Merry Christmas from me to you

Well, its just four days before Christmas, a holiday full of joy, cheer… and lots of complications, both good and well, complicated. I hope that your holiday is merry and uncomplicated. I’m certain we’ve all had some holidays we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy (or maybe you would) and some that were really nice. Well, in the spirit of whatever holiday you are celebrating I’d like to share a story that involves a wonderful Christmas and travel. This story happens to be true.

This would have been about oh, about 1987 or 1988. At least I think it was. It was quite some time back and I didn’t take notes. 🙂  My family and I were living here in Asheville but our relatives lived further north. So we packed our van full of presents and ourselves and headed north. One set of in-laws lived in Tennessee and we arrived pretty much on time. If you’ve ever seen Christmas Eve traffic in Kingsport you’ll know what I mean.

My Grandmother on one side lived in a cozy house near several of my uncles. This is a big side of the family so lots of people were there. All the children would bring food in, although Grandmother did very good cooking on her own. But food wasn’t as big an emphasis as seeing each other. In the living room was a wood stove, a square one with a blower that my uncle had put in when oil when higher than he thought it should. When someone would arrive some of the others would go out and help carry things in. Then the blower would usually kick out to warm the room back up.

My grandmother’s dining room was very classic. It was an stately old wooden table with a thick tablecloth on it. There was a dark wood sideboard where the food was set when it was brought from the kitchen. I remember it had a big mirror on its back and a grand clock sitting in its center. Or maybe that’s just the way I remember it. While everyone was bringing dishes out and getting ready for dinner I would read the Johnson City and Knoxville newspapers. My grandmother was a very intelligent, well informed woman. I read most of the paper, including current events, but the comics were also fun. There were several that aren’t in the Asheville paper, including Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy and The Phantom.

Dinner was fun. Of course my mother would fix me a plate and then I would listen to the conversation of the adults as I ate. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere that made me feel like I was part of a bigger group. Finally after dinner we would open presents. The tree was in a room of the sitting room, I think it may have been a sewing room. It was always a beautifully decorated tree with lots of lights. One of my uncles taught art at one of the colleges so he kept grandmother well stocked in the best ornaments and lights. This particular night we would have waited till the presents had been opened then we would have left. There was more road ahead of us to cover. (No wonder I grew up to write a travel blog.)

To get to my other relatives we had to travel up to the coalfields of Southwestern Virginia. They were hard working coal miners who enjoyed living the good life, singing good music, attending good church services and eating good food. It will give no offense at all to my other Grandmother to say that my Granny was if not the best cook and housekeeper ever, then she certainly was a tie. They lived in one of the many  little towns that had been built by coal companies over a hundred years ago. Their house had been built by the coal company, then expanded by my grandfather. By the time I came along it was a two story farmhouse picturesquely nestled between the road and a mountain stream.

My Papaw and Granny were all about family. (Once again, not that the other side of the family wasn’t. Just getting that straight. 🙂 ) They loved nothing more than having all their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered under the roof. Granny, the daughters, daughter in laws and grand daughters would fix an amazing dinner while Papaw, the sons, son in laws and grand sons would usually watch a game on television. I usually moving back and forth between the two.

Granny had a well appointed kitchen designed and decorated just like she wanted. It was a beautiful mix of strawberry red and bright, clean white. Today when I see that color of red I still think of her. Her pots and dishes were neatly stored in white wooden cabinets and she knew exactly where everything was. There was a table there with a bench along one side. This was usually where I would sit while the women fixed dinner. Granny kept copies of Guideposts on a corner table in the den so I would usually scoop up a few and read them while I listened to the conversation.

My Papaw had worked hard and he retired well. He had a lovely den which he had paneled in wood. On one large wall were photographs of all his children and grandchildren. Across the room was a fireplace with a brick hearth and a large wood beam for a mantle.  On that side of the room hung some of the oil paintings he occasionally did. There was a large pine cabinet in one back corner where the board games were kept and a rocking chair in another next to the Guideposts Granny kept there. This is where I would sit while they watched the games.

This night we arrived late and spent the night. The next day was Christmas and we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with my grandparents. After exchanging gifts I believe we may have driven up the road and visited some other old friends. Then we headed back to Asheville. It had been a busy Christmas, but one I will never forget.

I hope this little tale has entertained you and reminded you of the holiday spirit. Each of us have different families, some who live close and others who live farther away. It is my wish that this season you will find warmth in the Spirit of the Season wherever you are. Too often in the hustle of the holidays its easy to forget that its not about the presents and the rituals and the things we do. So wherever you find yourself this year remember the True Spirit of Christmas is as close as the beating of your heart. Close your eyes and open your heart to the Child of Bethlehem. He will fill you with the Joy of the Season.

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