I was strolling through the breakroom at work one day last week humming, “Hark, The Herald Angles Sing.”
A co-worker heard me humming the song and asked, “Is that Christmas music?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Isn’t it a little early?” she said.
“I’m just trying to keep up with Wal-Mart,” I replied as we chuckled.
I love a good old rock and roll song and even a number of country hits, but there’s something about those old-time hymns that bring peace to my soul and memories of days past.
I’ve mentioned the Jackson Family Christmas gatherings in the past, but every now and then, I like to reminisce again.
My mom’s mother was a Jackson and her brother, J.B. Jackson and his wife, Rosemary, who he met in college, lived in a stately antebellum two-story home near downtown Tulsa.
They raised four daughters, Mary Gail, Kay, Jan and June, all of who I remain in touch with to this day, thanks to Facebook.
My mom said Uncle J.B. and Rosemary where the reasons she moved from Van Buren, Mo., following graduation in 1955, to Tulsa.
The Jacksons had a furniture store in downtown Tulsa for years and later Uncle J.B. worked at the Tulsa Business School. My mom had a $2 bill and when she needed money, she’d give Uncle J.B. her $2 bill in exchange for a couple $1 bills. When she had enough money, she’d buy her $2 bill back. I kept the $2 and have it among my many family treasures.
I’ve heard many stories my mom told about coming to Tulsa and the hardships she faced along the way. One story in particular she shared on occasion was about her waiting for the bus in front of an ice cream shop to go to work and not having an nickel to buy an ice cream cone on a hot summer day.
Growing up, I never did without and most certainly had my share of ice cream cones through the years. Not one birthday or Christmas rolled past that I didn’t get a gift or two and lots of love. I’ll never know how my folks, who both grew up poor as a church mouse, accomplished so much in life with so little. I’m so blessed.
My co-worker and I were talking about being poor and I was telling her that my mom often got an orange and apple for Christmas and Pepsi on the Fourth of July. I also shared the story about my mom getting sick when she was 12 and my grandpa carrying her to the doctor on a homemade bed on the back of the plow.
“They didn’t have a car or truck,” I said, also sharing a story about my dad picking corn by hand. “They were poor.”
“Do you think your parents thought they were poor?” my co-worker asked.
“No,” I responded. “That was the only life they knew.”
It’s a life that I have never had to experience and hope I never do.
Eventually, my mom’s entire family had made the move from the Missouri Ozarks to Tulsa by the early 1960s.
About mid-December, Uncle J.B. and Rosemary would host a get together for Christmas. Aunts, uncles, cousins and all came to celebrate Christmas and time with family.
The large dining room table at the Jackson home was filled with food that spilled over onto the buffet and into the kitchen. If you went away hungry, it was your own fault.
No matter if you arrived early or late, J.B. and Rosemary kept the door open, the coffee brewing and the love of God flowing.
After an hour or two of the adults visiting and catching up, mostly because that was the only time everyone saw each other, we gathered around the grand piano and sang a number of old-time Christmas favorites.
I don’t remember if we prayed before or after, but we always prayed. Each person received a mini songbook filled with old-time hymns. The Jacksons kept them tucked away in the piano bench.
“Hark, The Herald Angles Sing,” was one of the songs we sang. Others included “Away In a Manger,” “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night,” “The First Noel,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and more.
After we sang the dozen or so songs, Santa made a special visit and with the help of many elves, handed out gifts to all. Everyone, both young and old, received a gift.
Soon, it was time to head home. There were lots of hugs and handshakes as everyone bid farewell and headed out the door. Such great memories.
With the holidays around the corner, I hope you can give work and life a break and join your family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. May the holidays be filled with memories, good times and full stomachs. And while you are at it, take time to sing some of those old-time Christmas hymns. They have a way of soothing one’s soul. Blessings to all!
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.