Standing amidst the crowd while attending our annual celebratory tree lighting the other evening, I found myself drawn to the reminiscence of Christmas' past.
As a young child living on Deadwood Mountain the holiday season warranted quiet time spent with my parents and younger sister. Though we purely existed hand to mouth at the time, my father graciously provided venison roast from his yearly hunt, accompanied by what extra earnings he could muster.
The unprecedented creativity of my magnificently frugal mother took these blessings and presented our family with a glorious feast. If I close my eyes, those heavenly scents still tickle my imagination four decades later.
There was nothing more enticing than the site of our tiny table brimming with heaping helpings of steaming green beans and carrots, mountains of butter bathed country-style mashed potatoes, and mom's picture perfect deviled eggs sprinkled with precisely the right dash of paprika. The site of such a handsome bounty seeming to warrant consideration for a Norman Rockwell piece.
My father would light a roaring fire, stacked high with seasoned pine and oak. I watched enthralled as the fiery glow danced across the wood planked floorboards, spilling onto the freshly cut fir tree from the forest line just over the south ridge.
After prayers of thanks, and filling our bellies with the scrumptious delights of supper we would all gather to string popcorn, adorning our little tree with festive colored paper chains and tiny pinecones, finishing the ensemble off with hand tied bows of red and green satin. Soon after, momma would present us with the loveliest angel, fashioned with great care from a tattered lace curtain panel and one of my hand-stitched dollies, to crown our masterpiece.
My sister and I would stand transfixed in awe and wonder of such beauty mesmerized by the sight of our stockings being hung along the brick mantel, gleefully illuminated by a single row of mini creamy white candles, their flickering flames dancing on the reflection of the mirror above. All the while, great granny's RCA/Victor filling our quaint home with jovial melodies, our hearts filled with wonder for what the night might bring.
Regardless of how hard we fought to stay awake to personally present Santa the fresh baked cookies made especially for him, by the 12th strike of the grandfather clock we were fast asleep, dreaming of the enchanting night.
Awakening before dawn, rushing to find that by some miracle Ole' Saint Nick had found his way to our little secluded mountain home, nestled among the towering trees, having filled our stockings abundantly with treasured treats.
Perusing my over flowing felicity, I would discover glorious delicacies of handmade caramels carefully wrapped in wax papers, handfuls of Brazil and Chestnuts, creamy old fashioned butter-mints neatly packaged in shimmering crystalline cello spilling forth as I unveil a peppermint stick intended for a giant.
Just when I thought that I had reached the end, tucked deeply into the toe of my home-made stocking was a luscious mouthwateringly plump Navel orange, begging to be devoured.
By mid-morning my sister and I would bundle up, rushing into the snowy wonderland of the meadow, eager to build a handsome snowman, gracing the yard with dozens of snow angels. There was no other time in my life as carefree and heartwarming as this.
As the crowd recently gathered to admire all of our area schools decorated trees, I watched families laughing, children tossing snow balls to and fro. The choir serenading us with holiday jingles echoed those joyous experiences of yesteryear, and in turn offered time to fully appreciate my friends and family today.
In those moments, as we counted down the final seconds awaiting our town tree to come to life, my heart filled with great joy in seeing so many gathered, hot cocoa in hand to celebrate the blessed commemoration.
Though I only recognized a handful of people among the onlookers, as most of the townspeople I knew in my youth no longer reside in the area, still I felt a tug on my heartstrings, as we pulled together as a community to celebrate Christmas.
I found great comfort and gratifying reward in those moments as Santa arrived on that shiny red fire engine. Watching the children's eyes filled with that same awe and wonder I once knew, and still recall so clearly, my heart swelled in knowing there is still sweet promise in this ever darkening world in the precious hearts of children.