“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet
memories of our family that we pass down to our children.”
I said that I wasn’t going to write a separate post about Christmas but gentle pressure from my parents seems to have prevailed. Truthfully, I was already thinking about writing something about my family’s traditions that continue today. These are very important to me. Not only does it show the sacrifice of family members that I never knew. It also created and still creates an ongoing story that was passed from my grandparents, to my parents, to me and my sister and on to both of our spouses and children.
I can’t speak for anyone else in my family and their personal thoughts and feelings about traditions that may or may not be carried out. However, Mel knows one thing about me…..Traditions will be carried out every single year no matter what. This year they will be carried out in both Mississippi and Texas. For me, it’s how I’m able to keep in touch with those warm and very happy times that I remember about my grandmother Alma Buxton that would be known simply as Nannie.
I have hours upon hours of funny stories about my Nannie and our trips to Wal-Mart and her horrendous driving when she utilized the motorized scooters. Her personal view of road signs and regulations as mere suggestions for how one should drive safely. But there was a time when my Nannie would sit with me for hours telling me stories about our family. She and I would both get tickled about almost anything. The filter that should’ve been installed was missing completely so random thoughts would fly out of her mouth at a moment’s notice.
Most people that know me understand that very little can offend me. And that I will laugh at something’s that funny regardless of the appropriateness of the situation. My Nannie and I laughed A LOT while I was growing up. And we laughed even more as she and I both got older. But every year Thanksgiving and Christmas activities could be written with accuracy without being there because it was Family Traditions being carried out. And it was the same way every single year until she died.
Our holiday would begin on Christmas Eve when our entire family (mom, dad, sister, aunt and Nannie) would go out shopping. When I was younger the story was told that my grandfather, Samuel E. Buxton, who drove a big truck would come home on Christmas Eve and that’s when he would do all of his shopping. His job made it where this was his only time to do his shopping for the family. Then all would go that night to drive and look at all the Christmas lights and decorations. Sadly, he would pass away 4 months before I was born and I would never grow to know him personally. But my Nannie and parents always told both me and my sister how spoiled we would’ve been had he lived to know us. I must admit that our family never had any problems spoiling both of us just fine.
Mel and I have both told Marshall and Copeland how spoiled that would’ve also been had they been lucky enough to meet some of their ancestors on both sides. Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold is named after Mel’s grandfather and Copeland Samuel Landrum-Arnold is named after my grandfather. We take this time each year to explain Black Friday and how we would shop as a family starting very early in the morning. And then tell them about what we both did as kids with our families on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve began once my Nannie and Aunt arrived at our house to have the sleepover into Christmas Morning. Almost every year my place to sleep was with my Nannie. We would have whatever meal was created by mom and dad. And small town news was discuss for the first couple of hours. We would then all pile into whatever car was available and head over to Chain Electric in Hattiesburg who’s windows would be decorated with some form of moving decorations complete with Santa and the reindeer with Rudolph leading the way. There were also usually a family of bears with lights that were smiling and moving their paws. The rest I can’t remember because they eventually moved so much that they fell apart and the business was closed. But this little girl stuck in an adult body remembers the time that our family saw this as an important time and event complete with driving through neighborhoods known for their light decorations.
When my sister and I were younger sometimes we would have fallen asleep while looking at lights. My daddy would gently pick us up and put us in our respective beds. The years when we didn’t fall asleep we would come home from looking at lights and put on our pajamas. We would then put out the milk and cookies with a note written to Santa thanking him for bringing our long anticipated toys. We also left out Purina Cat Chow for Rudolph because everyone knows that reindeer feed on cat food as a snack.
A few hours later we would awaken before God and the angels to look at what Santa had brought us. We also anxiously looked in our stockings where surprisingly Santa had some kind of inside information about us wanting grapefruits and walnuts in our stockings…every….single….year. Our family cat always got a can of tuna that end up in the cabinets where it originated only hours before.
As we got older, Nannie wasn’t quite as slick as she had been for many years when she would wake up grunting and groaning with every step she took toward our stockings. You could very loudly hear her stuffing the stockings with something in crinkle paper and having a hard time accomplishing her task in the dark. Sometimes you could hear her saying, “Awwww…..shit…..just get in the damn stocking!” I couldn’t help but giggle. My aunt always had a stocking so big that you could’ve fit a clan of gypsies and a midget in it.
Then for several years before her death Nannie would say religiously, “This is my last Christmas. I’ll be dead by next year. You better enjoy me while you can.” “Why, Nannie?” we would ask. “Because I’m old. And when you get old you die.” We would all chuckle but we knew every year that the reality of that statement could be true.
My mom and aunt also have a box that’s used for giving a gift between them every year. I must admit that there was nothing quite as comforting as sleeping with my Nannie when I snuggled up to the warm hump in her back while her snoring sounded like a growling bear. There would also be Christmas music playing by groups such as the Carpenters, Charlie Pride, the Oak Ridge Boys or maybe even Alabama playing on a cassette or 8 track tapes. Tears glisten in my eyes now just to think about how safe I felt with my family before I knew that the world could be so cruel.
Christmas Morning after gifts were opened and likewise recorded by my daddy either on cassette tapes or video tapes. I honestly don’t know if those tapes even made it to 2018. Some had the voices of my mamaw Susie Kendrick, my dad’s mom, who I dearly miss. She was the direct opposite of my Nannie. She had a filter and luckily it never got damaged. If you’ve met my daddy then my grandmother was incredibly similar. The time was now about eating myself silly on my daddy’s Christmas morning breakfast complete with homemade biscuits, grits, eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast burritos, some type of jelly and of course sorghum syrup that he would mix a pat of butter with just prior to putting it on a biscuit and then being inhaled.
For the next couple of hours we would try on new clothes and I would take my new basketball outside and shoot some hoops before we went to our neighbors house to make sure that Santa had made it there as well. Nannie and momma would’ve prepared the ham and the dressing the night before. The topic of the size of the ham was apparently important. Nannie never ceased to tell us how much both the ham and turkey weighed. I grew up thinking that we must talk about the weight of these two types of meat until I realized when I got older that no one really cared about the weight as long as it could fit on the fork or between two slices of bread for at least the next two weeks.
The food I waited for every year was the sweet potato puffs that had a melted marshmallow covered by a sweet potato then rolled in cornflakes and baked. And then………my Nannies’ sweet and sour onions that just seemed to hit the spot twice a year. Ironically, I still cook these onions every year and for a moment I can smell my Nannie and hear her laughter when we would open her spices together, make faces and laugh like life was just simple.
Each year that our boys have been born we told them even as infants about the importance of carrying out our family’s traditions and what it means. It’s not just about seeing decorations, eating good food, and getting presents. For me it has always been the legacy of the importance of family that my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles not only spoke of but showed us through their actions the sacrifices that would be made all centered around one thing……the love of our family.
“I love those random memories that make me smile
no matter what’s going on in my life right now.”