This year marks the 10th year since I last celebrated Christmas at a place affectionately referred to as "The Farm." The Farm has been in my family since Oklahoma was opened for settlement. In its prime, the Farm was a family-sustaining operation with wheat, cattle, chickens, pigs, and a hay meadow nestled on a quarter section plus an inherited 40 acres in the north-central part of the state. To me, it was heaven. There was no place on earth like The Farm. My dad still owns the property. No one lives there, but the house, barn, grain bin, and the garage still stand. I visit it when I can.
The Farm was where Santa ALWAYS visited. I'm not sure how Santa made it to the tree without us hearing him. There were usually several cousins sleeping on the floor. We had that tree surrounded! But Christmas morning, some how, some way, that Jolly Old Elf had been in and out without a trace. He didn't even step on us.
Decorating was modest, but memorable. My grandma had a 12" plastic Santa with a red blinking light and a corrugated cardboard fireplace where we hung our hand-made stockings. Both of those were constants through my entire childhood into my 20s. The trees changed over the years but the one I liked best was the silver foil tree. Most of the ornaments were made by my Grandma. By the way, the plastic Santa now stands silently next to my tree, as a reminder of Christmases past.
My cousins were always present. Aunts and Uncles too. There were more gifts than one could imagine. If the pond was frozen we would "skate".
Christmas Breakfast was a special time. There wasn't enough room for anyone at the kitchen table with all the food. We ate on TV trays or our laps. Fried quail, fried eggs, home-made biscuits, gravy, and oatmeal sustained us until lunch. The quail was the best. When quail got to be too few to hunt, my uncle would buy domestic quail, just so we could have our traditional Christmas breakfast.
Even in Oklahoma there were a few white Christmases. One of the last years there, several of us got stuck in the drive. It was a quarter-mile long and had a couple of prime spots for drifts. We arrived before the road was bladed... it may have been a Land Pride blade! Yet another year, when I was young, we made snowmen. Big snowmen. Bigger than most of us kids. Grandma supplied the carrots for noses, we found stick for arms, and rocks for eyes -- Grandma even gave up her hat so at least one of the snowmen was complete.
In 2004, 6 months after my Papa passed, we celebrated our last Christmas at the Farm. That was a tough year. As a side note, I was named after him. He was Big Dee and I was Little Dee. I was always Little Dee -- in fact, just earlier this year I stopped to see my Aunt in Oklahoma and one of my cousins was there. When I walked in he announced to his mom: "Little Dee's here." Anyway... In 2004, after a day at the farm, I visited my Papa at the cemetery nearby on the banks of the Arkansas River. As I was telling him all about my gifts, I saw a Bald Eagle soaring above the water. It was a great sight, a beautiful sign. I captured a few pictures and I always remember Christmas 2004 when I see them.
At this wonderful time of the year, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas. My hope is that it is filled with memories of Christmases past and blessings of the present.