Wednesday, December 12, 2001

All I Want For Christmas

Hunting for the perfect Christmas present can sometimes be a hug ordeal. Running from store to store, checking sale ads, even surfing the web, sometimes that one special item simply eludes us—or we may have no idea what the certain item is.

There have been numerous times when my children have asked for a Christmas present and I have no idea what it is, much less where I can go to buy it—or the item is so popular every store you go to is sold out. Last year it was Color Game Boy. At the end of summer, you could find them everywhere and in every color. By Thanksgiving they were no where to be found, and after searching town after town, I ended up settling for the only color I could find, which, of course was not the preferred color. Remember Furby? The first Christmas of Furby was a futile search, and by the time I found one for the next Christmas, Furby was a thing of the past. What about Cabbage Patch Kids? For two years I hunted high and low for the perfect doll--now you can find them anywhere, but their popularity has died down.

Okay, so you manage to fulfill the lists of all your little elves, but how, where do you hide your stash until the big day? Obviously, I am not sneaky enough, or my kids have extraordinary skills as spies, because they always seem to find at least one of their presents early. Last year I finally found what I think is the perfect hiding place, and I could tell you where it is, but then I would have to kill you.

Now, I am a wonderful snoop—you were wondering where my kids got it? My Granny Devine used to call my “Nosey Rosy”, but try as I might; I never had any luck finding my parents hiding places. Sure, I was great at peeling the tape off presents left u under the tree, and then carefully concealing the fact that I had opened them, but I could never find the hiding spot.

In 1971, I was nine-years-old and I still believed in Santa—actually, I have never stopped believing. This particular Christmas, Santa gave us kid’s new bedroom furniture. My sister and I got matching twin beds with a dresser and nightstand to use in our shared bedroom. My brother got the same for his room. This furniture was set up and waiting in our rooms when we came home from Granny Devine’s house on Christmas Eve. We also each had a beautiful new bedspread with curtains to match. This was a big deal for me, because up to this point, my sister and I shared a full size bed. Now I had a bed of my own. I thought Santa was full of magic that year, but I kept wondering why Granny Devine came home with us that night, because this was something she never did. It was years later I learned Granny had made the bedspread and curtains, and she wanted to be there to see our faces. I’m sure she was happy with our excitement. In addition to the bedspread and curtains, she had also made each of us a bathrobe and crotched my sister and me a pair of house slippers.

It is better to give than to receive—how many times have we heard, or said, that very thing? Of course, as children, we wanted everything in sight—the latest toy or game or doll. As adults, our priorities change, especially after we have children of our own, after all, Christmas is for children.

Still, everyone has memories of that special Christmas when we wanted, and probably received, one special item we dreamed about for months. For me, it was the Christmas of 1973 and I was 11-years-old, not yet a teenager, but definitely not a child, or at least that is what I thought. This particular year I asked for roller skates like the older kids had, a stuffed turtle with a denim shell, and the brand new Hudson Brothers album. The Hudson Brothers has a Saturday morning television show I was absolutely in love with. I never missed an episode, even going so far as to tape the shows on my audio tape recorder. What I wouldn’t have give if VCR technology was available back then. Anyway, that Christmas I did receive everything I asked for, but I am sure my parents had a hard time finding the Hudson Brothers album; after all, they weren’t a very popular band. Believe it or not, I still have that album after 30 years. My own kids think I’m crazy.

Over the years I have received many wonderful gifts, but as I get older, I get more joy out of give the perfect gift, especially to my children. I remember hunting for He-Man and She-Ra items, Teddy Roping, talking Big Bird, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony and Barney. I have shopped for the latest CDs from Korn, Nine-Inch Nails, and Nirvana, as well as Britney Spears and Aaron Carter. Every year presents from “Mom and Dad” are wrapped in a wide variety of papers, but gifts from “Santa” are all wrapped in the same identical paper, lovingly wrapped by elves.

We all know Christmas is not all about presents, but when you have children, gifts play a major role in the holidays. Even though you try to teach your children that it is better to give than to receive, it is hard for them to see past all the commercialization. Let’s face it, at Christmas time; advertisements are aimed straight for our kids.

