Harvey H. Jackson: Christmas memories
Dec 18, 2013 | 2256 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“But sir, it’s only once a year” — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

And that once a year is almost upon us.

As occasionally happens, I get an email or two about previous Christmas columns.

Now, folks, when someone goes to the trouble to send me a message saying that something I wrote long ago meant something to them, I get all warm and mushy inside — well, as warm and mushy as the likes of me can get, which might be better described as “slightly thawed and a little crumbly.”

What it really does is tempt me to take a vacation from column-writing and just reprint what I have already written. Christmas columns are hard to write. So I figure a reprint would please those who liked them the first time, satisfy those who don’t remember them and give me a break.

Everyone’s a winner.

This year would be an especially good time for a reprint.

With family scattered as never before and with as much time spent on the road as in front of the word processor, writing time is limited and inspiration is slow to come.

I could reprint my column about our annual family Christmas tree fight that occurs shortly after Thanksgiving when my lovely wife, our two children and I go out to a local Christmas tree farm so wife and children can argue over which tree is best, while I maintain neutral, which angers them all.

We had it again last weekend, but a combination of rain and what might actually be maturity in my college man-son and high school daughter kept arguing to a minimum. The presence of my son’s girlfriend also added a stabilizing influence, so a tree was quickly selected and home we went to decorate.

I could reprint the piece about “Christmas lights in a college town,” which I have been told a local teacher uses in her English class — though it was not clear if it serves as an example of good writing or bad. Don’t think I’ll ask.

Or I could reprint the columns I wrote about “Taddy,” the boy who, with his mother, was brought from war-torn Europe to America and then to Alabama, where they settled in the southwest corner of the state. There he taught many of us the true meaning of Christmas when he gave to a classmate the gift he would have chosen for himself.

Then there is the column about the ugly Christmas tie that my father gave my uncle and that my uncle saved until the next Christmas when he gave it back, and how they swapped the tie, year after year, until both were gone from the earth and the tradition (and the tie) passed on to me, my cousin Benny, and my son.

But of all the Christmas columns, the one that seemed to resonate most with readers was the one about how when my grandfather died, my father took his place and each Christmas gave his baby sister, my Aunt Anne, a box of raisins on the stem. And when my father died, it became my lot to make sure that raisins on the stem would always be under Aunt Anne’s tree on Christmas morning.

I still get letters and emails asking me where they might find the raisins or telling me how they came across some at Williams Orchard on Alabama 11 in Springville. In most cases, a son or daughter wants to give some to elderly parents. I never thought a bunch of shriveled-up grapes could carry so many memories.

Well, this year, after my 97-year-old mama fell, and the flurry that followed, raisins were the farthest thing from my mind.

But when we got her settled in the rehab facility, which is in one wing of the complex where Aunt Anne was living, my thoughts naturally turned to my raisin responsibility as my daddy’s surrogate.

Now, I am not sure I ever mentioned that Mama, after being married to my father for nearly 70 years and after having me as a son, came to realize that if something can be forgotten, overlooked or botched up, Daddy and I were just the ones to forget, overlook or botch. Secure in that knowledge, she has taken it upon herself to quietly cover for us

When Mama-matters calmed down a bit, I made a quick trip back to her home to pick up some papers, do a little family business and clean out the refrigerator.

In the refrigerator, among the butter tubs containing everything but butter, was a box of raisins on the stem waiting for me.

Mama knew.

A couple of days ago, I got a package from a friend down in Mobile, and in it were two boxes of raisins on the stem, just in case I couldn’t find any.

Christmas will be merry this year.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: hjackson@jsu.edu.
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