By Audrey Derryberry-Massey
About The Author
Audreys genealogy column, Finding Your Family, appeared biweekly in the Columbia Daily Herald, Columbia, TN. She was the original coordinator for the Maury County Genealogy web page on TNGenWeb, when it began in July 1996.
In addition to her current writing projects, Audrey has also written for Alabama Wildlife, Rooster Tales (a publication of Hydra-Sports), and several smaller historical publications. Other publishing credits include feature and news articles for The Eufaula Tribune, Eufaula, AL, and while living in Hawaii for three years, she wrote Hawaiian travel articles for her hometown newspaper, The Daily Herald (now the Columbia Daily Herald), Columbia,TN.
Audrey resides in Huntsville, AL. We treasure her association with Cinnamon Hearts.
| Why do we
enjoy this season of the year so much I wonder as my mother, my daughter and I make our
holiday plans. In the new century to come, will my children and my grandchildren continue
to keep our traditions?
It was Christmas Eve and Gertrude had been baking for weeks, gathering and shelling her black walnuts and pecans, and delivering her bounty of cookies, cakes and pies to friends and family. At church this morning, she had made a mental list of the elderly and sick who had no family to make their Christmas sweets. She put the last of her baking into a basket and swung two-year old Evie to her shoulder.
It had been snowing most of the day and she carefully measuerd her steps in the deep drifts that lined a neighbors fence, weighted down by baby and basket. Twilight was fast approaching, casting its blue haze over the crusty snow. Ice crystals twinkled here and there, tiny prisms of color captured by the late afternoon sunlight as it filtered through the trees. As snow always blankets the rural farmlands with silence, the only sound to be heard was the crunching of her footsteps as she walked the icy lane leading to Widow Thompsons door.
I knew that was you, Gertrude! The widow had been waiting for her, anxious for a taste of the season. She was silhouetted in her open door by the orange glow of Chrismas candles in the foyer, her head bent forward and frozen in time. Widow Thompson used to do her own holiday baking, but with both husband and children gone, she had no more will to do so and now depended upon Gertrudes generosity. She filled the widows outstretched arms with tins filled with tasty treasures, all tied up with bits of her best red and green grosgrain ribbons. You always make em look so nice, Gertrude, said the widow, eyes dancing in anticipation.
After a short visit, Gertrude and Evie pressed on down the country lane. They found the widow Celia Huddleston, leaning on her cane as she peered out from her stoop. I was athinking youd forgot me this year! she jokingly called. Gertrude and Evie were hugged into her ample bosom and ushered into the cheery kitchen where they visited over cups of hot tea. Gertrude caught Celia up on all the community happenings, their conversation accentuated with many Well, I declare! and a few You dont say?!! Neither woman wanted to end the visit, but Evie began to whimper and Gertrude noted the darkening shadows stretching from the Widow Huddlestons house. In the distance, she could see bobbing lanterns on a wagon traversing the road home. Without a light with her, she would be finding her way home by the light of the snow.
Gertrude made two more quick stops as she emptied her basket to neighbors along her route. Holding Evie close, she leaned against a biting North wind. Her babes eyes were tightly closed by now, her rosy face pressed into the warmth of the shawl around her mothers shoulders. Gertrude pushed on home, the weight of her slumbering child driving her track deep into the snow. It was time to settle her own family down for the evening.
As she passed Sams workshop in the corner of their barn, she could see him working by the kerosene lamp, the pale yellow light around him filled with a halo of tiny floating dust specks. He was finishing up his wonderful handmade Christmas gifts.
Sam and their son, Oliver, had spent the afternoon replacing a broken window at Widow Richeys house, and clearing out a walkway in the snow for Mr. Easley to get from his back door to milk his cows in the barn. On the way home, Sam shoveled fresh straw in Mr. Cobles stock barn so his cows could be warm during this cold night. The pigs were remembered, too, as Oliver filled the trough with dried corn from the bin. After all this and his own chores, too, Sam was still at work. Gertrude could hear the tink, tink, tink of his hammer. He would be wanting a warm drink and some of her fruitcake when he finished.
She hurried through the gate and into the house to place Evie in the wooden box which Sam had fashioned for her bed and placed near the hearth in the parlor. After Oliver was tucked in for the night, Sam and Gertrude sat on their favorite brocade divan by the open fireplace, their sleeping baby warm in her quilts beside them. Sam finished his cake and lit his pipe. Gertrude gazed around their spartan parlor at the once richly-red divan, now a faded pink, and at her own home-spun clothes, clean and neatly patched. She was thinking how rich this day had made her feel as she looked down at Evies peaceful face and thought, How much she looks like the sleeping Baby Jesus in the creche on the mantle. Still gazing lovingly at Evie she asked Sam, Do you think our children will carry things on for us when were gone? I mean the things that really count. Do you think they will remember our simple Christmases together?
Sam peered out at her over his reading glasses, I hope so, dear. We do our best, but you know in these modern times, with changes comin . . . He picked up his weekly newspaper from the side table and scratched his head, hardly able to comprehend what those changes might be, as he read Christmas Issue, December 24, 1899, Last One of the Century.
Ed. Note: Gertrude and Sam were Audrey Derryberry Masseys great-grandparents, and Evie, her grandmother. Reprinted from Cinnamon Hearts, Nov-Dec 1999, the last published issue of the newsletter.