Monday, December 20, 2010

The Christmas Switchin'

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. 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. 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.

But mainly...

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!


anny cook said...

Ahhhh. Thank you so much for the lovely story! Yeah, it brought back a ton of memories--switch and all!

And I still don't eat CHICKEN!

Molly Daniels said...

The only 'bad' Christmas I can remember was the year my sister and I fought coming home from Christmas Eve services and she knocked out my last baby tooth, barely loose at the time.

The Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause paid me a visit, though there was no happy Christmas Eve 'specials' candy, no cookies...when we arrived home. Both of us were sent immediately to bed.

PS: Six months later, we had another fight and I returned the favor by knocking out one of HER baby teeth! I think that was the last year we ever came to blows...

Anonymous said...

A, what a lovely story and whatta family.

Families are so important and when it's a large one, it's always grand to have one of them in your corner...hehe!!!!

in Germany

Natalie Dae said...

Oh, your post had me laughing out loud and also crying. Yet again you sat me down and spoke right to me. Fabulous post, and I "saw" it all.

Big LOL @ For all I know he may have had a brother named Sleet. and chicken-murdering arms. Gawd, you are funny.


orelukjp0 said...

Yeah. It's not always perfect but the older you get, the more you look through rose colored glasses. You especially miss those who are gone.
Think Christmas Vacation. That's how a lot of our Christmases were. Except in a house with twice as many people and a third of the room.
Hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year.

C. Zampa said...

Oh, I so hoped the chicken was going to make it---but not onto the special table cloth as part of the meal. Waaggghhh!

And, oh, if Uncle Snow has killed it, it would have had a fast, merciful death. Sigh.

Funny story---although I'm sure the switching was not fun AT ALL.

The Scarf Princess said...

Ain't that the truth! Many of our most memorable family moments are ones that are sad or getting through a hardship. How you get through that kind of situation is the definition of family.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Wendy A said...

It sounds like your Christmas were wonderful you had a strict family but very loving to and your dad sleeping with the dog for you was to sweet.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya Anny,

That switch of Granny's was WICKED. lol And NOT the good kind either. lol

I eat chicken now. It's about all I eat. But I might not eat any for a few days since I shared this memory. lol


Tess MacKall said...

Oh Molly...

I had a similar thing happen on Thanksgiving one year. My sis wouldn't help do the dishes and we argued. I was holding a cast iron frying pan up with one hand and she shoved it and it hit me in the face. KNOCKED ME OUT COLD.

My sis thought she'd killed me and took off running. Took my dad hours to find her. lol

I still have a tiny tiny little scar--right above my nose but sort of between my eyes. Scared my mother half to death.

And I soooo love that you returned the favor to YOUR sis. I did the same with mine about two weeks later--just not with the cast iron frying pan. lol

Tess MacKall said...

Yep, Val...whatta family. We're a bunch of oddballs but loved/love each other dearly. Hard to think of my mom and dad being gone.

My dad was my hero. He always seemed to be in my corner---even when he didn't quite approve of something I did.

Tess MacKall said...

Christmas Vacation, huh? Yeah, I can see that with my family too. Always some sort of upset. Nothing ever exactly right. Someone was always ticked off about something. But at least we got it all out. No secrets in our family for sure.

Happy Holidays, hon.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya CZ. We had way too much chicken that night for sure. Leftovers for a couple of days. And then ham the next day. Anytime anyone said something about "chicken again?" Granny would roll her eyes my way. lol

And nope that switching wasn't fun at all. I think Granny switched me up until I was about fourteen and I told her I was too old for switching. But by then, my mischievous ways had changed too. lol

Tess MacKall said...

Thanks, Nat. Glad I made you laugh. Looking back on it, it really was funny. It's a shame we can't see things that way when their happening.

Yep, chicken murdering arms. I should have had a career with Colonel Sanders. lol

Tess MacKall said...

You're so right Jody. Getting through the BAD and the good, is the definition of family.And it's all kind of nice. Just a shame we don't think that at the time. 20/20 hindsight. Wish I'd had it then. There is so much I would have said and done differently.

Tess MacKall said...


My Momma was kind of feisty. Daddy was used to the dog house. lol He came to my rescue several times where Momma was concerned. She and Granny were very strict. But not Daddy. Great family, even with all its flaws.

Fedora said...

Wow, what a story!!! Family's remarkable, ain't it? :) Thanks for sharing that!

Sherry said...

I remember all about having to go and get your own switch and you had better get a good one the first time. My Grandmother made us get a switch off of her peach tree and man would those hurt.

Madison Scott said...

LOL. What a story!

Brenda Hyde said...

Southerners have the BEST stories. Tess, you are a born story teller:) I'm afraid I don't have any stories like that one. We raised chickens for a tiny bit one year (100+), and my dad to this day HATES chickens. He said they were dumb and nasty and he'd never do it again. LOL I'm 50 now, and that's when I was a kid, so you can see he holds grudges, even against animals, for a LONG time.

My Grandma T. was a strange lady-- she was small and Polish with a high pitched voice. She couldn't bake worth a damn, but she always had the best kielbasa when we visited:) I remember she always gave us 50 cent pieces and a sweatshirt from Sears EVERY Cmas for a long time. LOL

*yadkny* said...

Awesome post... and thanks for that Christmans gift Tess!

Tess MacKall said...

Yep fichen, families are remarkable. And each of us have one that is unique. lol Mine especially I think. lol

Tess MacKall said...

