Before I share this week’s Christmas memory, I’d like to share something else. As my Christmas gift to you, I wrote a Christmas story entitled Blame It On Mistletoe. It's over at Got Romance Reviews, and all you have to do to receive your FREE copy is to stop by GRR and leave a comment on the blog along with your email address or simply email the ladies at GRR and ask for a copy. Hope you enjoy the story of Caleb and Samantha. Here’s the link:
Today I’m giving away another $5 gift certificate to Starbucks. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment here on this post. You have until Friday morning when Natalie Dae announces the week’s winners to do so. Good luck.
The Christmas Switchin’
Now get your minds off of sex, people. LOL
By now you know I was raised on a farm. My daddy was a tobacco farmer. We had a garden and Granny did a lot of canning and freezing. Momma was never into any of those things. She worked outside the home so I spent right much time with Granny.
Like me, Granny was short. Unlike me, she was patient. Never said a swear word—although she had a habit of saying, “Ahhh Shawwwww…” –whatever that means. And I do recall Daddy saying a swear word or two in front of her occasionally and her quoting Bible verses to him. To which Daddy retaliated with a “And you think saying ‘ahhh shawww’ isn’t the same as swearing just because you didn’t say a four-letter word?” They argued about that off and on. I kind of think Daddy was right.
Anyway, I was nine that Christmas. I seemed to be full of mischief in those days, too. Couldn’t do a blessed thing right and was forever getting into trouble. (See there, I could have, and wanted to say ‘damn’, but said ‘blessed’ instead. So is that swearing or not? Same idea behind it. LOL) That particular Christmas we had a guest—my uncle, who wasn’t really an uncle but a family friend, and we called him uncle. His name was Snow. Yep, Snow. Don’t ask, ‘cause I sure as hell don’t know why his name was Snow—but it was. For all I know he may have had a brother named Sleet.
Granny asked Uncle Snow to go out and run up two chickens for Christmas Eve dinner. Now for those who don’t understand what I’m talking about, well, what Granny had just told him to do was go out and kill two chickens. I followed him—nothing better to do than watch a chicken getting killed, I guess. So I saw him snatch up a chicken and with the flick of his wrist, he wrung that chicken’s neck. WOW. Wringing chickens' necks had been done on our farm before, but somehow I’d never really paid attention—or maybe I was just at that age in which certain things fascinated me. Yeah right---MURDERING CHICKENS FASCINATED ME. Sighhhhhh
So he wrings the next chicken’s neck, and it was then I got this idea that the whole snap of his wrist, the way he twisted that chicken’s neck was something I’d like to try. Uncle Snow grabbed up the chickens and took them over to this big table and laid them out. He went back toward the house, and when he did, I put my plan into action. Have any of you ever tried to snatch up a chicken? They’re fast. But I finally did get one to fall into my chicken-murdering arms—after I’d about plucked its butt bald by grabbing at it, that is.
Now for the good stuff—and just think, I didn’t have horror movies to watch in those days so we can’t blame my blood lust on Nightmare on Elm Street or Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween No. 552. I guess I was just BORN with it.
The chicken is squirming and squawking. I would, too. I’m trying to hold its head still and wrap my grubby little hand around its neck. It’s not cooperating at all. But I finally did get a good hold on it, and then I just hauled off and shook it! Shook it hard. Swung it around some. Over my head. To my side. Back and forth. Up and down. (I never did get that wrist action down right.)
The chicken got quiet.
And then it hit me.
I’d killed a chicken.
I dropped the chicken and backed away.
All of a sudden it came to me that Granny was NOT going to be happy. How could I have done such a thing? That chicken had never done a thing to me. I could hear Bible verses in my head. My nine-year-old mind started working. And it was working in the direction of how to get rid of the evidence of my screw up.
And then the chicken moved.
Yep, got up and started walking around—well, sort of. It was walking kind of sideways. Like Uncle Snow when he’d had a little too much to drink. And its head flitted from side to side. Chickens walk funny anyway, but as chicken-walking goes—this one had the market cornered. Oh yeah, I’d really screwed up. There was going to be NO HIDING the evidence. I couldn’t kill it again—that didn’t work out so well the first time. In all honesty? I didn’t want to touch it again. That’s when the tears began.
And when Uncle Snow returned.
Immediately, he grasped the situation, shook his head. “Miss Nellie is going to be mad.” Nellie was my granny’s name—good ole Southern name—great for Grannys but not so much for femme fatales, I guess—which Granny wasn’t, of course.
For a brief moment I thought he was going to take pity on me and not tell. I was wrong. He started hollering for Granny. “Miss Nellie! Miss Nellie! Come see what your Tessy has done!”
Okay, you’re probably thinking “What’s the big damn deal? So you killed another chicken—the more the merrier, right?” Wrong. You only have so many chickens. You only kill what you need. Waste not want not and all of that stuff—ya know? It was a sin to waste anything according to Granny. And while the chicken would be eaten, it wasn’t needed at that time. Two was enough. Plus, chickens were needed for laying eggs, too. And that in itself presented another problem.
