Wishing you a memorable Christmas

Published 11:47 am Saturday, December 22, 2012

I have two columns already written, but I think the December column should be about Christmas, so they will have to wait. Like Thanksgiving, a gathering of family and friends makes for a happy and memorable time. And since this column is about the olden days, as my kids refer to my childhood, let’s go back about 75 years. Y’see what I mean?

The earliest Christmas I can remember, we were living in Rockingham and I was 3 years old. I had a new brother born in October, who had pretty well taken over my mother’s attentions. My dad still had his good job as a lieutenant on the infant North Carolina Highway Patrol, so we had a big tree, beautifully decorated and there were lots of presents beneath it.

I remember getting a pedal car with a steering wheel and a toy stake-bed truck with battery-powered headlights. Wonderful! The next year found us living on Rippy Hill with my mom’s folks and my dad working at any odd jobs he could find. He did not survive an auto accident a few years later, so most of my Christmases were meager in terms of presents, but huge in terms of family gatherings.

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My mom had five siblings, so there were plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins. They all came to Mama Rippy’s for a big dinner on Christmas Day. There was more good food and fellowship than I can describe. But I will try.

There was always baked ham and lots of fried chicken (I never saw a chicken with so many legs!) There were plenty of canned veggies and all kinds of bread, cakes and pies. Butter came to the table in a big bowl, and there were gallons of iced tea for the grown-ups and milk for the kids. The girls set the tables and their mothers all brought their best dish. When the feast was finally ready, Mama Rippy would declare in her biggest voice, “The fatted calf is on the scaffold high.”

The mothers fixed plates for their kids and we ate at card tables or doll furniture, depending on how big we were. All the leaves were put in the big dining table so most adults ate there. Some mothers with younger children dutifully ate with us, perhaps to keep order? An interesting observation, at least to me, is that all the food on the table was grown there on the farm. About the only “bought” things were the salt, pepper, sugar and tea. Yes, even the meal and flour were ground at the mill in Lynn from corn and wheat raised on Rippy Hill.