Ours was a close, perhaps typical family: Mom and Dad, me, an older brother, a younger sister.
Dad labored for 50 years at maintaining the tracks for the C&O locomotives. Mom stayed home and cared for us and her household. Both lived to be 87.
Now they’re gone. So it is brother and sister.
It’s at Christmas we miss them the most.
For more than 60 years, from my youth up, I had always spent a portion of Christmas Eve at the home of my parents.
One Christmastime some years ago, I was approaching the lane that leads off Route 8 to the homeplace. It was still vacant, perhaps forlorn, never put up for sale.
Suddenly I was overcome by nostalgia – as strong as I had ever felt it.
I wanted to see them all. I wanted to go home for Christmas.
I pulled into the lane and parked in the familiar parking space just outside their front yard. I thought I saw the curtains in the living room window move and Mom peering out. In the background, it seemed Dad was leaning forward in his easy chair and craning his neck to see who had pulled in. I thought of the many times I had trailered my boat in there to pick him up for a fishing trip.
The front door was locked but I had a key. I opened it, then hesitated for a moment on the porch. It seemed I could hear Dad say, “It’s George Samuel. Come in out of it!”
I stepped inside.
My goodness! It was as cold in there as it was outside.
I walked across the floor and heard my footsteps echoing throughout.
The kitchen table and chairs and the cookstove were still there. I stood and looked at that table and my nostalgia was really playing games with reality. I could see the golden brown, steaming turkey in the middle of the table, surrounded by all the trimmings of those big Christmas Day dinners that Mom used to fix.
Dad was starting to carve the turkey. Brother and sister waited with forks and knives in hand. Mom brought a platter of hot biscuits from the oven to the table.
Oh, those biscuits. Mom rolled out the dough with a rolling pin and cut it into rounds with the top of an empty tin can. Those biscuits seemed to just float out of the oven.
I walked over and pulled down the oven door, half expecting to see the biscuits browning. One of the rusty hinges broke and the oven door fell askance, never to close again.
Where have all the years gone?
I stood, held my face in my hands, and sobbed.
Why was I doing this to myself? Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.
The Collier Cemetery is just a half-mile from the house. I stopped by to visit the graves of Mom and Dad and bother Bootie. Later, on the way to my house, I stopped by Mt. Zion and visited the grave of sister Linda.
It was late evening when I passed a church with a manger scene out front. His birthday! I’d been so caught up in my own situation that I’d forgotten that that’s what Christmas is all about.
Son of God, son of man. Cut down in the prime of life. Died on a cross, the Scriptures tell us, for our sins.
And it was He himself who said, “He that liveth and believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
Wow! Talk about a family reunion!
It was growing dark by the time I arrived at my home, which was surrounded by cars. Christmas lights sparkled in the holly tree in the front yard and on the bushes beside the house. A lighted tree that went to the ceiling was visible through the bay window.
I heard laughter as I went up the walk and opened the front door.
Perhaps one day my children or grandchildren, suffering from nostalgia, will come to this house and find it cold and empty, and ask themselves, where have all the years gone?
Be that as it may, this Christmas – good Lord willing – we’re going to celebrate.
Reach G. Sam Piatt at email@example.com or 606-932-3619.