On the first day of December, my four siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, in-laws, my aunt and uncle and I gathered at my oldest brother’s house in Boiling Springs, S.C., to celebrate family.
It was an appropriate way to begin the Christmas season.
Our gatherings are sporadic, but we have not let too many years pass without a Smith family jamboree.
This year we crammed 26 people into Steve’s house on a cold, rainy day. My youngest brother, Brian, and his tribe drove in from Jacksonville, Fla.; the next youngest, Brad, came from Beaufort, S.C; the middle child, only girl and Princess, Rhonda, came from Columbia, S.C.; My Aunt Donna and Uncle Mack came in from near Greenville. Pat and I drove two hours from Tennessee.
My family gatherings are noisy. Sarcasm resides deep in our DNA. We torture each other with bad puns, embellished stories, and embarrassing childhood memories. We laugh a lot.
After dinner, we gathered around a table to reminisce. My niece, Erin, recorded the conversation. Maybe the battery died.
We talked Christmas memories. Steve read a beautiful essay he had written about our grandfather playing his fiddle on Christmas Eve. Rhonda remembered all five of us going Christmas shopping and the gaudy pins we bought our mother every year. “She wore them,” Rhonda said.
I recalled a Christmas mishap when not much more than a toddler running wild in the house where my dad and Uncle Mack grew up. The small dark line on the bridge of my nose is a daily reminder of the coal stove I ran into.
Brian remembered we always bought daddy a tie.
Brad recalled a Christmas away from home, Sierra Leone, while he was in the Peace Corps.
We talked about our Christmas trees, which we always cut out of the fields around the house. “You always had to have one with a bird nest in it,” Steve complained. “And we had to settle for some ugly trees just to find you a bird nest.”
I had bird ornaments, so they needed a place to perch.
Uncle Mack remembered fireworks—Roman candles, sky rockets, sparklers—and setting a field--and his hair, on fire.
We used our socks for Christmas stockings and found them filled with nuts, fruit, candy and dime store knick knacks, including an extraordinary set of plastic bird whistles.
One year, Mother discovered on Christmas Eve that she had forgotten to buy Christmas candy, so the older siblings accompanied her to a nearby service station where we invested several dollars in quarters in the vending machines.
Christmas at our house was never extravagant, but always festive, always noisy and always joyous, as was this latest opportunity to remember.
From the Smith family, we wish you noise, joy and the Peace of Christmas.