Here we are again, Christmas. Time again for that annual mad dash for final gifts and groceries, and, for some, final shots at last-second qualifying for Santa’s “Nice” list. Good luck with that, guys.

One of my favorite things about Christmas are the songs and shows of the season. Now I don’t watch many of the old traditional TV specials any longer, but a tradition at my house is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It’s been in my DVD player since Thanksgiving weekend just so I could easily watch a few favorite scenes of the Griswold family’s holiday misadventures.

But not all of my Christmas madness has been found on film or video. I’ve enjoyed a few interesting first person holiday hijinks myself.

Like the time, for instance, back during my Charleston years when a Christmas party date was getting down to some KC and The Sunshine Band and accidentally boogie woogied – quite suddenly, at that – right into a back dive off a boat dock and into the Atlantic Ocean. In December, remember. Sobering for sure, but she just climbed back up laughing, we went to her apartment and put on some sweatpants and a hoodie, and we beat the crowd to the Waffle House. What a good sport she was.

But my personal Christmas misadventures began even earlier than that, specifically as I recall, on my grandfather’s farm over in the X-Way community of Scotland County. His farm was a fun place, with laying hens, a few cows in the pasture, pecan trees to climb, woods to hunt with BB guns, equipment to play-drive, storage sheds and barns to explore, even an old–fashioned log-built tobacco curing barn that seemed a hundred years old even then.

I recollect one Christmas Pa gathering all us grandkids together and taking us outside, probably mostly to get us out of Nanny’s hair while she finished preparing the meal. While he had us all together, I guess he figured he’d take the opportunity to educate us kids about that electric fence was around that old tobacco barn. What he must didn’t figure, however, was that while he was pointing at it and explaining, while looking at us kids, he’d accidentally touch that wire. That unexpected jolt straightened his spine for a couple seconds before he popped free, collected his thoughts and we moved on, while I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Lesson learned, Pa, perhaps not taught as expected, but learned, well learned, nonetheless.

That old tobacco barn was the scene of another great Christmas memory as one year, after dinner and before the opening of the gifts, my cousin and I, along with his dad, decided to pass the time by strolling down to the ‘bakker barn. We got there and dropped the fence, as Pa had shown us, and, just as we prepared to step inside, I noticed ol’ cuz had picked up a chunk of what appeared to be dried cement or broken concrete that had been lying nearby. Excited about our exploration, my cousin, his dad, and I proceeded to enter that pitch-black dark old barn and, turning on a flashlight, had a look around, marveling at all the horizontal poling from top to bottom that years prior had held rack after rack of tobacco under cure.

We also heard sounds of activity at the top of the barn, so my curious cousin asked, “Shine that light up there, Dad,” which he did, spotlighting several pigeons that had found a perfect roosting spot up near the roof. That was too much for “Bowanna Cuz” as he apparently believed he could weave a throw through or around about 27 6″ cross-poles and bag him a bird, I suppose, and, unbeknownst to us, hurled that chunk of concrete upward as hard as he could.

All I saw was his arm fly forward — and then the world exploded as it ricocheted off about 17 of them poles, causing the pigeons to frantically launch and flap around,, kicking up dust plumes of probably three-decade old pigeon poop, and leaving us to duck and cover as that jagged shard of death pin-balled back downward on an unknown trajectory. The next thing I heard was a thump as concrete hit somebody, followed immediately by the flashlight hitting the ground, a muttered curse, and the sound of skin hitting skin as Uncle Stuart smacked cuz across the back of his head.

Christmas spirit. You can’t beat it.

But you can challenge it.

I learned that thanks to my infamous Year Without a Christmas, when The Grinch apparently visited East Bennettsville, invaded my home, and banished all the seasonal lights and decorations — on Christmas Eve morning, nonetheless WHILE I was out doing my traditional Christmas Eve shopping, which usually involved buying a couple books, and something for an already-overcrowded wall for my folks, plus six Wal-Mart gift cards for siblings, nieces and nephews.

Regardless, full of Christmas cheer I returned home from my little shopping jaunt – to which my Queen had been repeatedly invited along – pulled up in front of the house, and quickly noticed, “Well, I’ll be danged. Some rogue done stole our wreath and garland off the front porch, right here on Christmas Eve.” But the door looked secure, and her highness’s car was there, so I figured “No problem” and eased on inside.

And what to my wondering eyes did NOT appear inside? NO garland. NO bows. NO stockings hung by the chimney with care. NO Christmas pretties sitting around. In fact, not even the Christmas tree remained. Actually, it ooked kinda like Whoville at my place. But what I did discover was one irate mate—and a room temperature dropping by the minute. And I don’t think I helped matters much by going behind closed doors and wrapping my few gifts and addressing gift cards, then cheerfully placing them atop the cardboard box, into which the tree had apparently been re-entombed.

Oh what a special Christmas we had that year. But we got thru it, and later laughed about it, because she was special to me then and, for that matter, still is today. Times may change and circumstances will alter, but memories are frozen in time. They, if nothing else, remain. They are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

So this week, as we celebrate Christmas, marking God’s greatest gift to mankind, his son Jesus Christ, take the time to remember ALL of your gifts, not just the ones under the tree, but also those gathered around it, and treasure the moment before it becomes a memory.

Merry Christmas, Marlboro County.

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