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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Grannies Are Good

February 18, 2012 4 comments

3:00 am on a Saturday morningGranny in her night-clothes,  repeats a welcoming ritual for our family. We’ve just arrived from Indiana to spend the weekend or a holiday.  She and Grandpa knew we were coming.

Granny had prepared for our arrival with her usual comfort feast. She knew we’d be famished by the time we stepped through her door. To stave off those awkward growling sounds that would surely keep everyone awake for the rest of the night, she loaded the groaning board with a southern breakfast. It doesn’t seem to matter to her or Grandpa that by the time we finish eating, and unwind enough to go to sleep, they will be preparing for their farm day.

My brother and I sit at that big farm kitchen table, eyeing the platters, bowls, plates, and jars that she arranges down the center of the space. Medium platter supports three different types of fried eggs: hard, soft, and scrambled.

Her infamous small square biscuit pan sits on a handmade potholder near the homemade jams, jellies, and syrup for the golden brown pancakes hoarding their own personal bowl. Sausage patties, country ham, and leftovers from last night’s fried chicken hold court on a large platter on Dad’s end of the table.

Fresh coffee perfumes the room, aided by fresh milk, and  rounds out the “impromptu” meal, along with real farm cream to use on cold cereal.

Yep, we’re down home. An hour later, family talk has dwindled enough to expose sleepy eyes and yawns. Bedtime has come at last.

If we’d come during the winter, those upstairs beds would act as ice-cube trays waiting to be filled. The upstairs of that house had no heat of its own. Heck, the down stairs only had Warm-Morning stoves that could take wood or coal. Finances determined which fuel was used.

Mom and I would take one bed and Dad, with brother, would get the other one. There were so many of Granny’s homemade quilts on the beds that Mom would have to hold up the covers so that I could position myself. Once I was comfortable, she’d lower the bedclothes.

I had to be very certain of comfort in that position, because once those quilts lowered, I wasn’t strong enough to shift my position under them. They were heavy and cold upon first entry to the bed. As a rule, I would try to put my back to my mom’s. Her body heat would keep me from becoming an ice-cube until my own body heat took care of warming my space. Sleep was the only refuge until real heat came along.

In the summer, only those floor to ceiling windows gave relief from the sweltering upstairs heat. No quilts were required for that season. The fear then was melting into the feather beds.

Dawn and downstairs activity led to anxious dreams and disrupted, food-induced sleep. Grandpa had milking to do. Granny had to get lunch on the stove so that she could take a bit of socializing time once all the kin arrived for that meal. These things didn’t take care of themselves.

Throughout our visit, for however long it lasted, that lady of the South, cared for the feeding and comfort of her quests. She prided herself in always having enough for anyone who happened to drop by on any given day. No one left he home without taking a meal with them.

A weekend lunch would supply victuals for a minimum of sixteen to twenty people, depending on family schedules and time of year. If it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, the number expanded to an average of sixty people. On those occasions I would meet relatives that I never saw any other time in my life.

Granny’s house bulged with people during many of our visits. In summer we’d spill out onto the lawns, front lawn for children’s play, and backyard for making ice cream to go with the many cakes and pies awaiting their début from Granny’s kitchen.

My three aunts would pitch in with their own contributions to the celebration. Fourth of July was always a winner around there. We could count on each of three or four ice cream freezers having a separate flavor. Fruit in season took on a special meaning in that household, although banana was always made for Dad.

As I aged and Granny slowed down, other things impressed themselves on my memories of her. Her house had an entirely different fragrance than my other grandmother’s. The sounds that it made in the night didn’t have the same meanings as those of our house. It didn’t matter where she was living. She placed her stamp on it, simply by being there.

Her laughter graced many places. Her opinions were never hidden from public view. And her love showed in each small service or consideration she provided those for whom she cared.

These are some of the things that fluttered through my mind as I held her in my arms in her last minutes in this world. I was allowed that privilege, the meaning of which I will take with me always.

Can You Wassail?

December 22, 2011 5 comments

There are times when subjects for an article, essay, or blog post collide with one’s mind and derail it from whatever intended destination anticipated. This morning is the perfect example.

I’d intended to compare the use of vocabulary in literary work and that of mass-media offerings. That’s when it happened.

