A white blanket of snow covers the landscape here and drapes the evergreen trees in a thick mantle.
Fortunately, the roads are clear, but will probably be icy, as dark is beginning to settle down over our hills. The days are getting shorter as the nights get longer. Mom was born on the 22nd day of December, and she always said that her mother surely thought it was the longest night of the year! It was a home delivery, as most of the births were at that time, and it was a breech birth. The country midwife said later that it was a miracle that she was born alive. It was my Grandmother Samples’ tenth baby, and she had another one after that, who was my Uncle Gene.
Folks had much bigger families than people do nowadays, and nearly all of them were home deliveries. Dr. A.A. Smith was elected to deliver me, but he arrived too late and my paternal grandmother did the honors. He had delivered another baby that night, and on the way down the hill to our house, he was so tired that he had to sit down and rest at intervals. My grandmother O’Dell was a licensed midwife, and was gentle and caring with my mother, said Mom.
I was born the last of August, and Daddy had a big patch of watermelons planted. Mom craved watermelon, but Daddy was afraid they weren’t ripe yet, and didn’t cut any for her. He was present during my birth, and that morning Mom said there were slices of watermelon on the mantle, the table, and the dresser! It might be a good thing for a husband to witness their child’s birth!
She went on to have six more children after me, and all were born at home except the baby, Sandra Sue. After Susie was born, Daddy fenced in the yard for the first time. He knew she would be the last one!
I’ve been thinking about our family, and how God blessed us so richly. This time of year, Daddy would be thinking of the Christmas tree he would go to the woods to cut. Our old house had nine-foot ceilings, and he had to have one that touched the ceiling. How he loved decorating for Christmas! The tree had to be decorated precisely, and he placed most of the bulbs on it. We were allowed to put the tinsel icicles on it, but they had to be placed individually, and not just thrown on in a wad.
One year, Mom and I were in the junk room wrapping gifts, when we heard a tremendous crash in the front room. We ran in, to find Daddy sprawled out on the floor. Seems that he had reached too far, and fell out of the Christmas tree!
We were frightened, but then he laughed and we knew he was all right. We children gathered branches of hemlock and hung it over the doorways and on the sewing machine which Mom kept in the front room.
I’ve been thinking so much about Mom lately, as her birthday draws near. She has been gone now for almost eleven years, but I miss her every day. She only had an eighth grade education (which she repeated more than once!) but was very highly intelligent as she was so well-read. Actually, we considered her a living dictionary, for we always consulted her when we needed to know something. My own children went to her instead of me! Sometimes I would love now to be able to consult her about some things.
Mom and Daddy were old-fashioned parents, I suppose. They did use some peculiar words, and I have inherited a lot of them. I used the word “mizzling” in a previous column to describe rain, which seems to be a combination of “misting” and “drizzling.” I heard from one of my e-mail friends, Carlisle, who told me his mother used the same word. One of the grandchildren corrected her and told her it was not a word. She retorted, “Well, it is now!” Believe it or not, I just found it in Webster’s New College dictionary!
I thought that a lot of the words they used were homemade. Daddy used to tell us that he was going to use a shillelagh on us if we didn’t straighten up, and I thought it was a made-up word. Later I found it in the dictionary, and it was an Irish word meaning a cudgel. I never heard the word “redd” until I married into Criss’ family. They used it to describe cleaning up the kitchen after a meal. His mother might have said, “They came before I got the kitchen “redded up” and I didn’t have a “haet” of anything left to feed them!”
The most important thing that Mom and Daddy taught us was how the Lord loved us, and how we needed to love and worship Him in return. We were taken to church soon after we were born; actually as soon as Mom was able to go. At that time, new mothers were made to stay in bed for ten days after they had a baby. I can remember how proud we were when Mom would take the new baby to church, and hear all the admiring comments made.
As soon as we were old enough to go in the primary class, we learned stories about baby Moses and how he was placed in a basket in the river, and loved the story of Joseph who was sold by his brothers and taken down into Egypt. At this time of year, we would learn about baby Jesus, and how He was born in a manger. It was easy to relate to that story, for we knew about barns and mangers filled with hay.
It was our favorite Bible story, and as we grew older, we began realize what a marvelous gift the world was given. Just to think of the Child that was born; the Son that was given, gives the real meaning to the Babe in the manger. How I thank our Heavenly Father that we were taught early of the most important thing that we could learn, and that is the salvation of our souls.
I am glad that we learned that it wasn’t the Christmas tree, the bright lights and bells, or the gaily wrapped packages that are important. It was the hope extended to us, given to us by the Father who gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (St. John 3:16)