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Christmas on Second Street

 

Beverly Wittler Columnist

  No electric lights and the big wreath on the front door didn’t light up either at our little rental house. But we had boxes of favorite decorations for the tree our Dad would cut down and bring home from a local farm. (He kept the farmer’s truck maintained for free; the farmer gifted Dad with a six foot-plus fir every year.)

  The tree up, we’d make sure moths hadn’t gotten into our stockings, but didn’t hang them on the hearth until Christmas Eve. We’d leaf through the fat Sears catalog, making notes as we went, before sitting down to write Santa a short letter about our latest wishes.

  Mom and Dad would take us to the Christmas cantata at Jackson First Methodist, and then we’d tour every street, admiring the decorations adorning some of the homes. The Carmichael house at the end of our street would have a massive tree inside but the owner was always kind to his young neighbors, and we’d get a guided tour of the twinkling antebellum home. Once he treated us to little cups of hot chocolate, another time warm apple cider was our surprise at the end of the visit.

  My son, Don, still copies a Rooks Christmas morning tradition by serving his family home-made French toast once they’ve opened the first gift. He fixes his in a big wok but my Dad always used his Army mess kit for that ritual breakfast. After we’d dined on the morning perfection, we were allowed to open the rest of what Santa had left under the tree. Nothing fancy and we hadn’t asked for much; gun and holster sets, some mittens, a new box of Crayola crayons along with a color book or two. I never got a tea set, didn’t want one but still remember the time Santa accidentally left a doll for me. Friend Rebecca and I were happy when our Moms got together and corrected the goof the kind man in the red suit had made, and let me trade for a pair of skates.

  Wouldn’t be Christmas without my Mom’s perfect turkey and dressing meal, a can of LeSueur peas, some sliced cranberry sauce plus mashed potatoes, thick turkey gravy and then pumpkin pie if any of us could manage another bite of food. (I still serve those peas, just to remind me of how delighted we kids were to have something out of a can.) 

  I always treasure one other memory of Christmas morning. And that’s when my Dad would call his co-worker (we’ll call him Jim, that’s not his name) and tell him that once again Santa had left his gifts under our tree. He’d come drink some coffee with my parents, admire our gifts and then they’d bag up the canned veggies, maybe a small ham or turkey, and the present my Dad had chosen just for Jim. One year he’d noticed his co-worker’s boots were in bad shape, another time he saw Jim needed a new coat. 

  My adult children stole that idea for a few years as we gifted a local lady they’d come to love. Ron and I would load up the bags of groceries, blankets, bedroom shoes and go pay her a visit just before Christmas. She loved the gifts, and we got SO much out of repeating another Rooks ritual. Still think about her as we all gather, dine, share and remember Christmases past. And of course, I think about my parents and the simple joys we shared. 

  The new home my parents had built on Indian Springs Street was much nicer and warmer, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the sweet memories we made on Second Street.

 

  Beverly Wittler has four children, eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. She lives in McDonough with her husband.

 

 

 

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