Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas in the Mountains

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose..."

So often I think of this song when I think of Christmas in the mountains.
Not in a isolated shack on the side of a mountain surrounded by trees.
But on a short dirt road at the mouth of Ethel Hollow.

A four room house situated on concrete blocks (you could actually crawl under it if your brave).
A chimney at the center of it's four corners.
A black potbelly stove in the kitchen.

A skeleton key for the front door.
A back door key I never saw.
It didn't matter though.
A closed house door was as close to locked as it got in Ethel.

"Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos..."

On Christmas Eve, my father sang Nat King Cole's version of this song to us as we pulled silver tree branches from cardboard tubes.  The rest of us sang Christmas carols we'd learned at church and school.  But mostly, we laughed and talked until the aluminum Christmas tree was standing in the corner of the living room, complete with ornaments, awaiting the final touch...a rotating color wheel that bathed it in yellow, red, blue and green light.

The sweetness of cakes and pies filled our home.  

Holiday treats sat on the living room table.   Mother's prized Lazy Susan was filled with an assortment of Christmas candy.  My favorites were the Ribbons.  They were sweet and colorful.  Some were fruity while others were pepperminty.  All nearly too big to fit into our little mouths, but that never stopped us from trying...and drooling.

Small wicker baskets held Almonds, Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, Walnuts, and Pecans.  A pair of pliers (the mountain version of a nut cracker) lay nearby.  My father taught us the art of cracking walnuts without pliers though.  He'd hold two walnuts in one hand, close his fist, and squeeze.  Only one could survive that pressure, leaving the other, cracked open with all the wonderful nutmeat exposed.  We'd peel off the bitter inner layer and eat the good parts.  

A fruit bowl held red delicious apples and fragrant Florida oranges.  We'd squeeze an orange and roll it around on the table until soft.  Then we'd unwrap a candy cane and plunge it inside to make minty orange juice.  We'd eat as much of an apple as we could but they were almost always too big for little tummies.

We'd wake before dawn on Christmas morning to the aroma of turkey and dressing combined with cloves on a country ham.  Jumping out of bed, we rush into the living the Christmas the toys we'd waited for weeks to play with.

Christmas was a lesson in patience and anticipation.  
We waited all year for the season.  

Only at that time of year would we sing, in ernest, of baby Jesus in the manger with Mary and Joseph. Of the three wise men and the star that lead them to Bethlehem.  

Only at that time of year would we get to choose our three "most-wished-for" toys from the, thick and heavy, Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Only at that time of year would we get large oranges and red delicious apples that were both sweet and juicy.

Only at that time of year would we lay awake in our beds, long after our parents had turned off the lights, whispering and hopeful that the night-noises we heard were from Santa on the roof, beside the chimney that lead to the fire place in our room. 

We understood that it happened once a year. 
So, we appreciated it more. 
We learned the best things were worth waiting for.

Merry Christmas!
May this be your season to make happy and lasting memories!

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