Early tomorrow Carol and I will begin our trek east to my beloved childhood home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. The house I grew up in is about 1/4 mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway on the N. E. side of I-40, and across the river from “The Cove” conference center of the county’s most famous resident, Billy Graham. Our other claim to fame in the Asheville area is Biltmore House, supposedly the largest residence in the United States. It is beautiful this time of year and is only matched in beauty in the spring, when wild flowers and the well groomed gardens on the estate scream with beauty “Spring in here!”
My mom, who will soon be 86 now lives a few miles away from her home of over 50 years in a nursing center. Blindness and old age are taking their toll, but she is still the wonderful woman who cared for my every need for so many years. I have mentioned before in my blogs that she taught me much about the life of faith and about prayer. She is the last of 8 siblings, and one of the last of an era, one of those great Americans who lived through the Great Depression and who really know what it means to do without. It will be good to see her once more, but at the same time, in the recesses of my heart, sadness looms as the time draws irrevocably near to our last visit on earth.
As a boy I could go less than a quarter mile in almost any direction and there were aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins, and neighbor’s friendly and familiar faces. We were dirt poor but no one had told us yet so we just enjoyed what we had and were as happy as could be. After mom has finally graduated, the pull for a bi-annual visit back to the hills will be less and less. A few cousins are still in the area, and most are older than my 62 years, so in the natural course of life, in a few short years, what was once a huge play ground for a gawky little boy will be a strange little coutry neighborhood where only a few fond memories still live.
You probably wonder about the Christmas tree. It closely resembles some of the trees my father would bring in the house and decorate when I was a child. He had the worst decorating tastes of any person I have ever met. As daddy entered a field of scattered pines, the first tree he saw that resembled a pine fell victim to his axe. Even if a couple of limbs had to be wired on to make it acceptable that was no problem. The same two strings of lights were used for perhaps 20 years. There were colored light bulbs with colored metal reflectors held in place by screwing the bulbs in through them. There were two strands of garland, one silver and one red, which after a decade or so began to look like shiny twine, not garland. Some of the early years would find daddy with some sewing thread, a needle, and a bowl of pop corn, stringing it up to add more color to the tree. At its best it was always only slightly more attractive than the one in the picture. Mom was blind so daddy got away with stuff most husbands would have been maimed for! But, it was Christmas and we were happy.
At least once a year, daddy would mention that Christmas for him, when he was a boy, was an orange, and perhaps a few peices of hard candy. It was a true story. My grandparents had 13 children and lived a very primitave life back in the hollars and way up the creeks in Yancey County N.C. We had it good compared to those days and my parents never took it lightly.
My favorite Christmas memory was getting a bicycle one year. It was a hand-me-down from a 1st cousin that daddy had painted red with a brush and it looked like it. But, I was thrilled to have my own bike and it was a wonderful gift. My grandson’s haul, and the huge boxes that were mailed off to granddaughters, are a stark contrast to those days of finding so much comfort in just getting by.
This will be our first Christmas since 2000 that we have not been with our grandchildren but we will see them soon after and celebrate with them then (the boys), and then in June we will once again get to see our 3 granddaughters for a special several day visit in Hawaii as they return from their two years in Guam. (Of course their parents will be allowed to come too)
We will return in time for a New Years eve party with a some of our friends from church and some neighbors who have become as dear as our own family. I wish for each of you who read my blog a great time with family and friends and may the Christ of Christmas rule your hearts as you surrender to Him.
P.S. For those of you with a slightly warped sense of humor like yours truely, one more Christmas picture I just had to share. For those of you who are “normal”, just pretend you didn’t see it.