By Hardy Jackson
Tis the season of traditions.
Like the cutting of the Christmas tree.
We lived out in the “country” — not as far out in the country as a lot of other folks, but far enough out that I had access to acres of woodland where potential Christmas trees grew.
Our family tradition involved me finding a tree, cutting it down and bringing it in.
In the fall when I was hunting, I would look for a likely cedar — our Christmas trees were always cedars. Cedars were always found along old fence rows, and since much of the land I hunted had once been fenced and farmed, abandoned fence rows crisscrossed the property.
When I came across a likely candidate, I made a mental note of the location and about a week before Christmas I cut it down and lugged it out.
I also kept an eye out for mistletoe, which I would shoot out of the tree. Some folks shot it and sold it, but with my accuracy I would have spent more on shells than I would have earned from sales.
When the tree was in place, out would come the ornaments and lights — some predating my birth (and maybe Jesus’). On they would go in no particular order. Add a wreath here and there and the decorating was done.
A couple of days after Santa’s visit, we took off the ornaments and the tree went to the gully.
Another tradition was the annual trip to my Grandma Minnie’s. Now, I liked Grandma Minnie. Daddy’s Mama. She was an artist, a political junkie and a matriarch.
Most of these trips have blurred over time, except for one.
It was the Christmas after I turned twelve.
At home we rose early, unwrapped our presents, thanked everyone for what we had been given, put the presents away, loaded into the car and set out on the boring three hour journey to my father’s family home in the suburbs of Slapout Alabama (not on most maps, but you can Google it if you are curious, which you probably aren’t).
When we arrived, my Daddy immediately joined his brother and sisters and their spouses in the traditional making and testing of the eggnog — a concoction that my brother, cousins and I were allowed to sample only in its non-alcoholic state. Since Christmas “dinner” was a mid-afternoon affair, by the time the turkey and trimmings were on the table, the adults were full of cheer and none too steady.
It was at that point that Grandma Minnie announced that a new family tradition would begin that very day.
Calling me up from the children’s table, she announced that since I was her oldest grandchild, I would carve the turkey.
She handed me a carving knife and a large fork and told me to have at it.
I had never carved anything before, much less something as large and complex as a turkey, but full of myself and the honor bestowed on me, I went to work.
Though everyone applauded my effort, looking back I feel certain that the only person who did more damage to the bird than I did was the person who killed it.
As my reward, I got a drumstick.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is retired Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.