Where kin are in greater supply than cash, as it was where my mother grew up, Christmas revolves more around family than gifts.
Linda Wilson was raised on a truck farm in a three-generation household, along with two brothers, two sisters, her parents and her paternal grandparents. The grown men held various jobs, but most of their labor was spent working the land. They farmed to feed themselves, trading what they couldn't eat for goods and services. They grew only one true cash crop — tobacco — with the harvest going to market ahead of the holidays and some of the proceeds spent on Christmas presents.
My Uncle Kenny got a bike one year, but presents from Santa were generally quite modest: a coloring book and an orange for each child would be more typical.
In the accompanying video, my mother talks abouts about a few of her holiday memories. Most of them are quite fond, even if the giving could not be lavish. They ate very well, and they were together.
Nonetheless, my mother also recalls a bit of meloncholy around the house. Mom was about 6 when her maternal grandfather, Andrew Jackson Williams, died unexpectedly of an coronary occulsion, on Christmas Eve 1952. He was 65. Mom has a vague recollection of her mother, who at the time was about six months pregnant with my Aunt Vada, receving the news over the phone.
Mom says Granny always tried to mask her sadness around the holidays, but for years afterward, Christmastime often seemed to evoke a quiet longing for her beloved father.