Christmas in a Mill Village
Christmas always started with the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Looking in the window of our house you would see the lights come on as my mother rose to fix breakfast for my Daddy because he wanted to be in the field to quail hunt before the sun came up. George would come in as Daddy finished eating. Daddy would add the last layer of hunting gear and they would head out to put the dogs in the trunk and off they went.. Mama would then have a little time for herself usually spent reading.before calling Jean and I . Often I would wake up to hear George and Daddy talking softly while they were leaving and sometimes would get up to hug them good bye. I would then hurry back to my warm bed to wait for Mama to call us. This was the comforting fabric of my life. Oh how safe I felt snuggled under those many quilts with the comforting familiar sounds of my home.
The next thing would be Mama waking us up and the usual flurry of dressing and getting ready to head over and pick up Mrs. Adams and Peggy to go to Durham Christmas shopping.. It was always cold at that time of the year and of course there were no inside malls then .We always parked in a parking lot a few blocks from the main street because if you bought something from Belks, your parking was free. Our first stop was always Woolworth. When we finished shopping there we would head downstairs to the counter to eat. I always got the turkey and dressing plate. Yes, the day after thanksgiving because they had the best turkey dressing ever. After this we would hit every store up one side of the street and down the other. When Jean and Peggy got older they would always be way ahead of us with Mama and Mrs Adams always calling to them to wait. I know we bought something and of course the mandatory package from Belks often trying to find something cheap just to have a Belks bag for the free parking. (It was probably cheaper to pay for parking.) However it was never about buying, it was about being together carrying on the tradition. We barely beat Daddy home from hunting. I remember this being one of the fun events leading up to Christmas. I remember getting into the cold car and the slow warm up of the car, being snug in the back seat with Jean and Peggy. Mama and Mrs Adams were talking in the front seat, with their voices lulling us until we realized they had said something funny and all of us were laughing. Now all of us were once again at home feeling safe, warm and tired after our busy day. Count down to Christmas has begun. spaghetti evening gowns
2 The whole month of December was about Christmas. Back then even schools had Christmas events. Every class had a performance for the December PTA meeting. This meant that when looking through the classroom windows you would witness many hours of practice and also you would witness Christmas crafts being made to decorate the classrooms. The last day of the year, mothers brought or sent all kinds of goodies for the children. I have a Christmas memory of my 1st grade Christmas Program. I had this lovely dress that I was to wear for the program but My Mama did not want me to wear it to school. She said she would bring it at lunch time because the program would be at the end of the day. Not long after we got to school it started snowing and continued, so they announced that school would close.at noon. The teachers went into full speed ahead getting the program together to do before we closed. I remember being in tears because I didn't have my beautiful dress. I remember all of the teachers being upset because I was so upset and even the principal being kind which I never saw that often, and her saying she would try to get a message to my Mama. Just as we were lining up in comes my Mama carrying my beautiful rose colored dress. She swoops down and grabs me out of the line and puts the dress on. I don't know how she knew about the early program but as always she was my hero. I felt so beautiful in that dress. It has always been the favorite dress of my childhood.
3 In our home we were raised to make a Christmas list. Our list contained the one thing you really wanted, clothes, fruits, nuts, and candy that were always in a shoe box, and a surprise. We always gave each others gifts. With the money we had saved all year we went to town and very carefully picked out gifts for each other. This took a lot of time. My mom use to say that I was the only person she knew who could take two dollars and buy her whole family Christmas gifts, buy her self something, and have money left over. I believe it is the picking of the gift that is important not what you pay for it. I still do. I would rather have a candy bar that says you remember that it was my favorite than an expensive gift given with no thought. Jean and I usually pooled our money and bought something together for Mama and Daddy. I think the last thing we bought for them while we were at home together was a black Wrought Iron Clock which Daddy hung beside the TV that very Morning. It hung there until they left their home to live with me 40 years later. One year after Jean learned to sew she made my bride doll a whole wardrobe of outfits. My favorite was a pink organza evening dress. As I have said I had the best sister.
4 None of us had a lot, but most of us had loving families and were given what ever our parents could provide. Some of us had more than others, but I don't remember there being jealousy for each other's gifts. I remember us sharing maybe a new bike with a friend who didn't have one or giving an orange to another friend. I was always willing to give away my nuts not because I was a giving kid, but I just hate nuts. Yet every year I always said nuts, fruits and candy. My friend Brenda usually the recipient of these because she liked nuts and I was happy to have them gone.
5 The weeks before Christmas the village was a flurry of excitement. Once school was out the kids were in and out of each others homes. Looking in the windows you would see mothers busy with cleaning and sneaking out presents from hiding to wrap. Older children helping to get the house in order. The houses beginning to fill with wonderful aromas of Christmas cooking. Family parties being held. The excitement spreading through out the village.. We were a poor neighborhood.so this was never about the material things it was the excitement of Christmas sharing and love. It was about Christmas. Depending on the size of the family and the income affected what and how much was under the tree. Someshow there never seemed to be any attention paid to what or how much was under the tree. We just all relished in what each person got. We never seemed to question Santa's choices. Without taking away from the excitement our parents conveyed that they had to help Santa pay for these blessings bestowed.