Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Joys #6 - My Grandmother's Christmas

One of the greatest gifts I have received (for Christmas or otherwise) is a heavy book which contains "An Autobiographical Diary" written by my grandmother, Mary Elretta Hardin Reagan.  "Mom", as we knew her, was born near Crockett, Arkansas in 1891.  To her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, the volume is "Mom's Book".  The first half is the story of her life, written in great detail and including poetry and the words of songs she enjoyed.  The second half is a journal or diary, written after she and my grandfather had moved from their farm near Kennett, Missouri, into town.  There they opened a grocery store, and Mom recorded her days as she sat behind the counter.

I have been preparing a post about my childhood Christmas, which I will post in a couple of days.  I decided that I also wanted to write about Mom's Christmas.  I recalled that my dad would often go and pick them up and bring them to our house, if they weren't already with other family members.  I wanted Mom's description of her typical Christmas.

As I mentioned, Mom wrote about her early life in great detail.  As read through the entries for her Christmases in the diary section, I found little description.  (I love reading about Christmas in the south as written by Truman Capote or Rick Bragg, or A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, but I knew that Mom would be less eloquent than they, but I had hoped for more detail that she provided.)

Then I got it.  I believe that I got it because I am so apt to get caught up in all the (religious and secular) facets of the Christmas season that I have little time or energy to enjoy and appreciate the basics.  Mom had it distilled down to the essence, as recorded in her journal.

Her Christmas was Christ's birthday.  She only missed church when the weather forbade going out.  It was the reason for Christmas - period.

Her Christmas was family -- all ten children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.   She recorded every family member she saw or heard from on Christmas, or lamented their absence.  Mom often wrote about being "homesick" in her book, even when she was at home.  I believe that home, to her, was having her family around her, and when she hadn't heard from them for a while, she was "homesick for them."  The more of her family she saw on Christmas, the merrier it was.

Her Christmas was food, lots of it, and the opportunity to eat it with those she loved.  She didn't record any individual dishes in her diary, but she did mention how she enjoyed sharing meals with those who lived close by.

Her Christmas wasn't about gifts.  I found only three mentions of specific gifts -- one, a pressure cooker and the other, pitchers for her collection.  I think she enjoyed the pitchers because they meant that the giver had knowledge of and appreciated her collection (which eventually numbered over 300).  It also wasn't about shopping, or holiday parties, or Christmas movies, or Christmas outdoor light displays, or any of the other things that can distract us. 

At first, I was a bit disappointed that Mom didn't record more.  But she was a farm wife and a store keeper, not Dylan Thomas.  Her eloquence was in her simplicity and that is what makes her book precious to me.  Thank you, Mom, for your book, your memories, and the life lessons you probably didn't know you were teaching. 


1 comment:

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

Thank you for sharing this Annie.
My grandma had a 2 ft silver tree every year for as long as I can remember. That was it, just the tree in the corner and stories. She told me stories every day and let me sit in her kitchen and talk. Not sure , except for the birth of my children, I ever received a greater gift ..

Merry Christmas


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