The late Celestine Sibley grew up in northeast Alabama during the Great Depression. Her father worked in a sawmill and held his job through the depression. Quite an achievement.
The following stories, used with permission from the publisher, are gleaned from Celestine’s book “Especially At Christmas.”
One year, during the depression, some relatives from Virginia, sent the family some apples. Celestine’s mother, whom she called “Muv,” promptly polished the apples to a high sheen and put them in a basket for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. There was a fire in the fireplace. Muv’s best tablecloth was on the table. They bought three cans of Vienna sausages from the sawmill-turpentine still commissary for seven cents a can … and Muv made dumplings for Thanksgiving dinner. Who would have thought that was even possible, much less feasible? It is indicative of an unquenchable zest for celebration.
When they came to the table to eat their Thanksgiving feast, Celestine’s father said the blessing. Then he made a bleak observation.
“The lumber business is going badly and it looks like a poor Christmas this year.”
Muv’s response to that was, “There’s no such thing as a poor Christmas!” Her rant continued, no matter what you do not have, in a material way, Christmas stood by itself. Christmas was glorious and unmatched by anything else that had happened in the history of the world. Jesus himself had come to dwell among men. With a richness like that to celebrate, who could be so meaching and self-centered as to speak of a “poor” Christmas?
I find this story delightful. Muv was a woman of conviction. She had strong opinions. She was correct. There is no such thing as a poor Christmas. No matter what we may not have, in a material way, we can probably all find ways to be giving and help others.
I mentioned that Celestine grew up during the Great Depression … a time when it was probably difficult to be thankful. “The Best Christmas” is chapter 3 in Celestine’s book “Especially at Christmas.” She tells a delightful true story of a young widow (whom we’ll call Anna) with 9 children … 3 of whom were triplets. She was unemployed and the family was on food stamps, public assistance and they lived in the public housing projects. Those are relevant details because one year the “system” derailed. They got more than the usual gift baskets of food one Christmas.
The deliveries of ham, turkey, oranges, pecans and candy kept coming … and coming … and coming. Anna contacted the authorities ... who couldn’t seem to correct things. The deliveries continued. It was overwhelming.
Anna and her children repacked the baskets and went through the projects and gave away all of it! On completion of this great errand of mercy, Anna said, “You should have seen how the children enjoyed it!”
What Anna said next was best of all. “My children have been receiving and receiving all their lives. This is the best Christmas they ever had. Nobody ought to ever be so poor that they can’t give something at Christmastime.”
Indeed. There’s no such thing as a poor Christmas.
Native Roman, Pam Walker, is a paralegal, and an avid reader of Southern fiction. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.