Christmas Eve is always a busy day around my home, as it is with everyone else. There is one Christmas Eve in particular that stands out in my memory from several years ago.
All my shopping was done and all the gifts wrapped. Fruitcakes, pound cakes, pecan pies, chocolate, jelly and pineapple layer cakes were waiting to be cut. The large smoked ham was baking in the oven. But there still were a few more errands that had to be done before dark.
I had worked until lunchtime, so I really didn’t have much time left. It is a family tradition at our home that all the kids and their families gather for our gift exchange and supper on Christmas Eve.
This way, on Christmas morning they all can sleep late or get up early to find all the gifts Santa Claus may have left under their tree while they slept. Then the children can play with their new toys at home.
I had to make a fast trip to deliver gifts to my mother and another stop in the rural area of the county.
There was a special family that I visited often, especially during the Christmas season. The couple in their late 70s lived with their grandson, who was 16. In the previous two years, their three oldest children, who had lived with them their entire lives and were older than I, had died of cancer.
The mother had said that it would be an extremely sad holiday that year. Their small Social Security checks provided their only income.
When I stopped in front of their gate, I was greeted by the grandfather.
“Git out and come right on in here, young’un, and warm by the fire. How you been doing? How’s the rest of your folks? Here, let me tote that box in for you.”
The box was packed with a homemade fruitcake, a quart of homemade pear preserves, a pecan pie, homemade chocolate peanut candy and gifts for each of them.
The grandchild met me at the door.
“Come see-see my pretty-pretty tree. I-I found it in the woods, chopped-chopped it down by myself and put-put it up,” he stuttered.
His face and eyes were shining with joy. The star that led the wise men could not have shone any brighter.
The 3-foot-high scraggly pine with few limbs was set in a Maxwell House coffee can full of dirt. A string of lights with seven bulbs lit up the tree. Strands of silver icicles completed the decorations. Two or three small gifts were under the tree.
As I stood there and looked at his tree, my mind automatically went back to my house, which had a 6-foot-tall artificial tree that was lit with hundreds of blinking lights and too many decorations that had been collected over the years. There was even something that played music on it. It was set in a tree stand with a beautiful red felt skirt over the base. I had not been excited at all about this tree. In reality, I hate decorating trees.
I told the boy how very pretty his tree was. He told me over and over how he had picked it out and decorated it. And his was prettier than mine, as he had put all of his heart and soul into it, and I did mine because it was something I was supposed to do.
After visiting with the family for a few more minutes, I told them that I had to hurry home and get ready for my family gathering.
The grandfather said, “Young’un, I ain’t got nary a thing to give you for Christmas but some fine turnip greens in the garden. My sweet taters didn’t even make this year. Let’s go and pull you up a mess of greens if you’ll have them.”
Now, the last thing I needed on this busy afternoon was a mess of turnip greens to have to clean. But I do like turnips, so I followed him to the garden and pulled up several hills of the prettiest white egg turnips.
I told him, “You know, I was wondering where I could get some greens to cook with the hambone. Cornbread and greens are always good after eating such rich food on the holiday. Thank you so much!”
As I drove back home, I felt good inside after making my deliveries for Christmas. Also, I had a fine mess of turnips to clean the next day after the house was quiet again.
The Bible says it is better to give than to receive. I say it also is good to be gracious enough to accept a gift from someone when it is given from the heart — even if it only is a mess of greens.
Several years have passed, but I still think of that special Christmas Eve and the beaming face of the young child with his beautiful little pine tree so simply decorated.
Merry Christmas to all my readers, and thank you for the wonderful comments. May God richly bless each of you each day in the following year.