A peach tree switch, Sherry. Oh God. We had peach trees and apple trees. As I recall the switches all came from this stand of tall shrubs that my grandmother kept overgrown at one end of the backyard sort of like a fence barrier from the farm part of things. That way she couldn't see the animals unless she walked beyond those line of shrubs.

But you're right, you had to cut that switch right or you'd be cutting another one for sure.

Tess MacKall said...

lol Merry Christmas, Madison. I'm just full of these stories it seems. Never knew it until this month when you had the idea for sharing our Christmas memories. lol Thanks for that. I've had fun walking down memory lane for sure. I've cried. I've laughed. It's all been good.

Tess MacKall said...

awww...thank you Moonsanity. Love your avatar.

There is something about being raised in the South in general that just kinda loosens up the tongue I think. lol

Don't blame your daddy on the chickens. They are nasty. I probably won't eat chicken for a while after this story.

Neat memory of your granny. My granny always gave us peppermint sticks each year and a doll of some sort. As a matter of fact, I saw some peppermint sticks the other day in Dollar General that were like the ones she gave us. Those great big ones about a foot long and really thick. She'd take a cloth and lay over the plastic and use a hammer to tap it into chunks for us. We'd eat on that peppermint stick for a month or more.

Thanks for sharing, hon. Made me remember my granny's peppermint sticks.

Tess MacKall said...

You are most welcome, Yadkny. I do hope you enjoy Blame It On Mistletoe. I certainly loved writing it.

Brenda Hyde said...

My mom always gave us one of those big candy canes in our stockings! There were 4 of us, and we EACH got one right up until we left home. LOL MY kids don't like candy canes that much-- so bizarre!

Regina Carlysle said...

This is the cutest story every told! Thanks for the laugh today, Little Missy. My little grandma Minnie (not a femme fatale name either) said...awwww shawwwww all the time. Grandpa cussed like a sailor. She said things like 'sweet land o'goshen' too. Don't blame you for not eating that chicken but like the smart girl you are,you got some of that damn cake didn't you???

Susan said...

Lovely story, and so funny! Thank you for sharing it. Your family sounds wonderful, even with the switch and having to clean your plate, you can just hear the love twining throughout all of it.

Jen B. said...

That reminds me of the stories my mother always tells about her upbringing. Don't envy her that! My mother still has trouble eating chicken to this day! And don't even get me started about the possum and rabbit!!!

Zina said...

What great memories. We lived on a farm too and we killed our chickens and turkeys,the biiger ones we had the butcher come, or took them to the butcher. When my mom was newly married she tried to surprise my father by cooking a ckicken she had killed. Yeah, she missed with the ax and only cut 1/2 way through the neck and the chicken got away and started running with it's head flopping and blood going everywhere. She started crying and had to call my father to come catch it and kill it.That's too bad about your parents. I enjoyed your post.

Tess MacKall said...

Oh Lord, Zina, your poor Mom. I can identify with that scene for sure. Not a pretty sight at all.

Living on a farm has its own set of experiences for sure. Not everyone gets to see what all goes on and it can get pretty funny---not so funny at the time, but...LOL

Glad you enjoyed the story. I enjoyed sharing.

angela said...

made me laugh and smile and ....remember ;)
Happy Christmas!

Tess MacKall said...

Awww...Angela. So glad I made you laugh and smile. Seems that's what memories do, isn't it?

Happy Holidays.

Tess MacKall said...

Oh I missed some comments.

So you got the peppermint too, huh, Moonsanity. I hear ya. My kids don't want them either. I tried when they were younger. Not snappy enough for them I guess. lol

Still, a good memory.

Tess MacKall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tess MacKall said...

Awww...thank you, Reg. I loved telling it. I got a real kick out of reading it to the kids last night. I've been telling them right much from my past since we started this blog. Lots of laughter for sure.

And you had a Minnie to my Nellie. LOL That's so cool. Yep, Grannys weren't femme fatales by any stretch of the imagination. And they shared "awww shawww". lol That's amazing. Mine also said. "Land 'o' Mighty".

And yep, I got my cake. Poor daddy. What that man went through sometimes. lol I WAS NOT going to eat chicken that night. "Thanks, Daddy...I'm thinking about you a lot."

Tess MacKall said...

Thank you, Susan. Even with the switching I knew Granny loved me. And keeping the cake from me--well, ya just had to have rules. Rules that Daddy thought could be broken. "Hell, you're only a kid once" he used to say.

Which is probably why my kids are so damn spoiled. lol Just like he spoiled me.

Tess MacKall said...

Oooohhhh rabbit. Yes, Jen, I've had rabbit. I've had squirrel and deer (venison) too. Never had 'possum.

Daddy wasn't much of a hunter. But all around us people hunted so there was never any lack of wild meat. And still isn't.

Just this past week my brother was at a hunting preserve and chowing down on Venison steaks.

Anonymous said...

Got it read it and I loved it.

Tess MacKall said...

Thank you, Desi. Guess you're talking about Blame It On Mistletoe. I loved writing that and was so happy to get it out in time for the holidays.

Thanks for reading and so happy you let me know you enjoyed it.

Hugs...and Happy Holidays.

Kammie said...

What a terrific story! Thanks for sharing.

Tess MacKall said...

Hiya, Kammie. Thanks for stopping by. So glad you enjoyed the post.

Happy Holidays...