The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Christmas Back Home

By Eula Golding Green © 1986

Issue: December, 1986

Merry ChristmasReading Daddy's [Woodrow Golding] stories about his early childhood days in The Mountain Laurel, brings back vivid memories of my childhood days back home. Now that we children are scattered over four states, we (all eight of us, seven scattered abroad, one still at home) look forward to holidays that give us an excuse to congregate around Mother's bountiful table and relive sweet memories of yesteryear. Most of us who have joined the helter skelter rat race of modern city life thoroughly enjoy the delicious food she prepares from vegetables grown in her and Daddy's own garden, the jams and jellies, the juices rendered from their own vines and trees, and the meats grown and fattened there on the farm.

During the first seven or eight years of their marriage, four children were born to Mother and Daddy. I was number four. For the next ten years I had the distinction and privilege of being the baby of the family. Then, in quick succession, four more babies were born. Even though Mother probably enjoyed the ten year respite, they realized that it would be only a few more years until we children would be married and raising families of our own and they would be left to spend the golden years of their lives alone. So they decided to do something about it.

I was only eight months old when Daddy was unexpectedly drafted into the army during World War II. Since it was unexpected Daddy was caught totally unprepared. It was already November and our parents had been so busy with fall harvest that Daddy hadn't had enough time to cut wood for our winter's fuel. Mother then, as now, suffered from arthritis. We were caught with several head of cattle. Daddy hadn't had enough prior notice to give him time to sell them off before he had to leave. There were the cattle to feed as well as wood to be cut and dragged to the house and be cut into stick length. That winter was very cold with lots of snow. There were days when Mother just wasn't able to drag a tree from the woods and cut it with a chopping axe. Those days were very cold and miserable and we were lucky if there happened to be some cooked food left over from the day before. However, before the winter was over, neighbors learned of our plight and gathered one day and cut us enough wood to last us until warm weather.

Then there was the hot day in mid July. We were all sitting on our front porch talking with Grandpa Creed (Mother's Daddy) who had come to visit us. Suddenly Brownie, our small mixed breed dog started barking and bounded off up the road where some one on foot had just come into sight. It was a soldier carrying a large duffel bag on his shoulder. Mother and the other three children shouted with joy and went running wildly to the road to meet the soldier. They were all hugging him and smothering him with kisses. When they all came to the house the strange soldier grabbed me and held me in his arms. I was terrified and screamed with all my might. I was scared of this young man whom I never remembered seeing before. I screamed and kicked until he had to let me go. It was many days before I would let this stranger hold me in his arms and cuddle me. I couldn't realize this was my daddy who had been in Germany, serving his country since I was a small baby.

Things gradually became normal again after Daddy came home. I became adjusted to the fact that I had a Daddy like most every one else. Everyone in the family, except me, who was still quite small, went immediately back to work trying to wrest a living from the poor and rocky soil. We still didn't have electricity and we hadn't yet advanced to the point where Daddy could afford to buy a tractor and other modern implements that would make his work much easier. All the farm work was done with horses. Plowing, cultivating, and harvesting the crops were all done with horses. The hay was cut, raked and dragged to the place where it would be stacked by horses.

Going to school was as hard as everything else we did in those days. We walked more than two miles to the little school house which boasted only one teacher for all the primary grades. We walked through mud, rain, sleet and snow and it was usually very cold. Sometimes when it was very bad, Daddy would take us to school in the wagon pulled by the horses. After a few years buses were put on the road and we could ride part of the way. It was not until the four younger children started to school that the bus came all the way to the house to pick us up.

As was the case with all country children, Christmas was the most enjoyable time of the year. Santa always came and delivered his treats and handed them to us in person. Mother would tuck us in bed and before we could go to sleep we would be startled out of our wits by the popping of firecrackers. We knew it was Santa Claus because we could hear his "Ho! Ho! Ho!" as he marched around the house shooting off his fire crackers. Then there would be a loud banging on the door until Mother got up to open it for him. We children would pull the covers over our heads and lie there shaking with fright. Even though we were scared half to death, we were delighted when we saw the new toys and other goodies he had brought with him. After he emptied his bag of treats, he always wanted to put me into the empty bag and take me with him. That idea didn't go well with me either.

One year Santa brought me the most wonderful gift I had ever received. It was a little black doll. Although it wasn't my race, I loved the little black doll with all my heart. I kept her until I was nearly grown. I don't know what ever happened to her but I would give a lot now to have her back again. That same Christmas, Santa brought my older brother, John, a little red wagon. He was as proud as I was with my doll. Even though he loved his red wagon, he played with it so rough that it was all but demolished before the next Christmas came around. Daddy kept telling John that he was going to leave the battered wagon sitting across the path to the house next Christmas Eve so Santa could see for himself how badly he had treated it. He told John that when Santa sees how he had mistreated the wagon, he would never bring him another. John begged and pleaded but to no avail.

Next Christmas Eve the wagon was placed across the path where Santa would surely see it. That night all of us children were put to bed early as usual. We lay there tensely waiting for Santa's arrival. Suddenly, "Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter that I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter." Every one else was startled and sprang out of bed, too. Then the air rang with a volley of oaths like I had never heard before. Surely, surely Santa Claus didn't use profanity! Good Old Saint Nick? Some saint! Someone found a flash light and shone it out the door, and there he lay! Santa Claus sprawled out on the ground about ten feet from where he had stumbled over the wagon, his sack lying on the ground several feet away and his toys and other goodies scattered all around! Mother went out and helped him to his feet. A few months later I was prowling among some garments that had been packed away and found a Santa Claus suit packed away with the other clothes. Santa never came again and delivered his presents to us in person. I have always wondered why. Maybe somebody who reads this article knows the reason. If so I hope he will write and tell me. Meanwhile though, my own four children never tire of hearing me reminisce on my wonderful Christmas past.