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Holiday Memories and Timeless Traditions
On Thanksgiving Day 2005, as I drove into the yard of my parents' farmhouse in Buckhorn community, everything looked about the same. Siding was added years ago to cover the worn-out wood. A new red roof hid the chimney that smoked boldly when Daddy and Mama -- Bud and Ruby Lett -- built fires on brisk mornings. The front porch featured two big rocking chairs where Daddy and Mama sat on warm days.
However, on this holiday the house where Mama and Daddy lived for almost 60 years featured a different family gathering. The kitchen stove and counter top once displayed a big turkey, cornbread dressing, ham, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans, peas, and biscuits prepared by Mama. Instead several family members baked goodies at home and contributed various offerings similar to the ones usually served in “Ruby's Restaurant.”
It was our family's first Thanksgiving without Mama, and while her culinary creations were missed, we longed for Mama’s welcoming smile and giving spirit. The year before we had celebrated the holidays for the first time without Daddy, and though it was gut wrenching, we young'uns and kinfolk hid our sorrow for the sake of Mama. This time we allowed the tears to flow as we talked tenderly and shared memories. We knew that healing from loss must be honored.
Family members observed the usual custom of picking up pecans from the big tree in the back yard. However, we missed seeing the delight in Daddy's eyes when he proudly gazed at buckets of pecans placed on the back porch, just waiting for him to empty through the winter months. Daddy loved pickin' out “pee-cans” almost as much as he did pickin' his “git-tar.”
In their retirement years Mama and Daddy found comfort in simple projects that allowed them to stay indoors during cold weather. Daddy loved sitting at the kitchen table day after day using his “citified” nutcracker, and then with a knife, carefully separating the core from the shell. Mama did her share of pickin' out and placed the best pecans in plastic bags for sharing with others. Small pieces were frozen for use in her recipes. A neighbor Jerry delivered the pecans to his eager co-workers and friends who couldn't do their Christmas baking without Mama and Daddy's nuts.
When I think of holiday celebrations I am most grateful for the love I saw Mama and Daddy experience with each other, how they held hands every day and found magic in the simple life. On every Thanksgiving Day I will feel that same caring spirit in their farmhouse, and I will know that whenever love wells up in my heart they are near.
Mama would have noted her 86th birthday on Novemb er 26, 2005. Instead Mama celebrated her “rebirth” in Heaven…without her worn-out body and confused mind, and with her favorite person, Daddy.
In honor of Mama’s birthday each year I would buy her a red poinsettia, which she pronounced “pond-setta” in a thick Southern accent, and deliver it on Thanksgiving Day. Several years ago I spoke at a Christian woman’s organization in Sanford, and folks had donated items to be auctioned off to raise money for foreign missions. I won the bid for a Christmas tree comprised of silk poinsettias, accented with green, gold, and silver leaves, and featuring a big bow at the top with streams of ribbon hanging down. When I took the “pond-setta” tree to Mama she was proud as a peacock.
For Mama’s last Christmas I bought two pillows featuring bright red poinsettias for her sofa. Mama was so tickled that she told everyone who visited: “Sandy gave me those purt-ty pillows.” One Christmas I bought Mama a bright red sweater featuring black beads and sequins. She wore it several times and liked being “citified.”
Meanwhile, if we had given Daddy some overalls, a flannel shirt, and socks for Christmas every year he would have been totally satisfied. One time I borrowed Daddy’s “git-tar” and had it spruced up with new strings. Daddy was blessed with the ability to play music by ear. My sister Carolyn and I would come home from preachin’, eat Mama’s big Sunday dinner, and then sing the hymns from the service so Daddy could pick out the notes on the “git-tar.” Daddy was shy about performing in front of others but often presented solo concerts in the privacy of the bedroom. When company came and the git-tar was blasting out tunes Mama would sneak folks in quietly and hide them in the living room so they could hear Daddy playing passionately and singing to the top of his voice.
During holiday season 2006 Mama’s “pond-setta” tree sat on my glass dining room table, and her two pillows adorned the white sofa in my living room. I placed Daddy’s old “git-tar” on display – a precious token of his love for music. Surrounded by Mama and Daddy’s favorite things, I am reminded of the treasures that symbolized my parents’ joys. Mama loved red and bold. Daddy preferred simple and practical. Throughout the holidays both cherished most the timeless traditions, sweet memories, and warm fellowship in our family, our church, and our community.
This article is excerpted from Coming Home to my Country Heart, Timeless Reflections on Work, Family, Health and Spirit.
© copyright 2007 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved
AlexSandra "Sandy Lynn" Lett
© 2008 AlexSandra Lett, All Rights Reserved