|My niece and nephew, Christmas 2007|
Thanksgiving 2011 is distant memory, but I'm still counting my writer blessings. A big one has to be the family I was born in, bless their southern eccentric hearts! Southerners love to tell a tall tale. My uncles could lie, I mean tell a good story with the best of 'em. But great storytelling is an equal opportunity skill, because my aunts, older cousins and grandmother were just as entertaining. The holidays have always been a time of family coming together, and as a kid that meant eavesdropping on the adults. Of course there is an art to listening in. You have to be a chameleon- blend into the woodwork or furniture so that the grown-ups forget you're there. That way you can hear the really juicy stuff. Ah yes, the holidays packed my gift bag with loads of material for books.
Here are a few tales from warm family gatherings:
One of my maternal uncles used to work for a man who was very rich. This man's wife used to have strange "spells". That was the polite southern belle term for it. My uncle put it more bluntly, she was nuts. This rich man, from an old southern family, put up with his wife but just barely. He'd married her for money and her family name, both sets of parents expected them to wed you see. Translation- you want to inherit the family loot? Marry the right person. Anyway after many years a tragic accident happened. The poor wife wandered into the pond on the family estate and drowned. No doubt during one of her "spells". Then my uncle at the end of this sad story leaned forward, his voice low and said, "I don't think she ended up face down in that pond by accident." A murder mystery!
One of my ancestors (great-great-great grandmother I think, the story is murky) was a Choctaw Indian bought as a slave before the Civil War. Her master was a doctor from Manchester, England. They had two sons. Reportedly he never married, and doted on their mother. He died and left his sons his land. There was outrage from the white population when one son defiantly tried to petition the court for his inheritance. With help from the sheriff, they set out to kill him, but he escaped into the frontier (Opelousas, land of Jim Bowie). No one knows what happened to him after that. Rich source for a sweeping historical saga!
Finally from me, a heartwarming memory of Christmas. My father worked for the local company, Gulf States Utilities. Each year they would sponsor a Christmas party for the children of employees. What fun, but not because of the toys. No, the fun was watching "Santa". GSU hired Santa to give toys to every child. He'd sit on a stage in an auditorium, and all the kids would line up to get their gifts after a brief program. Sometimes our Santa had a nip of "cheer" before he got to the program. One Santa would break into blues songs like, "Merry Christmas, baby. Ya sho been good to me!" Another one would admonish rambunctious kids not to be naughty, with a gruff, "Hey, stop actin' a fool!" or "Shut up, and sit your butt down!" Gotta love old Santa, huh?
I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope you have wonderful family memories, great food and a few stories to tell.
For a spicy Louisiana holiday romance check out