Hopefully my memories take you back……………
When I was three, I asked Santa Claus for a shotgun and a pone of cornbread. Yep, that’s right : a shot gun and a pone of cornbread !
My reasoning was sound ( for a three-year-old ) and my request was on point.
In those days cornbread was a “no-no ” for infants and toddlers. The danger of choking was scary for concerned parents , so a taste would be a treat for me.
Shotgun ? My daddy was an avid quail hunter, and his shotguns were simply a part of the household——-as was the quail for dinner. Understanding how important this was to my much-loved daddy, I wanted to be like him.
So, did Santa hear ? Of course. I had in my stocking a 4-inch pone of cornbread and under the tree , a small toy shotgun. Was I a happy toddler ? You bet.
And then when I was 12, Daddy gave me a real shotgun and I hunted with him and his setter, Jack, and his pointer, Ben. Never shot a quail but the camaraderie was priceless.
And there’s never been a Christmas like the Christmases at my paternal grandfather’s house, known throughout town as The Haley House. The tree in the parlor was elaborately decorated, thanks to my Aunt Marie Haley Williams, and every family member was expected to be present and accounted for at EXACTLY 11:00 am. It was understood that if you happened to die at that time, you would be brought by hearse. No exceptions……………
The Haleys were musically talented ( that gene skipped me ! ), so my Aunt Rebie Haley Crittenden, who studied music at the New England Conservatory, played the piano while we all sang carols. Daddy Seab, my grandfather, being a devout and devoted Methodist, prayed LO–O–O–O–N–G and sincere prayers——–and , FINALLY , to a five-year old, gifts were opened.
Although Daddy Seab was more than comfortable financially , he always put a card with a dollar bill under the tree for each of us. His explanation, ” It is a small expression of my devotion to each of you———-for we, as a family, are blessed in many ways. More is not necessarily better. Receive this in the spirit that it is given—-a simple token of love “.
Dinner was elaborate—–and yes, back in the day, it was dinner at mid-day, not lunch. Bone china, crystal, sterling silver, linen napkins and an elegant fresh flower arrangement graced the dining room table. And aside from the usual turkey , dressing, ham , assorted vegetables , salads, and breads, there were scalloped oysters, a rare treat and delicious. And a multitude of pies and cakes…………..
Charlie May, much loved housekeeper and cook, , was in the kitchen , making sure everything was just right. And it was, always.
As long as Daddy Seab was alive, Christmas afternoon was an Open House, and, virtually, the entire town was invited. Eggnog ( some with nog, some without ) was served along with decorative and delicious delicacies . It was a joyous occasion, festive , and I always thought there was not a person within a 10-mile radius who did not drop by.
A heart-warming Christmas memory was during WWII when the Haley family invited three paratroopers ( Band of Brothers ) who were stationed at Camp Toccoa to join us for the day. I have no idea who they were, where they were from , or what happened to them. What I do know is that they had a truly Southern Christmas with a family of strangers , clearly a defining moment .
And to top off the day, they showed my cousins and me how they landed when they jumped from the plane. I clearly remember the demonstration of how to hit the ground and roll to safety. They even let us kids practice from the top of the couch ! Am happy to report that I never had to use this maneuver.
The Haley House was always a special place to me and for me, but never as dear as on Christmas Day.
So, to all of you who are gracious enough to read my meanderings, to comment and to share, I quote the immortal Tiny Tim ,
” GOD BLESS US EVERYONE “.