CHRISTMAS IN THE HOMETOWN: Mexia, Texas
Truly, I had every good intention of reaching out to ask for your favorite hometown memories or things you remember that made the holiday special when you were growing up. I’ve already made a note to do that prior to Christmas 2012.
Call me an old soul, but I like thinking about experiences growing up that continue to impact me in some way. Maybe impact is too strong of a word, influence may be better. As random as this may be, these memories are what Christmas is to me. To be clear, I’m making new memories every year with my children. What will they remember most about Christmas as children? That’s for another time, but in some way everything we do or try to do has a connection in some way to Christmas as a child.
Here’s what I miss about Christmas from the eyes of a child raised in small town Texas, Mexia – about 85 miles north of here.
I miss Moonlight Madness. Looking back, it was rather exciting to be downtown and see the stores lit up. They usually closed at 5:00pm, the standard workday, before Wal-mart came to town. To stay open late and “allow” shopping seemed to bring everyone out to downtown as stores offered sales and discounts.
I miss the old decorations that stretched across the street – the gold tinsel and the red and white bells that lit up.
I miss the parade, a real one. Marching bands from area high schools, the floats that took a lot of time to construct and were well-done, and the thrill of Santa on the fire truck – and if we were lucky, some double-bubble or peppermints would fall close enough that I could pick it up. It always lined up at the Methodist Church and came right down Commerce, left on Railroad, left on Main. It was understood that people went to the parade – it was a big deal.
I miss the big Santa in the window of Casual Fashions. Lucky for me, my picture was taken when I was about four-years old with my nose pressed up against the window, watching Santa wave.
I miss seeing the Santa play the organ in the window of Eller’s Jewelers. Snow around it, it moved side to side and you could hear it through the old speakers outside the store.
I miss hearing Bill Collins on KBUS Radio do the remote broadcasts from JC Penney or K. Wolens, sometimes from Goodyear – and if it WAS Goodyear, there were most likely free hot dogs. That was a real Christmas season treat!
I miss the thrill of JC Penney. They had this contraption that after a sale, or for some other transaction, someone on Mr. Noles’ staff would pull a lever and a black container would FLY up a wire to the business office upstairs! This was sheer excitement for a little kid!
I miss downtowns where people were generally friendly and there were so many faces you knew. It was the gathering place for Christmas shopping, at least in my family. Maden’s Jewelers, Eller’s, Flatt’s Stationers, Sinclair Shoe Store, Perry’s (which always smelled like popcorn), Buck’s Appliances, Karner-Phillips (another big Santa on the back wall), and downtown drug stores – Kendrick and Horn, with a full service food counter and about three booths, and White & Gillespie. Christmas Flowers, or homecoming for that matter, came from Peg & Dasa or Ingram’s, later Magness Florist joined the line-up. Christmas grocery shopping was from Safeway or A&P, Duke & Ayers and Gibson’s also had a pretty good toy selection. I liked spending my time in that department while Mom looked at fabric or “notions,” whatever those are.
Eubanks Hardware had a little of everything – from the claw hammer to fine china to a lamp. Both car dealers were downtown, Dick Scott Ford, the “Ford house” as my grandfather called it, and Ferguson Motors, later Beene Motor Sales. And the arrival of the new year models was an event!
I miss the way the church smelled during Christmas services, you know that church smell. Mrs. Hayter was organist and choir director.
I miss that Christmas morning thrill of getting up and going to the tree to see what Santa left for my brother and me. I remember well the Christmas when the fun stuff left – went away! Instead of slinkies, a toy cap gun and maybe a Ker-Plunk game, I got a cassette recorder, an electric razor and socks! Wait! Where did SOCKS come from? Since when did SOCKS become a present from Santa!? Another chapter in life began at that moment, and somehow the thrill of jacks, Hot Wheels and a top were no longer a drawing card for me at Perry’s.
What do I miss most? I miss loading up the packages and taking them to Mama and Papa Rice’s house in Wortham or to Mimi and Didi’s house in Tehuacana. I miss seeing those people, my grandparents. I miss the fireplace in Tehuacana, and I miss that aluminum tree with the red, blue and green rotating light in Wortham. Both grandmothers had a distinctive style of cooking, but exceptional in their own way. Somehow mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, cornbread, chicken fried steak or roast just doesn’t taste quite the same once that standard was set.
I miss the domino game in Wortham after lunch, the Hot Wheels races with my brother, grandfather in Tehuacana, or maybe the stroll outside just picking up pecans with my grandfather. Later in life I understood that the pile of pecans I happened to find really wasn’t “built and collected by a squirrel.”
The memories could go on, but the best way to honor these memories is to remember the influence they had on our lives, and to take every opportunity to build new memories with our own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. For me? One of the twins’ middle name is “Rice,” a tribute to the Wortham grandparents (my mom’s side), and in our home we were fortunate to be able to have a rock fireplace built to honor the Tehuacana cottage where we celebrated Christmas so often.
I think in some way we may all seek to reach back a little in our minds to re-capture part of the comfort, meaning, and feeling we had during that time of the year, at that time in our lives.
BUT – and here’s the deep part – at the time, we may not have realized those were some of the best times of our lives. For me? I’m pretty sure I didn’t appreciate the moment. I’m not sure I was supposed to. Mom and Dad just made sure everything was just right, and within their means. Much later in life, I get that.
So as we move hours closer to Christmas 2011, are these the new best times of our lives? Let’s be safe and say – they could be, probably so. At least for your kids, it probably is. And for me? It’s ok that they may not realize it now. Hopefully – no, confidently – they’ve been taught to be gracious and thankful. For now, I just want them to be kids, to celebrate a life shared with family and friends, and to grow up sharing memories that are rooted in love, reflective of truly, the most wonderful time of the year.
Compared to so many other things, there just aren’t that many Christmases we are blessed to share in the lifetime, just not that many. Cherish each moment, each gift you give, each gift you receive, and every time you hear those same songs of Christmas. Here’s to new memories this season, memories that could very well last a lifetime.
Merry Christmas from your friends and family of KBTX.