Somehow...miraculously...my grubby little hands had managed to select Granny’s BEST laying hen.
Granny had great big blue eyes. She could look at you in such a way that you just knew you were going straight to Hell. To this day, I count killing that chicken as one of my sins and figure St. Peter is going to talk to me about it one of these days.
Granny’s hands were tucked deep into her apron pockets when she told me to go cut her a switch. Yeah, you had to cut your own switch, and if you cut it too small, you’d be sent back to cut another one. While I was gone, Uncle Snow finished off the chicken. I walked back up just in time to see their heads come off. Another sight I’ll have to live with.
Granny switched my legs good. Thank God it was Christmas Eve, and I was wearing pants because it was cold. She switched me all the way to the house. I was sent to bed, and, of course fell soundly asleep. Daddy woke me at dinner time. Yep, I’d slept the entire day. Switchin’s will do that for you.
The table was dressed with the traditional red tablecloth for Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we’d have the thick white one with another lacy one a couple of shades of white different laid over it—and we’d have ham instead of chicken. The dining room had several candles lit and two big red poinsettias were sitting on the buffet. Granny had a real green thumb and those poinsettias would stay beautiful for months to come as she knew just where to put them each day for the best light.
So we’re seated at the table and Granny begins saying grace.
“Lord we have Tessy to thank for the unusual bounty of our table this night. By her hand we have three chickens instead of the two we needed. We ask that you forgive her, Lord, for she is only a child and curious to the ways of this world. But I have hope she’ll learn and follow your teachings, Father…” and the prayer went on and on and on—and I’m paraphrasing a bit as I don't quite remember it verbatim. But it was THE longest prayer I’ve ever heard—including those from the good reverend on Sunday mornings at church—and the only one in which I was SINGLED OUT as a sinner and needing particular forgiveness.
Momma filled my plate with a serving of everything and set it in front of me. I took my fork and pushed the chicken way to the side. I didn’t want any chicken. Which, of course, stuck me with vegetables only—punishment enough if you ask me.
When it was time for dessert, I was all smiles. Coconut cake was one of my favorites, and I was ready for it after having eaten pretty much nothing but mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and cabbage. But...LOL...my punishment was not going to end. No dessert unless you clean your plate. It was the rule at our table. Momma reminded me of the rule as everyone else was being served cake—including my little sister who stuck her tongue out at me. So I scooped up more potatoes, more corn, more cabbage and swallowed them down—moving the remaining bits around on the plate so it didn’t look like there was much left.
But there was that big slice of chicken just sitting there waiting for me. It could have been coconut cake with chocolate between the layers drizzled with chocolate syrup waiting on me, and I could not have eaten that chicken. Not that night, anyway. Momma reminded me to clean my plate once more, and Granny nodded in agreement. Sissy stuck her tongue out at me again. Uncle Snow, who had yet to touch his cake, went back for seconds on mashed potatoes and gravy AND CHICKEN.
Why the hell didn’t he tell me he wanted more? He could have had mine?
Daddy set down his cup of coffee and said, “Give her some damn cake.”
Uh oh. Granny started spouting off Bible verses. Momma started shaking her finger in Daddy’s face, and Uncle Snow grabbed up his plates and made a hasty exit into the living room. Sissy stuck her tongue out at me. It went on for a while. Got really loud, too. Granny finally covered her face with her hands, and I started to feel really bad. It was all my fault. I started to cry. Momma cut me a piece of cake and set it in front of me, sticking the fork in my hand, and went back to arguing with Daddy. I stopped crying and started eating. Momma finally left the table.
A couple of minutes later, Daddy got up and patted me on the head. “Is the cake good, honey?”
I smiled up at him and nodded.
He said, “Glad you like it, honey. Even if I am sleeping with the dogs tonight.”
He followed Momma’s trail right up the stairs. There would be more shouting—and then quiet. LOL Daddy rarely went up against Momma. He told me once when I was a grown woman that he fell in love with Momma’s red hair the first time he saw her, and he knew that it was going to be a problem from the start. Red heads being hot tempered and all. But he said that hot temper also had its advantages. LOL He was very sad when they divorced after 26 years. Daddy really did love her.
Like I said, he rarely went up against her, but sometimes he did and it was usually for one of us kids. Daddy was kind of liberal minded and very laid back. He didn’t see the harm in giving in and thought a lot of rules were made to be broken. So once Daddy left the table I went back to eating my cake and Sissy stuck out her tongue at me. Granny smacked her hand. And that made me laugh. And that made Granny laugh. And Sissy cried.
What’s the moral of this story?
Don’t cross the road to kill a chicken.
Families aren’t always Hallmark-greeting-card perfect. Memories aren’t always sweet and sappy. But if you look hard enough, deep enough, you’ll see the love.
Share your Christmas memories with us!