Many years ago, about 1988-2001, I wrote long letters to a dozen elderly shut-ins each week. I sent each of the 12 a copy of the same letter.
I kept a copy of each letter through the years and enjoy going back and occasionally reading a few of them. It is amazing how much I have forgotten what happened in my family and surroundings. I found the one I wrote on Dec. 2, 1996, and thought it interesting enough (to me, at least) to print now.
“Good morning. Doesn’t it seem as if it was just a few days ago that 1996 began and now it is December already? I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I cannot complain about last Thursday. I had everything ready for dinner by 11 o’clock, and all my children and their families came over and ate and some stayed for supper. Harlon cooked the huge turkey breast and ham butt on his grill and it was very good, especially the ham. I baked a pecan pie and pumpkin pie and had half of Harlon’s birthday cake that was left from Tuesday, Nov. 26.
“We had dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, cole slaw, potato salad, pimiento cheese sandwiches, rolls, strawberry dessert and tea. Keith, my 4-year-old grandson, looked around the table and said that he did not like Thanksgiving dinners! He wanted a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich!
“This was the first time I had baked a pecan pie in a couple of years. I tried a new recipe, and the pie turned out to be yummy. With all the family home and well, we felt very blessed and thankful! A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I take the leftover turkey and chip it up and make a pan of turkey chip bake. This is very simple to make and is very delicious. To me it is better than eating the plain turkey!
“Last Tuesday, I baked seven Italian-cream 6-inch cakes with three layers each. They were frosted with cream-cheese frosting with toasted chopped pecans. They turned out very pretty. I put them in a basket along with jars of pear and fig preserves, jelly and pickled okra. I delivered them to the Hinesville mayor and city council members and city manager on Wednesday. This was a gift from my husband and myself, as we both are city employees.
“In our garden, I found a very pleasant surprise. Little zinnia plants had come up from the seeds that had fallen from the old plants. They were in full bloom. I cut a large bouquet of the different colors. That night, a hard frost fell and killed all the plants, but I am still enjoying the bouquet I found.
“The morning after Thanksgiving, my oldest son, David, got in an auto accident on the highway in front of the Jiffy store in Walthourville at six in the morning. His head knocked out the window in his truck, but other than damage to both trucks, he was OK. How fortunate he has been, as this was his fourth wreck and he was never at fault. The other driver was a habitual violator and was jailed.
“Tomorrow night, we are supposed to go to the Hinesville Bank and have our photograph made as a free gift from the bank. Of course, they always want to talk you into buying a large package after getting the free picture. I will probably look “very pretty,” as I have a huge fever blister that popped up on my mouth this morning. I know why, too. I have been eating too many pecans since Harlon has been picking the hulls from the cracked pecans. Each year when he does that, I forget and eat some several times and end up with a whopping fever blister. Mine are never small ones. It looks as if I would learn!
“My daughter, Paula, will be having exploratory surgery sometime Wednesday at the local hospital as an outpatient to see if the doctors can figure out why she has been having problems. She will be put to sleep and be in there about two hours. Pray that all goes well and he can fix the problem.
“Did you hear about the Darien police chief getting arrested today on indecent charges? This is a disgrace. A 65-year-old man doing any such and especially one that is supposed to uphold the law. And then about the Savannah car salesman that was shot by two soldiers Sunday evening and brought to Liberty County and dumped in the woods. He was found by two deer hunters this morning.
“Absolutely no reason to do such. What is going on in the minds of young people today? They have three soldiers in the jail tonight for the murder of the 60-year-old salesman. And they seized the car that they had stolen. It is scary to be out anywhere, and one certainly can’t trust anyone, it seems. I am always praying for Bruce, a GSP trooper, on the road as he patrols alone on those long highways at night most of the time.
“It is time to get the Christmas trees put up, but I have not gotten around to doing it yet. It poured rain all day Sunday, which we certainly needed very much and I could not bring all the trees and decorations in from the old house. The grandkids will be waiting to see the pretty tree all lit. I hate decorating trees!
“Amber, my granddaughter, had her tonsils and adenoids taken out last Friday a week ago and is doing great. Jerilyn, another granddaughter, just left and is saying bye-bye and still grinning her beautiful smile all the time with her almost-eight teeth shining. She will be seven months old Wednesday and weighs 22 pounds. I have already bought the kids toys for Christmas, hoping to find ones that they did not already have. It is much easier to buy presents for the little ones than for big ones.
“We have many people in our church family who are sick and need all our prayers. Lola Oliver has been sick far too long, and we hope she is feeling better this week. Our pastor’s wife, Pauline Peebles, is not doing well after her mastectomy, and she is becoming very depressed. She has had one of her lungs and a piece of the other one removed for cancer in the last few years. She is in constant pain. She is just a few months older than me.
“We can always look around and find someone worse off than we are. Look around you and find some way to brighten someone’s life. If nothing else, shine a flashlight on them! Until next week, have a great week and stay healthy!”
Eighteen years have passed since I wrote that letter. Many things have changed since then. The children are grown now. Keith enjoys the good food on the table at Thanksgiving. Amber and Jerilyn are in college. Harlon, who died in 1999, would have been 71 last week. All my friends whom I used to write have gone on. This is my first big holiday season without my mama.
But some things never change. We still eat the same big dinners on holidays, have many more grandchildren, enjoy the family together and there always are sick ones to care and pray for. There always are crimes that make no sense. There are Christmas trees to decorate and presents to select.
During the next few weeks, take time to slow down and really think about the reason for the season.