December 11, 2021
Reflections, Day 61
Poor people’s Christmas
Note: I wrote and published this story in 2020. Dekie refers to my writing at that time my “Covid Stories.” I looked back on this beautiful story and I decided that it earns the place of a repeatable Christmas story. ….
We spoke about Christmas and my wife remarked, “We should be thankful because we are so fortunate.”
That word triggered a story in my mind. The story goes back almost seven decades, but it is vivid.
When I was about six and a half years old, the Lutheran Church that we attended gathered donations of food, gifts, and other Christmas goodies to be donated to some families who “didn’t have anything.”
I remember being nestled into the back seat of mom’s friend’s ’48 Pontiac. It was comfy, and there were Christmas provisions in bags on both sides of me and in the floor. Mom, her friend and I headed out into the North Carolina delta countryside. This was tobacco country.
I was with them because my mother said she wanted me to see how fortunate I really was.
I remember Mom’s friend saying something like, “They say that the kids are dressed in rags. They say that the man looks kind of like a gorilla”—and a few other things that I forget now. You can imagine the pictures I had in my head.
When we got there I looked for a gorilla, but a nice man with suspenders smiled at me and a lady stood on the porch with three children, two boys and a girl. They looked to be around my age. Their clothes were different, but they were clothes. I did notice that the children were barefoot. Mom and her friend told me I could play with the other kids while they took care of things.
The other kids and I studied each other. I said, “You don’t have shoes on.”
The oldest boy looked at me with disdain and said, “It ain’t Sunday.”
I followed them around the house where there was a dilapidated barn and another little house. (They told me that was the “shed house” or something like that.).
We went behind the barn and there was a hog with little baby pigs nursing. I had never seen anything remotely like that. The girl said, “take off your shoes and socks and I’ll show you something fun.” I took off my shoes and we all walked around in the warm mud and wiggled our toes and giggled. They assured me I wasn’t going to get in trouble. Next, I got to pet the mule.
And then we went up in the barn loft and jumped on bales of hay. We laughed and jumped and had us a good time. By the time we were through, my clothes looked just like theirs.
My mother came to tell me it was time to go and, bless her heart, she just looked at me and smiled. I didn’t really want to leave but she said we had to.
All the way home, I wondered what she meant about me finding out “Just how fortunate I was.” I was perplexed. I never forgot those poor people who were so much fun.
So this year, even in the disruptive nature of the pandemic, take a little time to find the hay bales to jump on, and think about how fortunate you really are.
After all, it’s rather relative, isn’t it?
Our memories and their stories will teach us.
Photo by Tommy Cobb