I remember my Mother at Christmas time because she made our lives so enjoyable. There were four of us children plus all the cousins, aunts and uncles that made our house their headquarters on Christmas.
In October or November Mama baked her fruit cakes, wrapping them in heavy cloth and ever so often, poured brandy over them, to keep them moist.
She baked all her bread, pies and cakes and made candy for a week before Christmas, singing all the time.
Daddy decided once he'd teach Mama to make beer and even got a bottle-capper for her to cap the bottles with, so the "older" folks could have beer for Christmas. Mama tried it once, but the idea did not go over too well with her so she used the bottles to can her catsup and chili sauce in, much to Daddy's disappointment.
Daddy would gather us kids together about two weeks before Christmas and we would go upon a mountain and cut our own tree, pile it on the runningboard of the old tin-lizzy and start for home. Mama alsways had hot biscuits and enough food to feed an army, when we got back and saw to it we all ate plenty.
We had an old cellar in the back yard that was busging with the canned foods Mama canned from her garden in the summer and fall of the year. I hated that cellar, and was afraid of it. It was so dark in there, so somehow I alsways talked my baby sister to go down inthere and get the jars of food while I held the lantern for her. And baby sister was only three years old. Also, Daddy dug holes in the ground in the fall of the year and put fresh turnips in the holes and covered them with dirt. I still remember going with him to dig turnips and they would be fresh and juicy and even have fresh green sprigs on them. Because then, even such things as turnips were served at Christmas.
Usually they killed their own hogs or cattle just before Christmas. Once I remember we had this fat hog and it was time to kill him for Christmas. Daddy aimed his trusty old gun at him and missed his mark; the hog went squalling around the barn and Dad was right behind him. Every time the hog ran aroung the barn, either Dad or my Uncle would hit him in the head. All the time I would be half hiding and looking through my fingers I had half over my eyes. Finally, the poor hog gave up and fell down and died.
After our tree was up, we would pop corn and sit for hours and string it on thread for Christmas decorations. Then we would string cranberries and hang them on the tree. I remember Mama and Daddy, after we went to bed, whispering in low voices about our gifts and us kids trying to listen by the door to see if we could get an idea of what we were going to ge - but we never did. That tree was the most beautiful thing I ever saw after we got it decorated - and I can't remember ever buying a thing from a store to put on it.
Early on the 24th and sometimes even a day or so earlier - all the relatives would start arriving. Mama made pallets for us kids on the floor and there were pallets all over the house at night. Mama loved it. On Christmas Eve all the smaller gifts were put under the tree and Mama sat all the kids around it. Then she would tell us if we would be real quiet, we might hear Santa land his sleigh on top of the house - and sure enough, there was a light thug and we knew he had arrived. In came Santa Claus, red pants, beard and all - with a big bag of toys for us kids. (As I grew older, I realized Santa sure looked a lot like my mother's brother). Oh, what a joy it was to see all those gifts - doll buggies an dolls for the girls and everything a little boy could wish for, too. The one gift that I received that I treasured the most was a cameo ring that I got when I was 10 years old. I thought I had a gold mine! After all us kids were worn out from playing with our new toys, we were put to bed to await the big Christmas dinner the next day. The table was piled high with every kind of food you could imagine; all home grown and cooked by Mama. Her laughter rang all through the house. She loved every minute of it and never complained about the work or all the kids.
Christmas to me - when Mama was here - was the most beautiful day of the year. You see - she died right after the Christmas I got my precious cameo ring and that was the last Christmas dinner Mama ever cooked for us.
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