Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday's Story: Ree and Christmas

Thursday's Story
I was in the stores today. They were pulling out Christmas "stuff" - Santa-shaped platters and sparkly baubles... potholders that light up and play Rudolf.... So much will end up - if not in the landfill - in the thrift shop come January.
It made me think about 'Ree - Marie Whitmire - the little wiry, sweet, tough and funny red-haired mountain lady that took care of me and my sisters and brother when we were growing up.
She never looked a day older that 14. There was always a look of joy on her face - in seeing the sun shine, the chickens set, the beds made - babies well fed.
After I went to college I'd come home to the mountains for Christmas and first thing, I'd go see 'Ree. When I asked her what she wanted me to get her for Christmas, likely as not she would say, "Your moma is getting me a chicken so I can make a pot of chicken and dumplings. I don't need a thing!"
I finally learned to stop asking. I'd bring her Arnold Coconut Macaroons and a scarf I'd knitted or a quilted vest - something warm. She lived in a cabin on the top of "Blue Ridge" - one of the world's beautiful spots - and the wind always blows there. And she loved coconut.
I can smell the wood smoke and flannel now. She cooked on a wood cook stove.... She'd give me a bowl of pintos and corn bread and hand me a big spoon - I think the size of the spoon was a point of pride.
After supper we'd listen to Country and Western records with her son Charles. Between Loretta Lynn and Conway and Bill Monroe her husband Stein would be telling stories. He knew everything and everybody.
And 'Ree was always piecing a quilt - pulling small colorful scraps of fabric from a black Hefty bag taller than her, stitching by hand. Me and my sisters all sewed back then. There was an never ending supply of scraps... 'Ree sewed them into quilts one stitch after another.
Now as I spread a quilt on the bed I recognize a skirt I made, a niece's jumper, my sister's Easter dress... tiny stitches... I have two quilts from 'Ree and two from Aunt Myrtle - they are my prized possessions.
Today. As I looked at the Christmas Kleenex and Christmas Oreos and Christmas bell-shaped-Jello molds... I knew I didn't need any of that to have a happy Christmas.
I'd love a bowl of pintos. A big spoon to eat them with. The smell of woodsmoke, flannel and hot cornbread. Chet Atkins on the stereo. Stein telling stories. Ree piecing a quilt... .
I hope your Christmas is everything you want it to be - and coconut macaroons.