We are quickly leaving the New Year behind us and I must note how grateful that I am to have “finished” 2019 without it being too complex, let us say it was my new normal. My thoughts were however traveling back in time as the usually do on a regular basis when I begin to write about my early years in Alabama. In those very early days, I was unaware of Christmas or the beginning of a New Year until I was about four years old.
I had turned four in March and my daddy had gone to Birmingham to bring me home. He felt that I was big enough for him to care for me, thus my early experience of being raised as I like to say; on the back of an old red roan, that daddy rode into the fields every day to check on the cotton, corn and sugar cane. Soon it was December and my first Christmas back with my parents after living with my Aunt Vina, my daddy’s sister. Aunt Vina had asked us down for Christmas and after what seem to be a loud discussion from the back porch my mother agreed to go, she hated all holidays especially Christmas. She never allowed a tree or any decorations; I would find out after that Christmas that I was not to believe in Santa Clause either. Santa had always been a big deal with my Aunt Vina. I guess that my mother must have thought that she would not have to cook for the holiday if she went to Birmingham as her family usually invited themselves to our house for Christmas.
That summer my daddy had plowed some fields for old man Burleson in exchange for an early 1930’s paneled bread truck, the only windows were in the front and, driver and passenger windows. The seat was solid across with sitting room for three people, a wire cage separated the front seat from the back of the truck, and daddy used it for hauling feed and such. Our only other vehicle was an old jeep that Mr. Hamilton whom daddy sharecropped for had bought at an Army surplus sale in Georgia. This would be our form of long distance trips until I was too big to sit at my mother’s feet in the floorboard. My sister never had to share her seat in the middle, one she would have refused and second my mother would not have allowed it. I believe her answer to that question years later was the floorboard was good enough for me.
Christmas that year would be the last and it was glorious. Aunt Vina and Uncle Wesley took all of us Christmas Eve to Macy’s, while they walked through the toy section, Aunt Vina ask was I wanted Santa to bring me that year. I could hardly contain myself when I saw this baby doll the size of a one-year old, dress in blue velvet short pants and a jacket, underneath was a blue satin shirt ( with white satin underwear), white shoes and socks, all together he looked just like a real baby boy. I remember saying that is all I wanted, when my mother begin to complain, Aunt Vina shut her down saying this was her Christmas and her money. I was so afraid of my mother, her face turned red and a big vein stuck out of the side of her forehead.
I then saw a beautiful girl doll dress in red velvet and white, she was a tall doll, maybe two or three foot. I ask if Santa would bring her to my sister Billie, it was possible and when I think back, it was most certainly the day that my mother could have possibly had a heart attack, she was so mad. If that did not cause one, then the bags of candy and clothes under the tree Christmas morning should have put her down. It was a grand holiday and it would be the last my family or I would spend with my Aunt and Uncle. My mother hated holidays, birthdays and any other celebrations, and my sister and I suffered because of it.
Now, Billie was the only child she ever wanted, she did not want me at birth and my daddy had my Aunt Vina come get me. She did not want me back when I turned four, however I fared well riding in cotton wagons and on the backs of old swayback mules. Sometimes I rode on the back of Big Red behind my daddy. My world was small, climbing bluffs, running in the woods and lowlands around the farm; I swam in Flint Creek, most times alone when I was six or seven and I knew to avoid rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Santa did not come to our house, but he always left me candy at the Christmas church gathering; and one year I did get a little doll, I knew that Santa did not bring it because it had a homemade dress, no shoes and most of its hair was missing.
Yes, another Christmas has gone by, and here in the winter of my life I think back on those days, not with sadness. I think of all the other children that were much worse off than I was, many had no food. I know that it must have been hard on my daddy, he fought with mother every year to cut a tree in the woods that surrounded the land he worked, and we never knew if it was going to be in the house or on the porch.
I think of my mother during Christmas because of the hate she had for the day, I made her something every year and she would throw it out before the new year begin. Mostly, I think of how much I loved her and wanted her to love me. My Christmas these days are more than an old woman could ask for, the love of my own children for me exceeds all that one could ever want; they have always made me feel loved as I have them. I sometimes think they are too good to me. I had a wonderful holiday season and I am so grateful for my family. Now, we begin another year and Christmas will be here before you know it…
Love one another, that is what is important in life, the love that holds us up when we cannot walk, the love that has the voice of caring. Love is Santa Clause.
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