This, perhaps, is the busiest week of the year for most people. It should be a time of great joy as we gather together with our families and friends.
During all this hurrying and scurrying around, we should slow down and remember what the real meaning of Christmas is all about. Without Christ in our hearts, it is hard to have inner peace and joy that we can share with our fellow man.
I asked several people the question: What was the most memorable Christmas in your life or what was the best gift? I will share these answers with you.
• Jackie Davis, owner of Davis House Tea Room and Bed and Breakfast in Flemington, had the pleasure of having Christmas with her first grandson when he was only 3 months old, even though she knows he doesn’t remember it!
• Lamar Cook, Hinesville fire chief, said his most memorable Christmas was the year he received an orange, apple, a pair of Lone Ranger gloves and a silver half-dollar.
• John T. Woods, an author from St. Catherines, said his most memorable Christmas was in 1939, when he was 9 years old and the Rauers family owned the island. Rauers Cunningham, a son-in-law of the Rauers, came to present John with his first shotgun. It was a 16-gauge Winchester Pump, model 1897, full choke with a 28-inch barrel. He killed his first ducks with it during the Christmas holidays. John still has the gun, and it is a treasured possession.
• Iris Quilles, a medical office assistant in Dr. Tomus’ office in Hinesville, said every time she gets a chance to go home to Puerto Rico at Christmas is her favorite.
• Rick Perryman recalled the Christmas he found his father asleep under the Christmas tree with his camera.
• Pat Watkins, the Coastal Courier web editor, recalled the wonderful Christmas Day in 1992 when his second son, Joe, was born. That great gift brought the family much love and joy in Joe’s almost-19 short years on Earth. They always celebrated his birthday on June 25 so he would not be cheated out of his own special day in the year.
• Brian Plough said his most exciting Christmas was the year his dad built an American Flyer train set that took up the whole basement. This gift provided many thrilling hours of play for Brian. It was so special because his daddy had taken so much time and thought building it.
• Don Peller told me several years ago that when he was 6 years old, he had a major part in a church Christmas play. He had to memorize his part, but it had been a major struggle for him to get it all right. When the big night came, there was such a huge snowstorm that the family was unable to go. What a great disappointment!
• Rose Kenner, an employee at Hinesville city hall, said she remembers the year 1985 when she stuffed herself with ham. (It must have made her sick. I’m glad it was not on my chicken and noodles that she used to love when we worked together!)
• George Screws said the best one he ever has experienced was when he returned home to his parents after being gone for 10 years. I’ll bet this was his parents’ most cherished one, also.
• Catherine Folker said that getting a new washing machine in 1956 for the family was the most exciting one for her. (I remember when Mama got her first electric one. What a great relief it was to not have to scrub clothes in the washtubs and boil them in the wash pot, especially in the cold winter!)
• Sarah Lumpkin, Hinesville city clerk, said that the early morning Christmas service in 1992 was special and inspiring.
I distinctly remember the white Christmas of 1989 in Liberty County. It was our custom to go to my mother-in-law’s house every Christmas Eve for supper and to exchange gifts. That evening, it started sleeting and snowing, but my husband was determined to go. We went, and all along Highway 196, especially near Gum Branch Church, there were vehicles that had slid off the road and into the ditch. I was terrified.
We finally reached our destination and stayed until after supper and hurriedly exchanged gifts. The weather got worse, and we left to go back to Walthourville. My daughter, Paula, and her husband left before us and called me a short time later. Just two cars ahead of them, there had been a bad wreck in which a young woman was killed. Paula was so upset. I vowed then and there that never again would I risk my life and that of my family to go out in such dangerous weather just to “celebrate Christmas because it was the custom.”
To my knowledge, that is the only “white Christmas” that has been in this area during my lifetime here. The temperature was down to about 10 degrees. My father, who lived here all his life, said he often heard the song, “White Christmas,” and now that he had seen one, he never wanted to dream, let alone see, another!
Onetha Mingledorff, who was the Hinesville city clerk and finance officer for 40 years, wrote some of her thoughts about Christmas: “Memories echo in my mind of Christmas Eve so long ago. How warm and beautiful it was by the fireside all aglow. My mind goes back so many years to a special kind of world when fairy tales and Santa Clause meant so much to a little girl. This time of year is the only time I would ever consider going back to my childhood. When we grow up, much of the magic disappears and is replaced by the hustle and bustle of buying gifts, cooking goodies, Christmas parties and in between putting up the Christmas tree.”
(She wrote the following poem during the holiday season, perhaps in the 1980s.)
“It was dark and cold outside, The stars were shining bright. Happiness to a little girl meant Santa was coming tonight! Nose pressed to the window pane, Eyes keeping watch upon the sky, Perhaps a little girl might catch a glance of Santa passing by. Soon I’d grow tired and sleepy, So warm and free and happy, And crawl up on Daddy’s knee, Snuggling in his big strong arms, As I watched the Christmas tree. Oh, what I’d give if I could be, Once more, that little girl In my special kind of world!”
Ironically, Onetha died on Christmas Day in 1990.
Our hearts ache for those who miss Christmas because of distance, but it’s far worse to miss Christmas because of disinterest. Make this the merriest Christmas you can remember!