Tidbits - December 27 2018

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY



CROWDED CHRISTMAS

  The word I can most associate with my Christmases growing up is “crowded.”
  This is not a negative description, however.
  After my grandfather Ralph Killingsworth died, my grandmother Elizabeth, “Dibbie,” moved from Saluda to Rock Hill where her youngest daughter, Kay, was going to Winthrop. Mamama taught in a school near her apartment.
  When Christmas came around, Kay and Mamama spent the holidays in our small house. They also brought lot of presents for their only nieces and nephews and grandchildren.
  There were two drawbacks to this arrangement.
  I’ve written through the years about not being able to get up early to see our presents, as all our friends got to do.
  We lived on a dairy farm and Daddy had to milk every Christmas morning (until Jamie and I got old enough to take his place). We could not get out of bed to take in our haul until Daddy got home.
  We also had to wait for our grandmother to put on her make-up.
  This reminded me of a SHS “Prism” presentation several years ago when Jessica Alewine wrote about her grandmother, Donnis Fulmer.
  Jessica said her grandmother would not walk to the mail box without putting on make-up first.
  That’s how my grandmother was.
  Santa never wrapped his presents, but Kay and Mamama did, so we had a fun morning.
  At lunch we went to our other grandparents house. All of Eugenia and Rufus Shealy’s children and grandchildren came to lunch, or dinner as we called it.
  Thomas Shealy recalled we ate in installments. The grown-ups ate in the dining room, and the children at card tables in the living room and den.
  Aunt Miriam made sure everyone’s tea glass was full and asked if we needed seconds. Mammy would walk around with a wash cloth, making sure none of her grandchildren had sticky fingers. She couldn’t stand that!
  I don’t know if Aunt Miriam or Mammy ever got a chance to eat at a family function.
  After lunch, the entire crowd would visit Uncle John and Aunt Anne’s and our house to see what everybody got. Later, when Uncle Ed and Aunt Dot added Stanley and Bonnie, their house was added to the tour.
  Like I said, Christmas day was crowded.
  In the late 50’s, Kay married Keith Parris, and he was added to the Christmas crowd. That gave us nine people in a three bedroom, one bath house.
  Keith was a big help to Daddy and Santa in doing last minute assemblies.
  One year he put  batteries in Jamie’s Varoom dump truck. Putting the batteries in was no big deal, turning on the toy was.
  “Varoom” was a perfect title. The little truck woke up the entire neighorhood.
  Daddy decided to wait until the last minute to put a swing set together one Christmas. He and Keith put the set together in the shop, a couple tenths of a mile away.
  It was after they got the set together they realized it would not fit on Daddy’s pick-up, so he and Keith walked the swing set down the Batesburg Highway.
  Their efforts were worth it. I can’t fathom how many hours of enjoyment we got out of that swing set. How many daydreams did I have while swinging?
  Keith also began a tradition of reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” out of the Child Craft volume (remember those?).
  When Kay married Keith, it cut down our haul from them, because Keith had four brothers, and nieces and nephews of his own.
  Then the ultimate present killer came along. His name was Kevin, Kay and Kevin’s son. They had the nerve to shower most of their gifts on him, plus they wanted to have Christmas morning at their on home in Spartanburg!
  They still came to Saluda later in the day, so we had two Christmases.
  As I write this on December 20, I’m happy to report that James Kevin Parris received his Doctorate from Clemson on December 19. Kay and Mamama, lifelong teachers, would have been so proud. Kevin teaches horticulture at Spartanburg Tech.
  Mamama also lived in Spartanburg when Kevin came along.
  She would come down a few days before Christmas, taking the bus to Columbia. She always wanted to shop at Haltiwangers and Belk’s and eat lunch at Walgreen’s counter.
  I learned to drive in Columbia going to pick her up.
  Of course, back then Lexington and Saluda were the same size, and the only thing between Lexington and Columbia was a lumber company!
  Daddy never learned to drive in Columbia.
  He hated it with a passion, but every year he bit the bullet and took Mother Christmas shopping. Some years, the kids got to go.
  The worst experience was the first time we parked in the multi-level municipal parking lot near Belk’s. Being country hicks, we didn’t mentally mark where we parked the car. Later, we got to tour the entire garage, before we found our Falcon stationwagon.
  There were no malls back then, so Daddy had to drive from store to store.
  As the song from “A Chorus Line” goes, “What I did for love.”
  I’m so old, I remember when I-26 was built and our first trip to Spartanburg to visit the Parrises and Mamama.
  Daddy missed the exit to Spartanburg and promptly cut across the median.
  “You can’t do that,” Mother yelled!
  “I just did,” he said.
  Another family tradition was shooting fireworks with the Thompsons on Christmas Eve. 
  Actually, I should said Daddy and Uncle John shooting fireworks and the rest of us watching. They enjoyed it too much.
  That was back in the days when cherry bombs were legal. This things were powerful. They’d even explode underwater, as Daddy and Uncle John tossed a few in the pond.
  Daddy brought an old milk can, and threw a cherry bomb inside. The explosion was deafening and the heavy steel bottom was almost blown out.
  Every year, Mother and Aunt Anne threatened to kill Daddy and Uncle John, but they never did.
  The children finally got a chance to shoot firecrackers as we grew up. We actually got packs in our stockings.
  Mother would warn us, “Do not light a firecracker while holding it in your hand!”
  That was like, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
  Boy, did it hurt when that firecracker went off in my hand.......
  You can’t have Christmas without music, and I guess I’ve been involved with some type of church Christmas performance for most of my life,
  How many performances have there been? I even sang with the Red Bank choir one year, and Marty Keeler talked me in to singing with the Mt. Pleasant choir several Christmas Eves.
  One year we did Handel’s “Messiah.” I mean all of it! I’ve loved the “Hallelujah Chorus”  ever since.
  That’s about it. As I said above, I’m writing this on December 20.
  The paper will be printed Friday night, and I’ll pick it up Christmas Eve.
  To those who get your papers Christmas Eve, Merry Christmas!
  To the others, I hope you had another memorable Christmas.