There was an old expression my mama used to use this time of year. It was, “Well, we can have Christmas now.” Usually her admonition on the season had to do with a visit by a special person that we saw infrequently during the year — like my Uncle Carl, who would occasionally surprise us by popping in from Florida with a load of oranges and grapefruits picked from the trees in his own backyard.
A variation of this theme was “it’s not Christmas until ...” You know that one, I’m sure. You all have your own list of traditions, big and small, that create the perfect holiday. If you will indulge me, I will share a few of mine.
It is not Christmas, for instance, until I have spent several hours fussing and fuming and wrestling with strand after strand of multi-colored lights as I struggle to arrange them on a once-live tree that absolutely positively has to be at least an inch taller — we don’t do millimeters at our house — than the tree we had the year before.
It’s not Christmas until we have coerced all three kids to gather at the same time — which is a pretty tough trick these days — to trim said tree. And of course we have to reminisce about each and every ornament that adorns the tree and every such session is punctuated by stories that begin “remember that time ... ”
It’s not Christmas until we have heard the sanctuary choir perform at church, the group Alabama sing “Christmas in Dixie” on the CD player and until someone abruptly turns off the car radio because they just can’t tolerate hearing Burl Ives sing “Holly Jolly Christmas” one more time.
It’s not Christmas until Jackson opens the back door to find Lee Aldridge standing there with another addition for our collection of “Night before Christmas” books. I don’t know what I did to deserve having Lee and Jerry Aldridge in my life, but I thank God for their presence every chance I get.
It’s not Christmas at the Huckaby household until we have made at least three batches of Chex party mix, strewn flour all over the kitchen in the name of baking Christmas cookies and sat down to a supper of oyster stew and boiled shrimp. And I sure do miss my daddy’s cocktail sauce. I wish I had paid attention when he tried to teach me how to make it.
It’s not Christmas, for us, until we have watched Chevy Chase at his comic best in “Christmas Vacation,” and it is not Christmas for me until I have stayed up late, by the fire, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” while counting my blessings for all the George Baileys I’ve had in mine.
It’s not Christmas until I have spent a cold Saturday with Ben Evans, signing an occasional book, swapping stories with Ben and Doloris and watching young couples, whole families and aging grandparents peruse his lot for the perfect Christmas tree. This year Santa Claus even joined us.
It’s not Christmas at our house until we’ve thrown open our doors to kith and kin and enjoyed a fish fry or Low Country boil or some other festive holiday feast that we try to make beyond the ordinary. And it is not Christmas until I have traipsed through the woods that surround our house, looking for holly berries and cedar and other seasonal greenery to give the house that special look and fragrance for a couple of very special days. And it’s not Christmas until I have found the ever-elusive bough of mistletoe. The mistletoe seldom lives up to its reputation, but if kids all over the world can believe in Santa, I can believe in mistletoe. Who knows? This might be the year.
It’s not Christmas until my sister, Myron, comes through the back door carrying a German chocolate cake like only she can make, and it is not Christmas until we have sat down with Gary, who has been an ex-facto member of our family for almost three decades now, to exchange special gifts that come straight from the heart. And recently it has not been Christmas until the Stapps have come over to reflect on the previous year’s adventures and to plan new ones for the year to come.
It is not Christmas until we have been to church on Christmas Eve to worship the risen Savior whose birth is the reason for the season, and it is not Christmas until we have all put on our pajamas on Christmas Eve and gathered by the fire to read aloud from the second chapter of Dr. Luke’s gospel and from Dr. Clement Moore’s timeless poem about a visit from St. Nicholas.
Once again, we have been tremendously blessed in our household and once again we have experienced all of these special moments, and countless others. So now we can have Christmas, y’all. I hope you can, too — and I truly do hope yours is merry and bright.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.