Merry Christmas, y'all.
My first appearance on the pages of this newspaper came on Christmas Day now many, many years ago. Alice Queen, then the editor and now the publisher of the Newton Citizen, was soliciting Christmas memories from her readers and her request struck a chord deep within me. I am pretty sure she was seeking short, succinct passages along the lines of "when I was seven, I got a brand new bike," or "I always enjoyed seeing my whole family gathered in the living room on Christmas morning."
I have never been very good at short or succinct. So I sat down, with pen in hand, and poured out my heart. I wrote about growing up in Porterdale about the excitement in the air when the trees in the parks were first turned on, about the star on the water tower that has come to symbolize the Christmas season for a second generation of Huckaby children and, of course, about the community Christmas tree in the Porterdale gym the building that Kay Shaw, Betty Faith Jaynes and others are trying so desperately to save.
I also wrote about the traditions of my own family the parties my folks threw on Christmas Eve, the magic of pressing my nose against that cold window pane in the unheated bedroom I shared with my sister, straining my eyes to catch a glimpse of Santa being pulled across the sky by his team of reindeer, and, of course, I wrote about the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning to discover what Santa had left under our sparse little tree.
Alice Queen liked my story so much that she put it on the front page of the paper that Christmas morning. She wanted a picture to go with the story, so she called and asked me for a photograph of me as a child at Christmas. I promised to send her one and dutifully headed out to my mother's house to pick one out.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not one single solitary photograph of me as a child at Christmas existed. We had a camera when I was little a Kodak Brownie and there were pictures taken at Easter and on school picnics and at family reunions, but film was expensive, my mother pointed out to me, and so was processing, and at Christmas well, at Christmas there just wasn't any money left over.
So when my first story appeared on the front page of this newspaper on Christmas Day in 1997 it was accompanied by a picture of a little linthead boy sitting on the kitchen floor, watching a birthday cake rise in the oven.
I got an awful lot of phone calls that Christmas, from people I knew and friends I had not yet met. Some folks, like my friend Debra Pollard, insist that it was the best thing I have ever written. Now that's a heck of a thing. I write one good piece, according to Debra, and it has been all downhill from there.
At any rate, my remembrances seemed to strike a chord with a lot of folks and I was thrilled to learn that I had something to offer others and it has been a privilege to share my thoughts, my dreams, my opinions, my memories and the events of my family's life with all of you ever since.
And here we are, once again, on Christmas Day. I hope yours has been as warm and wonderful as it could possibly be and I selfishly pray, on Christmas Day, that I have been able to create Christmas memories for my children that will put a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts long after I am gone.
I get very frustrated at Christmas. I try too hard to make everything perfect. I try too hard to give my family members everything they could possibly want and, intellectually, I know this is foolish and unpractical and unimportant but Christmas, not Valentine's Day is the true season of love. Love is a matter of the heart, not the intellect, so I try too hard and I bet many of you do, too to show the people I care about how much I love them and my poor human efforts always seem to come up short.
So I just do the best I can and hope that on some level, the people somehow get how much I love them.
Now God, on the other hand God knows how to show love! "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Now that's a Christmas present!
If your kids didn't get everything they wanted, if the Christmas dinner doesn't turn out just right, if you didn't get around to sending out those cards this year it's OK. It really is. Just don't get so busy celebrating Christmas today that you forget to celebrate I mean really celebrate Christ's mass.
Again, Merry Christmas. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your lives again this year and in the words of Dickens' Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.