Back to highway 81T

Once again in my memory I am back at that white stucco house just down the road from my grandparents and it is Christmas Eve. The baking and candy making is finished, we have prayed the rosary while trying to remain awake until it is over, and most of us are in bed. And the memories begin.

A week or so before Christmas dad would load us all in the old ’39 Ford and we would go out to the backroads in search of the perfect tree. It was always a cedar and that is the smell I most associate with Christmas. The cedars grew wild around the creek and dad knew every back road in the county. We would stop several times to check out the stands of cedars we passed, usually finding something wrong with them all in the beginning. After a while we were feeling the effects of an overpacked car and weren’t so critical. Mom always had the last word on them but we all piled out to stretch and give opinions. Dad would cut the winner down and tie it on top of the old car and we piled in again. we each had our own place with T. up front between Mom and Dad, I would be lying in the recessed area where the back window met the trunk, and the rest were elbowing each other for more space in the back seat.

Back at home the tree was taken down and carried into the enclosed back porch to be put in the tree stand we had used from the beginning of time, a large pan would be filled with water and the tree placed carefully into that pan to drink it’s fill. Mother would already have the ornaments and tinsel out *{we called them icicles}. Dad would then check the lights to see which ones needed replacing before stringing them on the tree. It was always the same, the lights first, then the ornaments placed carefully on appropriate branches, then always be moved to different areas by Mother who had strict rules about trimming a tree. Small ornaments on the flimsy top and heavier ones at the bottom. Then each icicle was separated from the rest and carefully put in their places until the tree was just about perfect. Cedars, not being very large here drooped if too much heavy stuff was at the top and since we all had our favorites.= in place. The icicles, used each year until they were too old to care about, had been taken off the year before, one at a time of course, and carefully draped across a piece of cardboard mother had salvaged and it was a simple matter to place them on the tree separately. It paid off in the rippling effect on our windows.

The lights always looked enormous to me with a glow radiating out of each one until they ran together in their beauty. For me they ran together a little bit more each year. I don’t know how old I was when my vision began blurring but it seemed so natural that none of us ever really noticed it. One of my teacher finally realized something was wrong when she would write test questions out on the blackboard and we would copy the questions and then answer them on our paper. She told Mother that I was getting the answers right, but I was not getting the questions she wrote on the board correct. I did get credit for the answers, but I also got an appointment with the optometrist. He told Mother he was surprised I hadn’t been hit by a bus because I couldn’t see the tip of my nose clearly. So just before Christmas when I was in 8th grade I got my first pair of glasses. It made a huge difference, but the lights on the tree just weren’t as pretty. So, to this day I remove my glasses when I am looking at the lights and marvel at how beautiful they are, all those radiant globes with the rays running together.

But I digress. After the tree was trimmed we had eggnog and cookies before being sent to bed. Of course as we got older our bedtimes were later and sometimes we even helped Santa place the gifts under the tree. None of them were wrapped in those days, but each child had a mound of items of our own. And we always got an orange, an apple and a banana, things that weren’t on our menu very often.

As we got older we would go to Midnight Mass, something I always loved to do. I sang in the choir and usually one or more of my brothers would be the servers. Mass in those days was in Latin, and I think we all learned the English translation of the comforting old prayers. Home from Mass we were each treated to a small glass of wine. Mogan David wine to be exact. It was a long time before I discovered that there were much better wines in this world, but not being much of a wine drinker I didn’t get the same thrill from sampling new and different vintages the rest of the grown family enjoyed. To me Champaign tastes like stale beer..

Morning came early when the younger children woke us all (okay, so for a few years I was one of them), and we would then gather in the living room to see what Santa left for us.

Dinner would be in the oven, usually a fat hen from our henhouse, and Mother’s dressing, made from biscuits we baked for breakfast that morning. She knew just how to season it and it is still one of my favorite things. I learned how to make dumplings a few years later and would always make a huge bowl of them, huge in spite of the fact that all of the boys were vying for first in line as official taste testers. Mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, peas, cranberry sauce, fruit salad and the brown and serve rolls Mom made only for special occasions rounded out the meal with jam cake for dessert in the beginning, then the applesauce cake I had found a recipe for, and finally the orange slice cake mother got a recipe from someone for.\

And now that I have done the menu I’m beginning to want something to eat! So, even though it’s late at night I’m about to raid the fridge and then hit the sack! And here in my part of Kentucky, it is 11:30 p.m. so in half an hour it will officially be Christmas in Owensboro and surrounding areas.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


16 thoughts on “Back to highway 81T”

  1. Went highly nearsighted in my school days, maybe from reading books from the kitchen light across the hall. I still have very good night vision after my optical system equilibrates.

    The beauty of “naturally” out of focus lights is to me also. They are less hard and bright that way, less of a “point source” as physics calls it. I recommend getting oldschool light bulbs (not LEDs) for this, one of the few places the less efficient filament bulbs are superior.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are the first person who ever agreed with me about the lights. I think most folks just don’t have that appreciation of certain kinds of beauty. I have the older lights but some need replacing and they are hard to find.
      Thanks for the comment!


      1. My lights are mostly fuzzy, but since my vision is changing now, comes and goes in the right eye due to the MS, at times they are 20/20, while at times I’m totally blind. The left eye is the one i always wore the distance contact in when I wore contacts, while I had the closeup one in the right eye, and I think the left one was trained to see distance. Not sure because I stopped going to my optometrist when the blindness began and he insisted there was nothing wrong because the nerve was healthy. Not surprised by that because MS blocks the image from reaching the brain, sort of like a short circuit in the electric system. Been dealing with it about 66 years now and getting used to all the strange changes the disease causes. Sure keeps life interesting!


    1. Thank you Muri. Had a rocky beginning but wonderful ending, even though I lost my internet connection until just a few minutes ago. Someone blew up a bomb in Nashville that evidently took out telephone and Internet service for some of us. I don’t thing there were any fatalities but what kind of a person would do something like that on Christmas of all days? Bad enough at any time but worse on Christmas after the hear we have all had.


    1. Glad you liked it Colleen. I lost my Internet connection when that bomb exploded in Nashville, so lots of stuff to catch up on. What a terrible thing for that person to do. He must have been really sick! Hopefully will get the chance to post another episode today.. Welcome to the family!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Doug. I’ve been wondering how you are. It’s been a long time since I heard anything about you. On consideration though, that’s probably a good thing. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Better sign up for email access to the blog though if you want to get any more of it. I’m deleting my FB account in a couple of days. I don’t like censorship in any form and they have censored something I tried to post. So goodbye Facebook.

      Hey, keep in touch, Cuz! I’ll send you an email so you can get my email addy.


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