Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve: favorite day of my childhood

Christmas Eve: all day at Grandma’s house

Christmas Eve: playing outside with my cousins and Jennifer

Christmas Eve: listening to Gene Autry’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on Grandma’s chest stereo

Christmas Eve: setting the table for the nine of us, then feeling the joy as we prayed, then fixed our plates, ate, laughed, talked.

Yes, that’s the Fonz!

One Christmas Eve memory is my favorite of my Grandma Whidby, Jason, and me. Every Christmas Eve, we spent from morning to late in the evening at Grandma Whidby’s house (my mama’s mama). Grandma, Mama, and my Aunt cooked enough food for two meals! We would have lunch, open presents, play, then eat again.

Many years, Grandma had this big red furry stocking she hung in the living room with the presents. The stocking held little things, candy, and fruit for her four grandchildren. When I was about 8 years old, Grandma had decided to hang the stocking in the hall near the front door with some other Christmas decorations. Jason and I could see the stocking was really loaded with goodies this year! Wow! Maybe Grandma even put some dollar bills in there, we wondered. I’m not sure who, but one of us finally took the stocking off the nail. We just had to peek inside. We dumped the contents out on the floor. We discovered the usual bounty from years past: candy and oranges, that’s why it looked so big! We quickly stuffed it all back into the stocking. Jason picked it up and tried to hang it back on the nail. He was too short. Now, Jason is 9 months younger than me; however, he was usually as tall or taller than me. I tried, but I knew I couldn’t reach it either. We were panicking! Grandma is going to get us! Jason was stronger, thus, he tried to lift me up. Then we both see Grandma reach over us, grab the stocking, and hang it back up. Busted! Grandma did not say a word; she just grinned, turned around, and walked backed into the kitchen. Jason and I looked at each other and laughed.

Christmas Eve: Memories of Family, Love, and Laughter.



How do you define family? Family is love. It is more than the people you gather with on holidays and special occasions. Families are united by common blood, but not always.

Childhood Family

I am grateful for the family of my birth and upbringing. My childhood memories are filled with love, laughter, and support of my family. My parents, my sister, and I sat down to daily meals together. I remember hearing my Daddy pray every night before he laid down to sleep. My Mama, she was sewing our clothes, cooking meals, and singing in church. My aunt Barbara offered her knowledge, perseverance, and work ethic. Both my Mama and Aunt Barbara worked as much as any man, doing what had to be done; even after being told, “You ladies shouldn’t be doing that.” Grandma Whidby loved to talk, calling folks on the phone to check on them. Grandma Samples told stories, fascinating me of times long past. My cousins, my sister, and I embarked on fantasy playtime and dreams of our future. We sang, put on shows, and rode the go-cart too fast. My family surrounded me with safety, comfort, and joy throughout my childhood. 

Present Day Family:

From the day each were born, my three children thrill my heart. I remember our many Christmas mornings. The kids were excited for the new toys. I wanted all their Grandparents to see them, so each year, we all had breakfast together at our house. All six of the grandparents gathered, enjoying this time with their grandchildren. I proudly watched my sons and daughter grow into young adults Each seek and are successful on their own paths. What a joy for a mother to witness! 

I have a family I chose, and they chose me. My husband and I and our families bonded in a special way years ago. Our mothers are the best of friends. They called each other, were confidants, and often asked each other, “What are we going to do with our kids? Are they normal kids?”. On our wedding day, our Moms sat together on a bench talking. I have that picture in my memory. That’s my family, my Mama and my other Mom, who loved the people in her life; she treated everyone as family, her gift to us all. 

Every day I have my husband, standing with me, our own family unit. We each have life-long friends that are family, too. Friends we can text, call, or share a meal.  We know these friends are there for us. Additionally, we are part of a unique family, a group that meets at least twice a month to play Dungeons & Dragons, or another role-playing game. Individually, we have traversed life’s ups and downs. However, for almost three years now, our gatherings have been the anchor and stabilizer. We come together to role play in a fantasy world, to laugh, and to escape. We know our friends here are supportive; a family we choose. 

How do I define family? Family is a kaleidoscope, composed of intricate, interlocking pieces, all forming a beautiful image of love. 

Prepare to Meet Thy God

Careless Soul, why will you linger?

Wandering from the fold of God,

Hear you not the invitation,

O Prepare to meet thy God.

Standing up and opening the Red Hymnal, I read those words, “Prepare to Meet Thy God.” My heart pounded heavy in my chest, I was not prepared. Thursday night, the fourth week of July, at our church summer revival, I was 8 years old. All week I had seen other folks being saved. I think I knew this week of revival was going to be different for me. I recalled the night my sister was saved a few years before. On the way home, I wept to my family, I’m just so happy she was saved. I felt the joy of Mama, Daddy, and my sister.

However, this evening, my heart felt different. I do not remember the sermon that night. Those words, “Prepare to Meet Thy God,” convicted me. I looked up at Mama and said, “I’m lost.” She hugged me and guided me to the altar, the front bench of the church. I cried, prayed to God to save me. I wanted to go to Heaven. Suddenly, all my insides filled with an indescribable peace, a joy began to flow. I heard within me, “Yes, you are saved.” When I looked up, everything was so bright, my eyes adjusting to the light, but I recognized it as God’s light shining down on me. I spoke out loud, “I’m saved!” Mama and Daddy were hugging me, rejoicing, shouting. My sister hugged me tight, too. Then the Preacher asked everyone to come around and shake hands with me. What a feeling to be hugged on by so many people at one time.

