When I was a little girl growing up in the south, there were Christmases bountiful and Christmases lean.
Fruits and nuts and candy were a must. Then each of us got one special toy we wanted. Sometimes one toy was all. My most memorable Christmas involved a pink cradled baby doll with a pink blanket and a little bitty bottle. There she was under the tree on Christmas morning as if by magic. The doll. And an orange.
I was happy. Content.
Santa came and it was magical.
My parents were not-quite middle class at the time. Four children in a tiny house, six mouths to feed (and a host of assorted pets) with lots of tripping over each other and noise. Such was my childhood.
I remember my dad missing one day of work in all my years in that house. Watching him climb out of bed on cold hardwood floor mornings, start the car and drive down the dirt road in front of our house in a dash of flying dust at five am. Or dense fog and ice with his breath making clouds in the freezing air as he scraped the windshield. He always managed to forget his gloves.
During my teenage years he drove a motorcycle to work, not to be cool, but to save on gasoline. He loved it until a swarm of bees got under his helmet one day on the way home! Oh...a tale for another day. But it was hard to sleep with the vrrooom vrooom sound starting up in what seemed the middle of the night to me.
He had responsibilities. People counted on him. And not just us. He was well loved and respected in his workplace of thirty-six years before he retired. I doubt any of them ever thought of the four sleepy children who sometimes watched through the window when he left.
The same window you see above - with my sweet Baby Boy looking out and down the same now-paved road.
By today's standards and judging by the way my own child grew up, it would seem that my childhood was scarce....even poor. And I suppose one could label our station that way at times in the early years. Since I am the oldest child of my father, I tend to remember the scarcities more than my siblings.
It wasn't until I was grown with a child of my own that I realized just how hard it must have been for them to put food on the table and clothe six people everyday.
But no matter what struggles we faced there was always one consistency.
Daddy. And his five am departure.
And yesterday when I bought the silk-flowered poinsettia wreath that I'll take to the churchyard in the morning, it was hard. Firsts.
New traditions. Bittersweet.
Somehow not enough.
But on my way home I'll travel down roads he traveled and I'll see sights he saw everyday on the way to work. And I'll visit for just a minute on a cold cold frosty Christmas morn knowing full well that he is not really there but running some wild base run somewhere warm and fine.
He'll say "Thanks, Sis, for the flowers, but you really don't have to bring me anything."
He always said that. Each and every Christmas. It will be no different this year.
He has a serious and inquisitive look on his face. It is your look. I see your face.
You taught me that.
I will make sure he sees you through my eyes.
I will make sure he remembers.
I will make sure he honors you.