pineapple slices to a Ham, them plunked cherries in the center of them. DOT made the potato salad, and it was good.

After dinner, the food was left out for grazing. Christmas afternoon and night was a big munch/play/munch/play kinda thing. No VCRs and video games them, we had toys to play with and fight over. FAO Schwartz South was going on there and we disappeared until we thought of all the good food still prime for nibbling.

And speaking of no VCRs, if you missed the broadcast of Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie Brown, you didn’t get another chance to see if for 12 months. Back in those days, the TV Guide was the most important magazine in the house.


Schoolhouse Minuet

Did you know that December 10th is the date Mississippi reentered the union after the civil war? I only know, not because I’m a Mississippian, but because on December 10, 1971 I enrolled into Duncan Academy and the 6th grade class was having a Happy Birthday Mississippi party.

It was a sweet little school, the kind Francie Nolan gets to go to in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Grades 1-6, it was a stately old building, one long hallway through the middle, a auditorium with a stage and a library no bigger than a bedroom. The classes were small; there may have been 15 in the 6th grade class, including me. The desks were wooden, bolted to the floor, the desk top attached to the seat in front of it, think A Christmas Story, we even had a hole for ink wells. There was a cloak room and a radiator. It was very quaint.

Duncan Academy was a private school, right on old highway 61 (it was the only 61 then) at Duncan Miss, a little burg between Cleveland and Clarksdale. Smack in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. The last time I remember seeing the building was on a trip from Lafayette to Eudora back in the mid eighties, at that time it was a nursing home. The old gym was now a ramshackle structure, the old lunchroom not visible from the road, but probably was still in use. I think there may be a school on that site, I hope some of old building was renovated. I love old buildings.

The children who went here were the children of cotton planters, managers of cotton farms, and white cotton farm laborers children. Then there was Me, Dot and I lived with Auntie Virg and UncaHoney after the Hardy years came to a screeching halt. I was at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the poor relation.

I was forced to play girls basketball, I sucked, the most athletic thing I can do is sit on the couch and cheer the Saints or Cowboys on. We studied Mississippi history. That’s a bloody history, most of the material had to do with the Civil War. I don’t think Mississippi History taught these days concentrates so much on that, in fact I think it’s kinda glanced over. We took a overnight field trip to Jackson and met the Guv (see blog post “Picnic”)

The other big happening that year was the school play. When I say School Play, I mean ever’body. We sixth graders were the real stars, we had all the speaking parts. It was about a little country school putting on a school play, ah, art imitates life imitates art. Each class came up to “practice” their song for the “play”. My cousin, DoodCuz was in 3rd grade, and his class’s number was “You Get a Line, I’ll Get a Pole”. We had to wear Hillbilly clothes, cut off blue jeans and ropes for belts. We talked “country” (as if our real voices weren’t).

It was on a Tuesday night, I believe, and in the days before VCRs and such, Auntie Virg missed her favorite TV show, Sonny and Cher, to see our performance. I sat on stage right, all the way to the end, right in front of the audience, I looked at the footlights to keep from looking out at the audience. I didn't want to mess up like I had in the third grade. I was supposed to keep eyes straight at the audience, being part of a Christmas tree, wrapped in crepe paper, sitting on the steps leading up to the stage. But I turned and watched the play and the teacher leaned over and smacked my shoulder with a ruler, in front of everyone.

I remember standing at the black board in that 6th grade classroom, a fellow class mate making fun of the way I wrote an uppercase "D". I was the scapegoat in that small class. Later I would lash out at one of the girls I considered most hateful to me. My mother told me years later I had caused the girl's mother to have a nervous breakdown. I don't know if that's true, but I sincerely hope that it is not. That might not be a story for another time, it shows an ugly side of me.

We lived with Auntie Virg and UncaHoney through the winter and in spring Dot got us an apartment in Merigold, Mississippi. We only got one channel, Channel 6 out of Greenville/Greenwood. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio. There was no FM then, not in this area. I listened to WHBQ out of Memphis. Popular songs of the day were "Brandy", "Vincent", Jackson 5 and Osmond songs. "Doctor My Eyes" "A Horse With No Name". I remember my bedroom in that little apartment when I hear those songs. I am instantly transported back to a lonely 11 year old reading Tiger Beat and 16 and Rona Barrett's Hollywood magazines.

What ever happened to Rona Barrett, anyway?