Some things are worth hanging on to

Posted 11/19/20

The “holidays” are upon us.

Actually, they’ve been here awhile already. As I’ve whined about before in this space, they’ve been with us since about ... oh, last year’s holiday season. …

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Some things are worth hanging on to

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The “holidays” are upon us.

Actually, they’ve been here awhile already. As I’ve whined about before in this space, they’ve been with us since about ... oh, last year’s holiday season. Check out the ads and the music playing in stores and in television commercials and tell me what you see and hear.

Obviously there’s a big difference this year as “COVID-19” and “coronavirus” are now new words added to our everyday vocabulary. And as we approach the “holidays” in a new culture, who can forget how our friends in authority are telling us masses to do as they say and not as they do, but that’s a story for a different day and column.

The “holidays” used to be “the Big Three,” more or less, with some bigger than others. There was Halloween, when we’d get bags of M&M’s for dressing up like a princess or a pirate and nothing any scarier. I’m pretty sure I would have been afraid of myself if I’d worn some of what goes today, even if I knew about Freddy Krueger and the nightmares on Elm Street.

Then there was Thanksgiving. It used to be a big deal, worth three or four days of its own with the preparation, the day itself and a few days afterwards of turkey sandwiches and turkey hash. Now it’s mostly just the day before Black Friday, which is on hold of sorts this year.

While I enjoyed the Thursday festivities, I was just about as much in love with the thick slices of white breast meat that went into the Friday sandwiches on fresh white bread and significant amounts of Duke’s mayonnaise.

And then, of course, there was Christmas. It didn’t really start in my child world until school let out, most often Dec. 18.

Now, it seems, all three go at the same time, at least judging from marketing and shopping and so forth. It’s kind of like the wide, wide world of sports when we have the World Series, college and NFL football and the NBA games going on at the same time, especially this year in the midst of the pandemic, another new word.

It’s all very confusing.

Anyway, as I have been pondering these shifts from the things of my youth to those of this day, it has finally come into focus that what I really miss are the traditions that have gone the way of all flesh, again in “The Year of The Virus.”

The “experts,” whoever they are, tell us we need not get caught up in traditions, that they are shackles to the past and we need to let go and make new ones.


Well, at least in part ... we do need new ones since some of the folks of this day were not around when some of the ones we have were coming into being. But to just toss them all ... I don’t think so, even in these hard times of social inaction, air hugs and virtual life.

I remember Halloween was a time of friendly ghosts and school carnivals and “fishing booths” where you could get really neat plastic junk that cluttered up your room. And there was candy, lots of it, chocolate as often as not. Hard to beat chocolate covered anything — M&M’s, raisins, peanuts, baby bumblebees ... whatever.

Thanksgiving was when my brothers came home from college and we all sat around the table groaning with an overload of food as I tried to remember the name of the newest girlfriend (theirs, not mine).

Mama always made mashed potatoes — the real kind, and several gallons of them. The gravy was good but she put enough butter in the potatoes to keep an average size dairy farm afloat for a week. Consuming large amounts of that dish helped me create the physique I enjoy today.

Over the years, after my brothers and I left home, we’d still gather at our folks’ place. We’d rake the yard and play football, overeat and play Rook or Rummy. Later, that festival moved to my place since it was kid-friendly with lots of toys and swings and in-laws and a few outlaws. This year, again thanks to the folks who brought you a virus, that won’t happen.

And, as my mind takes faltering steps back to those times with my folks, I especially remember — why, I’m not sure — the big crystal dish with the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce right out of the can, jiggling around waiting to be consumed. Maybe it was those rings that the number 303 can made on the bottom end of the sauce that caught my eye.

Then came December. At various times we’d wander out into the woods behind the house and find what was really a scraggly Charlie Brown tree, but which my mama would transform into a Norman Rockwell model. It was the old time garlands, I guess, and the tons of icicles we threw on them ... literally threw, from a few paces back. You never arranged them neatly. I thought that gave it an artistic look.

Then she’d hang those big ol’ painted bulbs — blue and amber and red and some heretofore unknown pigment. I learned one year that I could take a fingernail and scrape off some of the paint. Didn’t do that but once.

In time, she’d take left-over cedar, tie it together, hang a bell or two and onto the front door it would go, ringing every time that door would open. There was cedar throughout the house, on the mantle and other places. She taped Christmas cards all over the doors and door frames. And there was the smell of baking, of cookies and her fruitcakes, which she would lovingly soak in various and sundry liquids to “keep them moist.” That also added some significant flavor.

It’s been a few years since I had a Thanksgiving or Christmas like that. And I’ve given up on stocking up on Halloween treats. Where we live, little folks don’t wander around and if we bought a boatload of candy, I’d wind up eating it all.

I know now I can only go to those places and times in my mind, but there’s one tradition I refuse to give up. In those tender days of my youth, “holidays” was those three, and others. That day, about a week before the end of December, was “Christmas” and it was supposed to be “Merry.”

If you want “Happy Holidays” or “Winter Solstice Day,” have at it and knock yourself out. I’ll keep my tradition ... and hope for no more surprises like maybe a COVID-20.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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