PRESIDENT’S PATCH , submitted by Juana Simmons
Christmas was always a fun time with my mother’s family. Santa came down the stairs, them one of the younger cousins had his/ her turn telling a story or reading a Christmas story to Santa before we opened piles of gifts. There were up to 45 or so people seated in a circle around the room. Then there were always soup and chili hot with chili pequins. There were seven uncles plus my dad and Papa to keep the group laughing.
But when we went to dad’s family for Christmas it was a different story. Dad only had one sister who had two children and our family with my brother, sister and me. Mommie, my dad’s mother, had a much nicer home with silver, crystal and china where the children were expected to sit up straight eat with their mouth closed and speak when spoke to. My cousin, Barbara and I were exactly two months apart in age and the oldest grand-kids. I could and still can make her laugh! So it probably goes without saying that I made it my duty to keep she and my sister giggling. As the adults tried to keep conversation going, I would catch their eyes when those cooked carrots came around and I gagged or stuck my tongue out or when the rolls came
around, I deliberately dropped one under the table. As I picked it up, I’d pinch Barbara or tickle Beverly’s leg and they would try not to laugh! They always did and I got a scathing look from Mommie or Mother or Aunt Louise. The scenario changed from year to year but I mostly managed to create some kind of mischief to keep us all of us from being bored silly. Santa Claus never came to Mommie’s house except to solemnly leave small gifts of things like cologne or paper dolls ( which Barbara hated and always gave to me) or socks or panties, There was never candy or dolls or bicycles The author Fanny Flagg of Fried Green Tomatoes fame, said that good Southern women were always nice and kept their emotions under control. She also said that in the South, women wore beige and kept their mouths shut around their sons-in-laws.
My grandmother, Mommie’s, family was from Tennessee and came to Texas after the Civil War, but she maintained strict control by always being a lady. For her that translated into wearing washed out colors, making just enough food (and always the same thing) and giving everyone “ just a little something for Christmas”. Daddy was her only son and was expected to give her a really nice gift each Christmas, which he did, and she always reciprocated to both him and Aunt Louise. To my mother, who she never liked because she wasn’t good enough for Layton, she gave her hand cream every year. Naturally the Christmas tree was small, the gifts except for Daddy and Aunt Louise’s were barely there, I can’t remember a gift I ever got from her - even on my birthdays. I hated Christmas at her house! I loved the big boisterous tree, gifts, laughs, food and family at Mama’s house! Those Christmases are treasures in my memory,
May your Christmas be especially merry and bright!