I was doing a morning run down my FB main street when I came upon a post by a writer friend telling us that she’s going wassailing tonight. I slowed down enough to make a reply, without pausing more than a nanosecond to consider each of her words for individual sounds or meaning, and began to pull away from the curb.

An imperative stop sign flashed before my interior eyeballs without regard for the shock I might experience. My mind had flashed on the Christmas carol about “going wassailing,” the tune began playing at full volume along with a group of merry singers, and I focused on the fact that I’d always wondered what that phrase meant and had never taken the time to pursue the subject.

TaDa! My fate was sealed. I suddenly had to find out what “wassailing” was and get the song out of my head for the rest of the day. God help me if it’s on the radio today. I’ll be lost for at least 24 hrs.

Google came to the rescue again. I found the site  http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/wassailing.shtml  and learned that “wassail” referred to a specific drink that was mixed and served in a bowl, usually of silver or pewter, and drunk at Winter Solstice. A recipe was offered for those who wanted to begin their own celebration.

This centuries-old tradition of roaming around a neighborhood, punch cup in hand, sampling from everyone’s bowl of cheer, seemed a very good way of spending an evening with friends and those on the block. I began wondering how many such meandering block parties would send up peals of laughter and cheer tonight around the country and if specific regions of the country would be more likely to entertain themselves in this way on this night.

I told Sis about my discovery and that we should think about starting our own tradition of wassailing next year. After all, it’s a bit late to begin today, the wallet a bit too flat, and how many neighbors could we invite at this late date? That promising recipe will have to wait until next year to spark a happy new enjoyment for us.

For those who are going wassailing tonight, have a cup of cheer for me, toast to new traditions, old friends, hopeful outcomes, and blessings for all.

A bientot and a Happy Holiday season to all, regardless of celebrations,

Claudsy

Where Did Our Heritage Go?

November 26, 2011 1 comment

We’ve come into the season of holidays; Thanksgiving gives way to Christmas and moves inexorably to New Years. For centuries this season has stood for blessings, fellowship, and unity; if not in actuality, at least on the surface.

This time around something has gone off the tracks. Everyone is edgier, ruder, more desperate. One could attribute this holiday syndrome as an ever-increasing out-pouring of the stress felt by countless millions of people who don’t know what the next year will bring economically, politically, or within the family.

The question is: Why has our population become seemingly unequipped to keep themselves under control?

Our forefathers for centuries lived with the knowledge that nothing in this world is certain. Life and their own common sense taught them to plan for those lean times, rely only on necessities, especially when luxuries cost so much more than most could pay. They lived with few clothes for each member of the family.

A father with more than two pairs of pants, one work shirt and one for Sunday, and who could give the same for each of his family, was a wealthy man by the standards of the time.

A mother who didn’t lose at least two children to stillbirth, illness or injury before they were five years old was truly blessed. Children who still had both birth parents to attend their weddings, complete with cake and a bride’s veil, could remember that for the rest of their lives.

If one owned a small cabin or house, with enough land to provide a kitchen garden that would produce enough food to put away for winter stores, wealth was clear. Size of the home didn’t matter. Everyone would have a place to sleep, warm and secure when cold and snow took over the outer territory. The living room/family room/kitchen, etc. occupied one space, all of which might have measured 15×20 feet. A loft was always necessary for sleeping nooks for the children.

When the world industrialized and cities became the working world for many, credit became common for those who always paid their bills on time. The 1929 Depression and subsequent lean years didn’t teach everyone the price of greed. People afterwards merely moved to different avenues for making money.

By the early 21st Century we’ve become barbarians in subtle ways. Take the incidents these past couple of days across the country. People, so absorbed in their passion to buy the latest and greatest for the cheapest price available, have been willing to kill or maim others to get to a desired item first.

Headlines in the news: Woman pepper sprays others, injuring 20 people, to get to a xbox on sale. Shoppers, anxious to get into a store for first pickings, dismantle a door and trample to death a young woman standing ready to open the door at the appointed time. A man is shot in a store’s parking lot during a sale.

Question: Have we become barbarous murderers in the name of possessions? Or, has greed so possessed our people through constant consumerism propaganda that we’re desensitized to our own actions?

Incidents like the above are on the increase, and not just at this season. When will be grow out of this selfish adolescence and back into the adulthood of our ancestors and their hard-won heritage of living with what you need and feeling blessed that you have that much security?

These are truly things to think about during this time; especially during this season.

A bientot,

Claudsy