You know, Ever since we first began to walk on our hind legs, humans have pondered the behavior of this strange wobbly planet that wanders its tipsy way across space. Rolling and weaving like a top, it gives us summer and winter, the seasons, the solstices and the holidays that have gathered around them, particularly at the passing of the longest night, and how that darkness generates the hope of the light to come. What an incredible metaphor and how deeply it speaks to us. It’s given us traditions that go back thousands of years … from the Ramaden of the Muslims, the Hannukah of the Jews, to the many and varied Celebrations of Christmas, and more.
Oh, we may huff and puff over what a Christmas tree means, and whether it’s a Christian symbol or a pagan one. But whether a Christmas tree, the menorah’s candles or the glow of the Yule log, they all bring light to the long winter’s night.
Down here in the Ozarks, most of us have come to that long winter’s night with a good helping of memories of seasons and holidays and loved ones present and past, stories to share by the fire and warm our hearts while the cider and good company take care of the rest. Here’s one to add to that batch.
When I was just a little bitty kid, I was very worried about Christmas, and I thought Santa wouldn’t be able to come and see me at all. I had been fretting about it fr some time, because we were living in this big, drafty old house that had been the town hotel in Butterfield, Missouri, and we were living in just the rooms that we could heat in the winter with an old wood stove, and there was no fireplace. And I could see that the chimney was just up on the wall there with just a little bitty hole for the stovepipe, and how in the world would Santa get down out of there. Well, he couldn’t.
Well, Christmas eve came, and there I was, fretting about Santa, and all of a sudden, I hear this big Hohoho, and the front door opens … by golly, in walks Santa Claus… tall, and all in red, and with the white beard and everything. I had never seen anyone so tall except Leonard, my aunt Juanita’s new husband, and he was gone to town somewhere. Well, Santa comes in and sets me up on his knee and reaches in his sack and pulls out these very cool toy telephones that really ring and talk to each other, and these little cars and trucks and candy, and, well, I just don’t know what all, I could hardly look at the toys, because, I mean, there he was, big as life. Bigger.
And then Santa Claus explained that, what with the chimney problem and all, he couldn’t land on the roof, he had to land in the yard, which was tricky, and he didn’t want to be seen by anybody, so he really had to get going. So he sat me down, stood up, and off down the hall and out the front door he went. Well, hey, I was nobody’s fool. If Santa Claus was parked in the yard, and if I hurried, I could see me some reindeer. So I was off down the hall like a shot, right behind him, with my mom and dad and Aunt Juanita calling after me. Well, I guess Santa realized I was on his heels, ’cause he made a left turn at the front door and tore off around the side of the house at a dead run. Well, I don’t know where he put his sleigh, but I do know that’s where we had put the woodpile.
Now I don’t really remember this part of the story, but they tell me that when I came back to the kitchen, my eyes full of wonder, I said:
“You know, when Santa Clause cusses, he sounds just like Uncle Leonard.”
I swear they told that story on me every Christmas until I was the only one of them left, and now I tell it on myself. It’s what we do on the long winter nights to warm our hearts and make the winter go quicker and bring back the light. And I guess this old wobbly planet listens, because it’s already leaning back toward the sun, and mornings are getting a little longer by a minute every day. Whatever your tradition, it’s easy to see that when we went looking for a holy season, this was a good place to put it. May this holiday season find you well and happy, your days lengthening and the light in your life strengthening. This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills.
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