The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas Memory Long Ago

By Nancy White Grub © 1991

Issue: December, 1991

Can you believe it's almost Christmas again! Time goes by faster and faster each year until it's almost scary. Why, it seems only yesterday I was 8 or 9 years old and my brother Dicky was 4 or 5. Boy, did we believe in the magic of Christmas ... Santa Claus and the whole bit! But, so did our Mom and Dad - they really made Christmas special for us.

It was approximately 40 years ago in the great beautiful mountains of Pageton, West Virginia; a coal mining town - the kind of place where you owed your soul to the company store. On this particular Christmas, we had lots of snow on the ground. I remember because Santa Claus fell down in the road at the back of our house. We were really laughing as we saw him brushing off all that snow. I believe I heard a few "choice" words coming from his direction, also.

During the holidays, my mom was very busy cooking and cleaning. We were thrilled at the prospect of being able to go into the living room and watch the fire crackle in the fireplace and listen to the huge floor-model radio. I would put my ear up next to the place where the sound came out and think of all those people inside that big radio. I figured they must be very little to fit there. We were only allowed to spend time in this room on special occasions, which made it even more special and intriguing. I even recall the furniture arrangement as if I saw it only yesterday. There was a big, comfortable davenport (sofa) that you could snuggle up in and an old piano. No one could really play the piano, Mom could play a few tunes. Our favorite was "Chopsticks" and "Moma Sent Me To The Spring." When she played those tunes, we thought she was the best piano player there ever was!

About a week before Christmas, my brother and I were allowed to hang our stockings on the mantle. Our stockings really were "hung by the chimney with care." After that, the fireplace was lit. I can still see my mother's face as she fussed at Daddy for throwing caps (from my brother's cap gun) into the fire. My brother and I danced all around that room - jumping for joy at the sound of those popping caps. I don't think Daddy heard Mom complain because he kept right on throwing those caps into the fire.

Daddy would always go into the mountains and cut a large cedar tree. The aroma was marvelous - with that tree in the house, it was not only a week until Christmas, but it SMELLED like Christmas! Mom would hang those long silver icicles, one by one, on the tree. She kept these same icicles year-after-year. Our tree had those huge multicolored lights and my favorite - Bubble Lights! I loved those bubble lights. I would sit for hours it seemed marveling at the sight of them. I thought they were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.

We attended a small Methodist church on the side of a mountain in Pageton. Some wonderful singing used to flow from the windows and door of that little church. My mother's beautiful voice could be heard above all others. She had the voice of an angel. We always had a Christmas program at church. My favorite time of year here was at Christmas, of course. The Christmas program was the highlight of the season. Stockings with oranges, apples and nuts were given out to everyone. However, we discarded this in anticipation of the BIG EVENT! SANTA! We'd all get dressed up in our Sunday-best, don our warm coats, mittens and ear muffs and walk to church. No one had a car in Pageton at that time, so everyone walked everywhere.

As we entered our church, all of us kids were trembling with excitement. We could barely get through the Christmas program for thinking about Santa. And then, the time had come. Santa was announced. We were all seated in the pews with our heads turned toward the door much like wedding guests waiting for the bride to walk down the isle. There he was! Big, huge, jolly Santa. He had the best 'HO, HO, HO" I've ever heard in my entire life! It seemed as if the little church was rocking back and forth. He had a tremendous sack filled with toys. He had to drag it behind him as it was so heavily laden. You should have heard the OOOOOhs and ahhhhs. Then everyone started talking at once while Santa seated front center of the church, took out his long list.

My best friend, John Henry, leaned over and whispered into my ear, "I know that Santa is really your daddy." I was shocked. "What? What do you mean - Santa is not my daddy," I cried. "Oh yes he is," said John Henry. "How do you know?" "Well, just look at who always gets the best stuff; you always get the best doll and your brother always gets the best truck."

"That's not so!" I yelled.

Right about that time a hush came over the little church. Santa was ready to give out the gifts. One-by-one he called out the names of the children. Each one walked to the front, sat on Santa's lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas. Santa's voice boomed out over the crowd like thunder rumbling across heaven. The HO, HO, HO's were louder than ever. I can honestly say that all of us kids in that little church were the happiest bunch of kids in all the land. Finally, my name was called. I ran to Santa and jumped on his lap. I actually remember thinking his belly really did shake like a bowl full of jelly. I looked him in the eyes and saw them twinkle. He hugged me tightly and said, "So little girl, what do YOU want for Christmas?" I jabbered off a few things and then he took out a large box and gave it to me. I jumped off his lap and ran back down the isle to sit with John Henry. I was so excited I could hardly open the box. When the box was finally opened, I was amazed to see the most beautiful doll in the world. I could not speak. But, John Henry didn't have any trouble. He looked at me and said, "What did I tell you?" I slapped him and went to sit by my mother. A few minutes later, my brother was called. Dicky was shy, but he made it to Santa. I remember how cute he was. He had to have help to carry his gift. It was a big, red fire engine with a siren and ladders that really worked! I looked over at John Henry. He was holding a small car looking directly at me. I began to look at Santa intently; looking for some sign of resemblance to make sure. I could not tell if Santa was my daddy or the real Santa Claus. So, I put it out of my mind and kept right on having a great time - this was the REAL SANTA CLAUS.

When we got home, my brother and I could hardly go to sleep. This could have been because it took us quite awhile to thaw out from walking home in the freezing weather. Several days passed and then it was Christmas Eve! We had a great day playing in the snow and building a snowman. We could hardly wait until dark - Santa always visited each house in our neighborhood on Christmas Eve. We wanted to see him one last time to remind him of the things we wanted him to bring us that night. We had our baths, put on warm pajamas and we waited and we waited.

Finally we heard the jingle of bells and that familiar HO HO HO. He was here! My mom ran to open the door and in he came - like a mountain lion, roaring with laughter. Our mouths were wide open with awe. He sat down at the head of the kitchen table. He took out his list and wet the tip of his pencil with his tongue. I was first! I sat proudly on his lap. I just loved him! I didn't want to get down, but it was Dicky's turn, so I reluctantly let him have his turn. He was still shy about Santa, but he had a mission. He wanted to be sure he told Santa all his wishes. He was looking very hard at Santa. I could not believe what I heard next. "Are you my daddy?" "HO, HO, HO ... no little boy, I'm Santa Claus, HO, HO, HO." "I believe you might be my daddy." Again Santa denied he was daddy. My little cute brother then said, "But you have hands just like my daddy's hands." Santa just laughed and laughed and laughed. He hugged my little brother so tight I thought he would squeeze him to death.

After we finished our visit with Santa, he was on his way down the steps and out into the road. The snow was still falling and it was getting quite deep. As he was doing his usual exclaiming as he walked out of sight, what to our wondering eyes did appear, but Santa slipping and falling with a sneer. We laughed and we giggled.

As I said earlier at the beginning of my Christmas story, I believe I heard a few choice words coming from where Santa fell as he was shaking off the snow.

Daddy always was one for "choice" words.