From childhood Christmas to present, quite a ride

 The joy of Christmas for me has taken drastic turns as I’ve traveled down this life’s highway. Raised a very poor youngster in south Louisiana, I had very little to look forward to on Christmas morning. We lived in a small, one-room shack, raised by a single mom. A lot of people were poor but real poverty, hanging at our door Christmas morning, brought very little. A fruit, a piece of rock candy or maybe a three-inch piece of a big peppermint stick.

The highlight of my Christmas, which I’ve written about before, was midnight Mass at St. Mary Magdalene Church that sits on a knoll, on the banks of the Vermillion River, in downtown Abbeville. The beautiful mass was said in Latin, the Gospel spoken in both French and English. The large choir sang beautiful hymns. The service was that of the old Catholic faith. My grandmother and I would brave the weather to walk the two miles down the dirt roads to attend the service. Little did I know then that my lasting memories of my childhood Christmas would be that midnight service.

As a child in that poor situation I had no idea where life would take me. Back then, we just lived it day to day without much expectations. Poverty is an awful ordeal, much worse for a youngster. Even though I couldn’t express myself in English until age seven, which caused me to fail the first grade, I was blessed with a quick mind and early childhood talents. I also had a burning will to succeed. I still can’t stand losing.

I had a loving mother and grandmother even though mom and I were more like a brother and sister because I was born when she was so young. Those two beautiful women were my blanket in those formative years. I still miss them today. We had nothing but I wouldn’t trade the love they gave me for all the great toys of the world or the Christmas trees we never had.

I survived those Depression years and my youth and just after my teen years, I met and married Phyl and we started a family on our own. Christmas for our youngsters wouldn’t have any resemblance to the ones I spent as a child. Maybe we went a little overboard but I always wanted them to have the things I couldn’t have. Christmas gift giving today has gotten ridiculous however. I see with my grandchildren and other youngsters. One gift is considered a poor Christmas even if it were a $300 gift. These youngsters have been robbed of the appreciation because it comes so easy. I just wonder what memories they are making of their childhood Christmas.

Despite my early beginning, life has been very good to me. I wouldn’t trade it. At this time of year however, I miss family. Over the years we had large family gatherings, at Christmas time, now our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all gone. So many friends we spent this season with are also gone. It’s hard to comprehend that the poor little boy, in the small Cajun town, is now the senior monarch of the family that came along.

This Christmas Day will be extra special. We will be surrounded by our three children and grandchildren and one of our great-grandchildren. Granddaughter Jenna and her two children, eight-year-old Nat, who we have seen twice and little Delilah, nearly 2 years old, who we have never seen, will not be with us. They live in Massachusetts and are unable to be here. That’s the sad part. Son Mark has just returned from spending 10 days with them. Jason, our career soldier will be in from his base in Hawaii. He has served far too much time in Iraq. It’s destroyed his ankles. Chris, who graduated Friday from college, and served also in the Army will be here. We are extremely proud of him. Grandson Garrett, a new dad to Leland Clay, the fourth family Clay starting with my dad Clay, will come in Christmas Eve from Lockport, La. The boys will be accompanied by their spouses. Karen’s two other sons, Sean Cade and Collin Slade, “Patch” and “Billy Jack” to me, will help make it a great day. Our doctor grandchild, Amber, will be in from Cleveland, Ohio, where she is employed by University Hospital, for a little R&R and hopefully a little sunshine, warmer weather and no snow. Words can’t describe the tremendous sacrifices that young lady has made to reach her goal to become a medical doctor.

Amber’s small Maltese dog Chloe, who has been to college and medical school with her, will also have a great reunion with the doctor. Old dogs don’t forget and young doctors don’t either. Chloe is being taken care of during the Cleveland years by Uncle Allen, our second son.

We’ll do Christmas Eve at our newly redone, Ike damaged home, the old home place of MeMe and Papa to the kids. Daughter-in-law Sharon will host Christmas dinner. She an expert at putting great vittles together. From our family to yours, may you have a blessed, Merry Christmas. Remember the Christ Child.