My family left Big Spring, Texas to spend the holidays with relatives the year there was so much snow it seemed like the kind of winter people had in the movies.
We arrived at Uncle Doc and Aunt Sylvia's one mile east of Welch and drove under the gateway with The Santa Claus Ranch emblazoned on it. My Uncle Doc was Dr. J.O. Bradshaw, Sr. and he married his nurse, Sylvia Bradshaw, who was a Bradshaw before she became a Bradshaw, and Sylvia was my mother's sister.
So we were family and as such were put right to work getting ready for the visitors who would arrive each night to visit Santa. It was sort of an assembly line, filling individual paper sacks with an orange or apple, nuts that would have to be shelled and different types of that old fashion hard candy only available during the holidays. We had no idea what would happen once it got dark. Lights all over the trees, the Live Manger, the crew of full sized metal reindeer with the one in the front decked out with a red light bulb lighting up his nose. They lined up behind the sleigh with the stuffed Santa sitting on the seat of the sleigh in front of the picture window waiting for a child to come sit on his lap. My Uncle Doc had a microphone set up in the living room so he could be Santa's voice for each child when they came to sit and talk with Santa. Can you imagine? mid 1950's how modern!
We had so many people lined up to come, it was like a tourist attraction out there! He had loud speakers and Christmas music playing, but my brother remembered the nuns came one night and actually sang.
But add to this, snow! It was magical and special for us, certainly much different than the kind of Christmas we would have had that year in Texas.
Not 18 months ago, my brother, Clark Frayser came to Miami and he and I went to the Dobson Memorial Center and there in the basement, was the very same Santa's sleigh. No reindeer, but the bright red sleigh. He and I could not resist, we climbed up on the seat, sitting in the same sleigh we had sat in as children and had dear Larry Roberts take our picture. Memories. Larry became part of ours.
I don't remember if "Santa" brought us any gifts that year, but Santa's ranch left memories for us and for many who came. I hope you all find ways to create the memories that will sustain you as our planet warms and fewer and fewer people will experience those deep snow filled holidays.
The following Christmas caused me to tell a lie. Big Spring, Texas is a town divided by "the tracks." We attended the only Catholic Church in town which happened to have been across the tracks. When I went back to Big Spring for my high school reunion, I had to go see that church, it was built out of brown sand stone, still had the beautiful stained glass windows, but out in front was a FOR SALE sign. What is that about? What other bunch of Catholics would want to buy it, that wouldn't already just prefer to continue using the one they had? That church is where we met the family who lived across the tracks and had the little girl who would become another Christmas memory. They were poor and spoke little English, and she and I were brown and immediate friends.
After the holidays we went back to school. I lied when our teacher asked each of us what we got for Christmas. What I would have gotten was a doll I really had wanted, but the family we had visited lived in a home in my town with dirt floors! And that little girl my age got my present, the doll, it was the thing I could do and a lie I will never forget and never felt guilty for telling. I look back and wonder if it really had been a lie, Mrs. Boling asked what I got for Christmas and what I got was to give my gift to someone who would love her more than me.
That lesson comes back this time of year, how gifting can be things, or how it can become the thing that makes life sweeter. My friend Jim Shine sent me a set of poetry books written by Mary Oliver, but the message he inscribed in the New and Selected Poems, Volume One was to refer to page 94 with the question that ended the poem on that page: "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Do your part if you are using lights, burn LED's and turn them off and lower your thermostat when you go to bed tonight. And plan to wake up in the morning and figure out what you are going to do with your one wild and precious life.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim