SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Christmas At A Place Called Home


By Bob Weaver 2000

After fifty years of ownership, the hand painted Christmas bulbs got brittle and broken and the long red "rope" used to drape the tree was faded and dusty.

Grandma McCoy, unable as she was, asked for them to be brought from the upstairs closet and placed on a freshly cut pine tree.

The un-shapely tree was brought to the house from a nearby field for the decorating day, a wooden board nailed to its bottom and cotton batting placed around the base.

Very old red wreaths were hung in the twelve windows of the enclosed porch, some made of bright red cellophane and earlier dated ones of crushed paper and cloth.

After World War II, the grandkids became part of the ritual, but my mother and her sister Thelma were usually in charge, suggesting the placement of ornaments, untangling old strings of colored popcorn and re-using crumpled silver icicles.

The Christmas cards from years past were taken out to be enjoyed again. Grandma McCoy, over all the years, would sit in her green rocking chair and tell of sparse Christmases from her childhood of the late 1800's. "We usually got some apples and pears," she said, "Sometimes, new socks and a comb."

Uncle Eddie, a lifetime bachelor, reclined on the front porch couch watching the festive event. Eddie was always there, never leaving home, most memorable for his declaration that he was "not hungry," after which he would consume a goodly portion of the food at Sunday dinner and Christmas.

My dad said he was "King of the Naps," taking one after breakfast, mid-morning, after lunch, mid afternoon, but to seriously recline to wile away the long evening hours. Eddie declined to openly participate in Christmas, but like eating and napping, enjoyed every moment.

The family action was on the enclosed porch of the big farm house, with its view up and down the country road, keeping tabs on who was going where.

On slower days, and there were many, the McCoy's would sit and rock with long spells between conversations, trying to think of something to say. It is the quiet dullness of that contemplation I still treasure and their repeating the same old stories again and agin.

The family events mixed well with the Hur Christmas program at the Mt. Olive Church, an eclectic event which featured scripture, a manger scene and religious songs to joyful plays written by Pauline Kerby, gift exchanges and a visit from Santa. It drew a huge crowd.

The Christmas dinner was prepared by an assortment of family cooks, placed on a large table which could seat a dozen or so. The menu was riddled with pork, bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans and corn, but most notably dozens of pies and cakes.

The men ate first, then the children and the cooks ate last, just to build their appetite.

Grandma's special contribution was simply made sugar cookies covered with powdered sugar, and crocks of horseradish pickles, pickled corn and pickled green beans.

After Christmas dinner, there was dozing and napping.

Grandma McCoy died in 1976, just shy of 100. It was then the rituals changed, families scattered and the world got busier. Gifts and the juggling of time more important than slow moving family celebrations, where there was no question about how to spend the holiday.

It was a place called home and it was with each other.