The next day, Mama, my sister, and I went to downtown Canton to shop for a new dress for me. That night, I would join the church to be baptized on Sunday morning. I’m sure we probably told the ladies in the store I had been saved the night before. With my new soft pink lacey dress on, I stood in the front of the church that night. The Preacher asked me to tell the church my desire. I said, “I was saved, and I want to be baptized and join the church.” Once again, the congregation came around to shake my hand. Afterwards, I told my family that I had never smelled so many different perfumes in all my life at once.

Sunday morning, I dressed in the same dark pink, terry cloth dress I wore the night I was saved. This was now a special dress. The other people who had been saved and joined that week gathered with the church at our outside baptism pool. The Preacher spoke a few words, and he baptized everyone except me. My Daddy baptized me, filled with the Holy Spirit, and saying “By the authority of God’s Word and the profession of your faith, I baptized thee, my sister, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (This is from my memory, so it may not be the exact words!) I came out of the water, and once again the indescribable joy filled me. I smiled a huge smile the rest of the day. I now had within me what my Daddy, my Mama, and my sister had. I was a born again child of God. I was saved. I was prepared to meet my God.

The Great Smoky Mountains

Waking up in the early morning,

Hearing, “We’re going to the Mountains!”

Exciting feelings deep in my tummy.

Riding to the Smoky Mountains,

Singing in the back seat,

Telling bird hunting stories,

Entertaining my sister and me.

Swerving car through mountainous curves,

Driving Sister to car sickness,

Pulling onto the side of the road,

Looking down the mountainside,

Fearing I’d fall.

Getting back into the car relieved,

Asking, “Are we there yet?”

Singing more songs,

Telling more stories.

Stopping at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign,

Snapping pictures of our smiling faces,

Arriving, finally.

Our first of many pictures at the Great Smoky Mountains sign!

Uncle Kent

Throughout my life, stories have been told whenever there was a gathering of people, no matter the occasion. Daddy and my cousins are the best story tellers. Here is a family story that was a popular one.

My sister Jennifer and cousin Jeff were young. Daddy and my Uncle had a small mule at the barn lot at Grandma’s farm. They put a saddle on it, and Jennifer and Jeff rode the mule with Daddy or my Uncle leading it around the lot. The two young kids enjoyed the mule ride.

At last, time had come to leave. My Uncle and Daddy took the saddle off the mule. My Uncle turned to Daddy, “Get on it and ride it around the lot.” Daddy wasn’t sure, but he did climb on the mule’s bare back. Before he knew what was happening, my Uncle slapped the mule on the rump; the mule ran off. Daddy was barely hanging on, the mule turned left, and he tried to turn it right. Daddy fell off to the ground, landing on his arm.

The fall knocked the breath out of him. As he laid on the ground, trying to catch his breath, little Jeff came running over, shook his head, and said, “Uncle Kent, you’re suppose to say, Whoa!” Daddy wanted to laugh, but he had no breath. He wished he would have said, “Whoa,” because now he had a broken wrist.

That line, “Uncle Kent, you’re suppose to say, Whoa!” has been repeated so many times over the years. I smile every time I hear or think about it, as it reminds me of the laughs and good times our family shared.

Gardening at Grandma Samples’

I developed a taste for Mother Earth at an early age. Yes, I’m eating a rock!

Gardening at Grandma Samples’ Place: Playing in the Dirt

From a young age, I enjoyed nature and playing outside. Mama and Daddy planted gardens every year. We had a big one at my Grandma Samples’ place. In the spring, Daddy drove the tractor from the farm to plow up the ground. As I rode with him on the tractor, the luscious smell of overturning soil comforted me: I loved playing in the dirt. I dug holes, looked for worms, made mounds of dirt, even baked mud pies. The garden at Grandma’s provided me that dirt playground.

Gardening was hard work. We helped Mama and Daddy plant seeds, hoe weeds, and pick ripe vegetables. The first things planted and harvested were green onions and potatoes. I remember one summer day, we dug up potatoes and brought them back to our house. I wanted to eat one right away. Mama told me she needed to wash them and cook them for supper. I picked up a dirt covered potato and ran into our house to our bathroom sink. I scrubbed that potato with Dial bar soap, scrubbing and scrubbing to clean it. Mama came in there asking, “What are you doing?” I replied to her that I was just washing this potato so I can eat it. Mama shook her head, “We don’t need to wash them in the bathroom sink with bath soap!” I wanted to be sure that potato was squeaky clean.

Visiting with my Grandma Samples was the reason I enjoyed the garden. She was quiet mannered, loving, and had a sharp wit. She was born in 1903, a fascination for me, being born at the beginning of the century. Often, we brought in peas or green beans, sitting with Grandma to shell or string them. Grandma was always so much faster at that than me.

One story she told about her Grandfather Thompson both intrigued and horrified me. Grandfather Thompson served as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. He told his grandchildren, “I was so cold, so hungry, I was afraid to put my fingers near my mouth, afraid that I’d start eating my own fingers.” There is no doubt, Confederate soldiers suffered greatly.

Grandma Samples lived a simple, long life. I admire her immensely, living through the remarkable historical events of the 20th Century. I remember walking out to the garden with Grandma, seeing her smile. She enjoyed playing in the dirt, too, I can imagine.

Christmas Day, 1977 with Grandma Samples