Saturday, December 12

Christmas With Lady Godiva

She came down our "holler" riding her white horse in the wee morning hours of Christmas Eve. The snow was falling on the ground and she was butt naked astride that horse and our house sat ride on the unpaved street at that time and she was either drunk or in a stewed condition for she rode that horse right through our front door. (back then we didn't have to lock our doors, etc.) Dad and Mom were busy putting "Santa" under the tree and of course me and my sister heard the big racket and jumped up to see what it was just knowing Santa had fallen down the chimney and broken his neck, but it wasn't Santa we seen but this butt naked woman. Dad and Mom realized we were standing there, Mom grabbed for the curtains hanging on the windows and whatever else she could find to cover her up, and Dad, bless his heart, he was torn out of his frame because we had got them playing Santa and he lost it and shouted, "Ah, hell, youngans come and get it, your Granny was right, there's no Santa Claus". However, we paid no attention evidently because Dad and Mom played Santa for several years thereafter. That was Christmas Eve, 1942, or by that time it really was Christmas Day. Years later, I became aware of the ride of Lady Godiva and that is what I dubbed this night thereafter, "Christmas with Lady Godiva". I found out she was confused from having suffered a terrible beating from her boyfriend/husband and Mom and Dad took care of her until daylight and seen that she was able to straddle that horse again and head back up the holler. Mom had clothed her by then. I seen her time and again thereafter and often wonder what ever happened to her.

Wednesday, December 9

My little heart was pounding as my Dad and I started our climb up the hill behind The Bakery on our quest for our Christmas Tree. Snow was just beginning to fall and as I huffed and puffed we got nearer to our destination, the trees growing around birch rock. Dad would caution me, "Idy, don't slip and head over the mountain to Big Bottom." I smiled and caught the snowflakes with my tongue.

Just as Dad finished telling me not to slip, slip I did and I could see Big Bottom below. Maybe I was too excited about our quest to get scared but a clump of trees sitting right off a big rock caught my fall. I knew right off that the tree which sort of cushioned my fall was the one that needed to go down the hill with my Dad and me.

"Idy, honey that tree is scraggly, let's go farther back in the mountain where no one goes where we will find the biggest, prettiest tree in Hazard." I knew he was right 'cause we made many a trek to Birch Rock to dig ginseng, pick the grandest wildflowers in the world that bloomed in the nooks and crannies of the rocks that nature had put there for a flower bed, and yep, as I got older we would take picnic lunches and head to Birch Rock for an outing. Sometimes, we would take our "fellers" with us and maybe steal a kiss or two with only the birds, squirrels and other forest creatures as witnesses to this "stolen kiss".

We continued our quest for the family tree, but guess what, my mind was with the scraggly tree down the hill. Dad could tell where my heart was and we began our descent, stopping only long enough for Dad to take his axe and cut this anything but perfect tree. The snow was falling harder and the sky was turning darker and we knew we had to hurry while there was still enough light to get safely down the hill. However, both of us knew this path by heart for we had traveled it oh so many times.

We got the tree to our front porch and Mom sort of smiled a hidden laughing one as I call it, but only said, "Can't wait to see what you do with this one, Howard."

Here, I have to tell you my Dad was multi-talented and he made most of the clothes that I wore and I knew Dad could make a beauty out of this scraggly tree. As me and my sister, Thelma Jean, watched, Dad got busy and out of boxes of collected Christmas ornaments he chose this and that and added them with the cranberry ropes and popcorn ropes, tossing bright silver icicles here and there, and as we stood there, this scraggly tree was taking on a whole new picture. Dad carefully placed the tree lights as only he could, making the "candle light" lights illuminating our tree, not only the tree but the entire room in which it stood. Dad put the finishing touch on our tree that year with our Family Star that was kept for many years after his death. He had worked magic as that scraggly tree stood all arrayed in a fine and eloquent makeover that in my heart I knew only Dad could have done. As the Heavenly Star twinkled at the top and the little candle lights flickered, it was time for us to go to bed and let the sugar plums dance in our heads. Oh, for the heart of a little child and the simple things that we saw transformed into magical things.

"Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy branches..."

Monday, December 7

December 7th 1941, that day, as President Roosevelt said, "...will live in infamy..." Goodness, I was 8 years old and was playing outside and I remember the snow was falling and the radio was always playing at 109 Liberty Street, and every house up the street always had theirs own, and I got cold and was coming in to stand before the fireplace to warm my butt and hands when the news broke and I remember Uncle Matt and Aunt Laura went outside on our big surround porch and sounded the news, doors opened and the neighbors shared this time in December. Some shouted, some cried, some made their children come in from playing in the snow. I suppose to keep us safe. Anyhow, I can remember Roosevelt's strong voice and his words as if it were yesterday. I was only 8 but I knew something dreadful had happened. Later that evening, Uncle Matt (who had taught school in his younger days) sat me in his lap in a big chair by our warm fire and gave me an easy geography lesson on where Pearl Harbor was and what, in his words, he thought had happened. As the fire began to die out that night, I lay beside Granny in her big feather bed and instead of stories of sugar plum fairies, Granny told me about what being in War meant. From that day on, I had a new word in my vocabulary, "WAR" and it has never ceased to be an active word to this day, 2009, some 68 years ago.