Friday, October 27, 2006

Lighting Up The House [CCR]

It’s the beginning of October and the weather here in Ohio already qualifies as an "Alabama Christmas." I look at my homecoming pictures from high school in Cherokee and see everyone in short sleeves. Here you may get by with summer gear for the first or second football game and then you better have your winter gear ready. In all my confusion with the temperature I can go into almost any of the "big box" stores and already see a fine selection for Christmas. Back home we always joked about the stores setting up Christmas earlier each year, but the stores here have had Christmas on the shelves for a month now. I guess we are skipping Halloween this year.

Even though my Granddaddy Smith loved Fourth of July best, he treasured every holiday. I think he didn’t want to show it, but he loved getting the family together and seeing his fine collection of grandchildren. Christmas was always fascinating with all the lights hanging around town and on the houses. We always had a beautiful Christmas tree, but we never had outdoor lights. Granddaddy would line his porch each year with the outdoor lights. He used the larger ones and always had some that twinkled. It always took the twinkling lights time to warm up and I waited in anticipation to see the first one blink. They were not a complex collection, just a simple single string of lights circling along the edge of the porch. It was a true sign of Christmas when Granddaddy hung the lights.

Trips to Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Muscle Shoals, or Florence near Christmas always included tours of the lit streets and houses. I can still see the trumpeting angels that lined the streets of Sheffield. Rogers Department Store in Florence was always decorated for Christmas and we always stopped by to visit my Aunt Virginia Daily who wrapped gifts there. I think she really enjoyed the opportunity to meet all the people and she got a preview of many people’s Christmas surprise.

As my Granddaddy got older I took on the task of making sure he got a Christmas tree. But I will never forget the year Granddaddy talked about not putting up the lights on the front porch. I don’t think he realized how connected I became to those lights. So I began helping him get the lights out of the old wooden shed. We always plugged them in to see which ones survived the year and were ready to shine again. Granddaddy would unscrew the porch light bulb and replace it with a receptacle adapter. He plugged in the lights and then we carefully strung them along the edge of the porch.
Each year we gathered at Christmas and celebrated another year together. If you heard a car coming up the driveway you could look out the window and see the visitors arrive in the glow of the colorful lights. Everyone would be carrying wrapped gifts or dishes of food. Grandmother always had plenty of food for everyone.

The family still gathers each year. Last year we gathered at Thanksgiving to visit Uncle Travis’s house. This year we will travel to visit Uncle Eugene who also lives near Memphis. But when I get home to Cherokee it won’t be the same to look across the cotton field and not see those lights. But if you look real close when you pass by you might see Granddaddy and me sorting out a wad of glowing lights. And once again you will know its Christmas.