(An amended Christmas Week piece that goes back to a 2017 “Musings” memories flashback, “Ho! Ho! WHOA!” . These memories grow more dear by the day. I hope this Christmas leaves each of you with a memory bank that runneth over…GB)
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 — and quite suddenly, at that — right into an accidental backward swan 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 she put on some sweatpants and a hoodie, and we beat the crowd to the Waffle House.
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 the 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 it CAN beat you.
I learned that handy little bit of info the year my brother and I got 10-speed bikes for Christmas. Now contrary to their predecessors, which were straight foot power applied at a particularly locked-in range, these new bicycles were equipped with multi-geared riding, aiding the rider up and down the terrain. Allegedly.
But, man, were we happy to see those 10-speed demons around the Christmas Tree after Santa’s visit! It didn’t take much riding around the neighborhood to understand that we were biking at a new level and, despite years of reliable service as a means to get to pools, schools, and trouble found by fools, we happily abandoned our trusty and well-worn, time and sidewalk race-tested, banana-seated older bikes onto the scrap piles of yesterday. We were high tech now; no more baseball cards in the spokes – we now had GEARING.
And with it being such a nice day that Christmas, my brother and I made the decision (both of us claim it was the other) to ride those shiny new bikes up to my grandmother’s house, where we traditionally ate Christmas lunch, located up in the Boykin section of Northern Marlboro County. Thirteen long miles from home up in the Boykin section, that is…a fact that fazed neither of us.
Oh, the folly of youth! We set out headed north up the Gibson Highway, and we made, I thought, pretty good time; we were changing gears – and pedal speeds ratios and all this new info. I think that lasted until about U-Totem, when the fact that each hill down had an up side also became much more obvious. And while we were used to those long, padded, banana bike seats, that hard little pedestal perch of a seat on these new bikes was creating a bit of an issue, a matter, in fact, of increasing concern. Yet we pedaled on, head down – in a single gear, and almost hoping a car would hit us – until we finally made it to Grandma’s.
At least my folks – who should have stopped it…but probably recognized the life-long laughs they could enjoy each Christmas! – were smart and kind enough to know that the Gibson-Laurinburg (to my grandfather for supper)-Bennettsville leg of the journey was not going to happen and they took two cars on the circuit that Christmas, my mother’s and my Pop’s truck – to haul new bikes back home.
And in a few days, I could walk normal again. So, all’s well that ends well. I suppose,
Times may change and circumstances will alter, but memories are frozen in time. They, if nothing else, remain. So be sure to make some good ones! They truly are 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.