Many people I know celebrate Christmas by spending their time with immediate family members, opening gifts together, and enjoying a special meal. My family used to do that, until 1972, when my beloved dad passed away. Daddy was the center of my family and without his large presence in our lives, Mom and I were adrift. We spent Christmas of 1972 at my eldest brother, Park’s, house, which made it somewhat less sad than it would have been if we had stayed home. Beginning with Christmas Day in 1973, until Mom’s age meant she could no longer keep up the pace, she and I (and later, David) spent almost all of the day visiting people who had no one else to visit them on Christmas. We began our Christmas day visits early in the morning because there were many people to visit. We usually began our day at Mom’s sister’s (my Aunt Eva) tiny apartment, where Mom reminded me to pretend I like pecan pie, admonishing me to just “pick out” all of the pecans. Aunt Eva prided herself on her pecan pie and my dislike of pecans was a secret between Mom and me. We then went to visit some dear friends, such as my “Grandpa Porter” and his wife, Maggie; another church friend, George Cope; our dear “Uncle Ed” and “Aunt Peggy,” who used to lead the Good News club in our home; the wonderful woman who sewed most of my clothes, Mary Taylor; along with a couple of my dad’s employees, such as Art Wall; and our family favorite, Frank Haynes, to whom my dad fondly referred as “Arkie” because he was from Arkansas. Times were tough for Mom and me after Daddy passed away and I think Mom wanted us both to be reminded that there were other people who, like us, had a less than merry Christmas. Although we exchanged a few gifts on Christmas, it was these visits that are far more memorable to me than anything I gave or received. I guess Mom knew the true meaning of Christmas!
I love pecans, and pecan pie is one of my favorite things, so that was a big plus as I assimilated into Melissa’s and Leola’s world of Christmas routines. Most of the visits Melissa mentioned had ended prior to my joining Leola’s traditions due to life changes, but I do remember a few of the Christmas visits. Leola had other Christmas preferences – mainly with regard to her decorations. At some point, she decided she liked Victorian lace type decorations in mauve. That started an endless quest to find new decorations for her wherever we traveled. The resulting purchases came from places far away, including England and Australia. When Leola could no longer do so, Melissa decorated the tree for her and it obviously brightened Leola’s Christmas holidays, literally and figuratively. Leola’s tree, though artificial, lives on now at our house at Christmas. It has become a tradition to decorate that same tree, in the same way each year. I suppose Leola’s tree has become a reminder of all of those Christmas traditions of years past.