It’s Christmas, the first one since my husband died in May of this year. As I sit here with only my dogs for company, I look around my home, and I find comfort. My house is filled with things from the past. My grandmother’s tiny nativity set. Her old pie safe, which is one of my prized possessions, and was a gift to her in 1926 when she married. Her old butter churn sits by the stove. Her old treadle sewing machine serves as my nightstand. The big dough bowl that belonged to her mother, who died when I was a child, holds part of my rock collection. My dining room suite is the first nice thing my parents bought some 50 years ago, and it was old when they got it. The pie safe and the china cabinet is filled with my Depression glass, most of which was inherited from both grandmothers, and a set of ruby glass gifted to me by an old friend who has passed. My coffee table is an old cedar chest gifted to me when I was 12 by a great-aunt and uncle who are long gone. On a shelf is the baby plate and cup that belonged to my dad, various pieces of Depression glass from my aunt and uncle who have passed on, and a few pieces of milk glass and carnival glass from my husband’s family. On the stove is my grandmother’s cast iron frying pan, which I use every day. On the wall is a dulcimer made in 1920, gifted to me by another uncle who is gone. A guitar that was gifted to me by a dying friend 40 years ago sits on a stand.
I feel connected to generations of ancestors who had a much harder life than I’ve had. My mother, who will be 79 next month, was raised dirt-poor and picked cotton for 25 cents a bale to earn money. My grandparents were share-cropping farmers and raised everything they ate. They worked from sunup to sundown and didn’t even know they were poor. They didn’t really have anything to judge that by. I plainly recall the day they got indoor plumbing in their house. They never owned a car and walked everywhere. My grandpa never owned a tractor. He plowed with a mule. They were happy, kind, and generous people.
I think of my husband and the 25 Christmases we had together, and I miss him. In the corner of the bedroom is a chair made by his grandfather. His motorcycle helmet sits on it. All around the house are things he built for me for Christmas presents. One year, a closet. One year, the porch. Bookshelves. Cabinets. His loving spirit is in every board, every nail.
As I sit here, the ghosts of Christmas pasts are visiting. I think of the cousins all sitting around the wood stove at my grandparent’s house, playing and singing. I think of sneaking out to the barn to have a sip of moonshine. I think of my grandmother’s coconut cake and country ham and biscuits. I remember the way she would very carefully unwrap her gifts so she could use the paper and ribbons the next year. I think of how many meals my grandmother cooked in that frying pan. I think of my grandmother sewing my mother’s dresses, made from flour sacks, on that old sewing machine. I light her old kerosene lamp and think of her sewing or reading the Bible by that light, as they didn’t have any electricity until after 1940. I think of my husband sitting in that chair when he was a little boy.
I love my old things. They remind me of where I came from, and that I can be proud that I came from such good people. They remind me that I was greatly loved by a good and wonderful man, a gift that money can never buy.
I wish a Merry Christmas to you and yours, and tidings of comfort and joy.