The old homeplace had stood empty for several years. There had been a discussion about selling it. But no one seemed willing to give it up, not just yet.
It held so many wonderful memories. Do those memories stored within go with the house to a new owner? I suspect not. A new family, after some rehab, would move in and begin making their own memories.
And so our memories of growing up, leaving home, coming back to visit mom and dad, must live on within our minds.
Father and mother, sister and brother, had all passed on, leaving just me to recall those days of yore.
I suspect there are others like me, people who have lost all members of the family they shared life with.
I suspect some of you have been down this same path.
It is at Christmas when we miss them and that home the most. From my youth up, I had always spent a part of Christmas in that wonderful, warm home.
Oh, if only they could celebrate with us one more time….
BACK I WENT
It was nostalgia that drew me back to that empty house one late afternoon of a Christmas Eve. I wanted to go home for Christmas. I wanted to see Mom and Dad, my brother and my sister.
I pulled into the lane leading to the house 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, I sensed Dad was leaning forward in his easy chair and craning his neck to see who had pulled in.
I thought of the many times that 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 to the echoes of my footsteps.
The kitchen table and chairs and cook stove 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 as mom brought a platter of hot biscuits from the oven to the table. My, that sweet aroma.
There, in our younger years, sat brother and sister and me. Then, as images from the past continued flashing through my mind, Bonnie and I were there with our children, and my brother and sister with their families, all gathered in to Mom and Dad’s – to Grandma and Grandpa’s – home for the Christmas dinner.
GOLDEN BROWN BISCUITS
O-o-o, 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. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope.
It was getting late 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 cruel cross, the Scriptures tell us, for our sins.
But He conquered death. He arose from the grave.
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 dark by the time I arrived at my home, which was surrounded by cars. Christmas lights sparkled on the front porch and in the limbs of the dogwood tree. A lighted tree that went to the ceiling was visible through the bay window.
I heard laughter as I crossed the porch and opened the front door.
Perhaps one day my children, 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 protected] or (606) 932-3619