Christmas will take on a new meaning in 2001, because of the War on Terror still raging over seas. This year children will still be receiving that one special gift, but maybe they will receive something even more precious. Even though it will not fit in a Christmas stocking, we are all blessed with the preservation of America’s freedom and the unification of the American people.
Merry Christmas and God bless us all.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, December 2001

Friday, September 28, 2001

Granny Sallee

In Loving Memory of
Lura Becham Carter Sallee

My Granny Salle was a wonderful person. She worked hard all of her life, raising nine children and farming. She and my grandfather survived the early deaths of two sons and a grandson before their time. Granny survived losing her husband of 65 years. She survived leaving rural life for a small house in town, and she lived long enough to celebrate her 90th birthday with a party and family reunion.

Even though my Granny was hard of hearing for as long as I can remember, she did have a way with words. “Don’t you think you could take off a little weight?” This was a favorite question for me. Of course, I have fought with my weight all of my adult life, and Granny was always the first to notice any change to my weight. She always seemed to notice if I had “fallen of a bit”, or if I had picked up a few pounds.

Granny Sallee made the most wonderful homemade biscuits. I can remember in the old family farmhouse, she had a baking cupboard where she kept her flour, sugar and lard. She always mixed her dough by hand, rolled it out with a well-worn rolling pin, and cut perfect circles to place in the oven. In a few minutes, when those fluffy bits of heaven emerged from the oven, the smell would be overwhelming. There was nothing better than Granny’s homemade biscuits smothered with home canned jams or preserves.

Granny was also a pretty good seamstress, be it clothes or quilts. Granny was always working on quilt tops, carefully piecing each block from the remnants of old clothes. I think she managed to make quilts for each of her grandchildren, and she had numerous quilts tops that never quite made it to the quilting frame. I have one of those quilt tops, but my lack of time and sewing skills have kept me from transforming it into a beautiful quilt. I’m leaving that job for my retirement.

Even after Granny and Granddaddy Sallee moved to town, you could not take the country out of them. For years they had a small vegetable garden in their backyard. They both loved fresh tomatoes, green beans, onions and lettuce. You could always find them puttering around out in the garden. Granny loved to can beans and tomatoes, as well as her jams and preserves. I think I got my love of homemade jams and preserves from my Granny Sallee. I don’t can many vegetables from my gardens, but I do use my backyard blackberries, raspberries, grapes and rhubarb to make jam. It is a stress reliever for me, stirring the thickened pulp until it is just the right consistency jam, and then looking at through the crystal clear jars. Jam is a staple of the family Christmas baskets that I fix each year.

Granny Salle was really old-fashioned, like most grandparents, and she wasn’t much for change. I remember when my divorce was finale, I had this little yellow sign in the back window of my car that said, “Ex-husband in trunk”. Now, back in the 1980’s, everyone had those little yellow signs in their rear windows, and I thought mine was funny. Not Granny. Every time I would visit, Granny would make a remark about my sign. It took about five or six times before I became guilty and removed the sign from my car, but Granny didn’t forget it for a very long time. Months later, she was still saying, “I hope you don’t put that sign up again.” And I never did.

Granny loved her family. She always wanted people around to share in her life. She talked to family every day on the phone, and for the people who lived out of state, she wrote the most wonderful letters. She always liked to keep in contact and she never thought any of us visited enough, and I guess we really didn’t. I know that as I got older. I always seemed to have some excused for not visiting more often. I was either working or the kids had somewhere to be or we just had other plans. I guess I just took it for granted that Granny would always be there. In hindsight, I wish I had made the time to visit more often than I did.

In July of 1994, Granny Sallee turned 90, and we celebrated with a family reunion. Almost every single family member managed to make it back home. They came from all over Kentucky, as well as Arizona, Texas and Indiana. To say that Granny was overwhelmed would be an understatement. She spent the biggest part of the day with tears in her eyes. Having her entire family with her was the greatest present we gave her that day. She got lots and lots of pictures to mark the occasion, as well as a memory book. My husband and I got her a blank scrapbook and a cheap package of markers, and we had everyone write a birthday message to Granny. Even the little children drew a picture or a scribble. So not only could Granny look at the pictures of her family, but she would also go back and see what everyone wrote to her. As it turned out, Granny’s 90th birthday was the last time our family has all been together.

Granny passed away the following spring. Her passing was hard on everyone, especially my Dad, because he was the only surviving son. My big girls remember their great grandmother well, but since Christine was only two when Granny died, she will still as questions whenever she sees her picture. As for me, memories of my Granny Sallee will live forever in my heart.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, September 2001