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A gift to cherish

The brisk cool morning and my porch rocker entice me into their waiting arms. My faithful furry friend, Missy, pads silently by my side waiting patiently for a chance to jump onto my lap. She snuggles, squirms, and grunts while trying to find the most comfortable spot to rest.

I grin at her antics and breathe a silent prayer of thanks for the beauty of this morning. The glistening dew weighs heavy on lacy webs spun overnight by spiders anxiously anticipating a tasty morsel. I rock quietly allowing my mind to escape the confines of space and time; soon I am transported to a chilly morning of my youth.

The fresh scent of pine fills the old farmhouse mingling with the smell of biscuits in the oven. My siblings, cousins and I stretch and yawn as we slowly open our eyes on this winter morning. The planks of the floor creak and groan as bare feet stumble toward the bathroom.

A few years earlier, Papaw deemed the outhouse a relic of the past and surprised my grandmother with indoor plumbing. What had felt like a luxury at the time gave new meaning to the word necessary with children of all ages dancing in the hallway waiting for their turn.

We snuggle back into the colorful handmade quilts on the floor, and wait for our sweet Mamaw to make her magic. The mouthwatering smells coming from the kitchen cause our tummies to growl in anticipation. Bacon, sausage, eggs, red eye gravy, biscuits and apple fritters compete for space on the overflowing table. One call and we scamper to our seats, obediently and without question all heads bow as Papaw blesses the food and another day begins.

The old green farmhouse hung together rather loosely; any strong gust rattled the windows with what Mamaw referred to as fresh air. She said it was healthy, and I think perhaps she was correct, but it could get raw on a cold, December day. Papaw kept a fire roaring, and I almost blistered my legs many times on the back while the front was freezing. The house felt deliciously warm and cozy, though, when I dashed in from playing outside letting the screen door slam behind me.

On the days leading up to Christmas we children helped to make homemade candy and roasted pecans. I’m sure the candy making would have been easier without so many eager, helping hands, but that was all part of the fun. Mamaw popped huge quantities of popcorn, and we strung it together to place reverently on the lopsided pine cut from the forest. An old fashioned string of bubble lights adorned the spindly greens adding a special almost magical flair to the otherwise forlorn little tree. We waited for Christmas Day with excitement and joy.

The Christmases of my childhood were slim indeed according to modern thinking, but the joy I felt had very little to do with material things. The meager gifts I received tied with a bow have long since been forgotten. But I vividly remember how my grandmother rose in the darkness while we slept. She must have tired of the all the extra work, but I never knew it. My grandfather worked hard to raise animals and grow all those crops to feed such a brood, but he never complained. They, like the rest of us, endured hardships and trials, but they stood firm. They left a lasting legacy of love and faith for all of their grandchildren — now that’s a gift to cherish.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.