I’d like to climb on the wooden sled with Larry, and let Daddy pull us across the snow to hunt the perfect pine tree. We would have to stop and look at the intricate formation of the snowflakes that were falling on Daddy’s brown jersey gloves, and marvel that “no two are exactly alike.” The air would be crisp and invigorating, and the snow would crunch underfoot as Daddy pulled the sled across the crusty surface.
We would search carefully for just the right tree. It had to be a short-needled pine for the fragrance, and it had to be tall enough to touch the nine -foot ceiling in the front room. Many would be examined and discarded as being lop-sided or uneven. There would be deep pockets of snow in the shady hollow, where Daddy’s gum boots would almost disappear. Finally, with red cheeks and cold hands, we would find one that suited Daddy. Loading it on the sled, we would follow the tracks of the sled back down the hill.
I’d like to run back into the old house once again, where the welcome heat would meet us as we opened the front door. The gas stove would be turned up high, flames licking above the top of the stove. Shedding our coats and toboggans, we would run to the stove to soak up the welcome heat. Mom would be in the kitchen, and mouth-watering smells would taunt our appetites. The cinnamon-rich fragrance of apple pies wafted from the oven, and she would be garnishing the orange-coconut cake with a liberal sprinkling of shredded coconut over the snowy white frosting. Ronnie and Mark would be standing in line to “lick the bowls” as Mom stirred the homemade butterscotch filling for yet more pies.
I would love to see Daddy trim the tree once more, while we children watched in admiration. Each ornament, each glass ball, had to be placed with meticulous care. Daddy would caution Mary Ellen to watch Jeannie and Susie, lest little fingers would make havoc of his masterpiece. We older children would be allowed to hang some of the metallic icicles, if we hung each one separately and placed them carefully on the boughs. Daddy would have to use a stepladder to reach the upper branches, and one memorable Christmas he fell out of the Christmas tree.
How I’d like to walk down the old dirt road, snow-covered and white, to take part in the Hagar School program. The night would be clear and icy-cold, and a million stars would twinkle in the black velvet sky. We would look for one particularly bright star, and wonder if it were the same star that shone over Bethlehem and guided the wise men to find baby Jesus. Excitement would course through our whole being, like Fourth of July sparklers, as we anticipated our parts in the Christmas program.
Most of all, I would like to gather with my brothers and sisters around Mom and Daddy at night, while Daddy read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible.
I can hear his voice now, tender and compassionate, as he explained how Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn and took refuge in a lowly stable. We could hear the cattle as they munched their hay, and smell the sweet, dry scent of the hay-filled loft. As we knelt to pray in that big front room, we could almost hear the heavenly chorus of the angels ringing in our ears as they rejoiced in the birth of our Savior. Daddy’s humble prayer would echo their thanksgiving, as he would thank our Heavenly Father for the greatest gift the world has ever known. The lights on the tree would sparkle brightly, and our humble home was filled with peace.
The years have rolled on, and many things have changed. There are empty places in the circle of our family, and around the family altar. The past will never change, and precious memories linger on down through the years. I have a poem written by my late Aunt Eva Samples King that echoes my feelings much better than I ever could.
I’D LIKE TO GO BACK
I’d like to hear the babble of Big Laurel ‘neath the ice,
I’d like to watch Ma making apple pies so rich with spice,
I’d like to hear the axe ring as Paw chopped wood for the fire.
I would like to lick the “skimmins” that was made by Uncle Squire.
I’d like to hold the rabbits while Dick peeled away the hide.
These tasted so delicious, when Ma cooked and then fried.
I would like to hear the munching of the cows eatin’ corn,
And to feel the warm fire glowing after milking in the barn.
I would like to eat Ma’s cookin’, apples dried and fodder beans,
Pork and ‘taters in the iron pot, and a skillet full of greens.
I would like to crumble cornbread in the buttermilk, fresh churned,
I would like to visit them again, but time cannot return.
I would like to gather chestnuts, and blue grapes hangin’ high.
I would like to catch the snowflakes falling from a winter sky.
I would like to go ‘coon huntin’ with old Karo and Old Zip,
Many times, I followed Grover, each a gun within our grip.
I would like to visit home again; it won’t ever be the same,
For the old house is there no longer, and there’s weeds along the lane.
Let the water babble sweetly, no one’s there to hear the sound,
For the ones we loved so dearly now are sleeping in the ground.
Make the most of your todays, for soon they will be your tomorrows.
We received a letter from Patricia Brown of Summersville, concerning the request for a recipe for parched corn. I don’t know why I had it in my mind that it was made from field corn, but it wasn’t. Here is what she wrote:
“My husband fixes it often. He shucks sweet corn, but leaves the shucks attached, so it can be hung to dry, like drying popcorn. When it is dry, he shells it and stores it in a jar. When he gets ready to fix it, he puts in a skillet (iron skillet?) with butter. He keeps stirring it until it swells up and browns. Then he pours it into a bowl and salts it. It is like store-bought corn nuts.
May God bless all your days.