Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Present and Christmas Past

Here I  am on Christmas Eve, 2016, snuggled in bed listening to Christmas Carols and other Christmas music. 
Lexie is sleeping, curled into my knees. She was in her crate most of this day but when she was set free, she did manage to slip out the front door and run away for a short while. 

Gay and Stu, sister and BIL, went to church  tonight. They sing in the choir at the Presbyterian Church in Alpharetta, GA. I always like to  hear them sing. Barry's Memorial Service for our families was held at that church in 2009, and several members of  the choir sang the most  beautiful music. Ollie, the pastor there is a gifted man. I'll always be appreciative of the service he presented for us in memory of my dear husband. 

Barry Beall on his horse in Georgia

Like many of us, Barry loved Christmas. He enjoyed having people come to our house in Albany where we lived twenty-five years. He and I cut our own tree from one of the  many Christmas Tree farms in southwest Georgia until the Morings and Bealls joined in partnership to grow our own trees on the family farm. When our trees were tall enough, we spent most of  our weekends in December selling them to the  public. 

Our farm was called Santa's Forest. Gay drew a delightful Santa and painted him on wood for our large sign that we  put up a few weeks before Christmas each year. The selling  of the trees, meeting the families that came out together to purchase that all-important-part of Christmas, brought happiness to us, and all four of us enjoyed that part of having the farm.

The hot, buggy summers were not fun. Spraying the trees for insects, pruning them twice each summer, and greening them before harvest, was hard work. My sweet sister, whose idea it was to become Christmas Tree growers, felt such a responsibility that she did all of the labor. I was not much help with my allergies. Barry and Stu worked all week, so Gay climbed up on our little orange Kabota tractor and spent many, many days working to bring in a harvest we could sell. Our father was obviously proud of her, and I think that was because he felt he had finally found one of his children who enjoyed farming like he did. 

Gay and I are heeling in the little pines until time to plant them in the field. I am in front in the red hat. It was a cold February. 

Having a business built around Christmas put a dent in our time to decorate our houses, buy and wrap presents and entertain our friends. When Gay realized that she was the only one of the four who really wanted to grow Christmas Trees, she sold the business to our nephew. 

Like my father, I was very proud of her. She had so much determination and self-discipline. She would call me and say she was coming  out to work on the farm and I felt my heart sink. I could not bear going out into the ninety-degree weather which sapped my energy. An hour working outside left me limp as a dishrag. I felt like a wimp, a traitor to my sister, but I was just no good as a farmer. The chemicals in the spray made me sick, and I worried about Gay breathing in those toxins. I was extremely happy when the tree farm was sold. I was glad Gay had been successful with her business even though her partners did  not hold up their end of the agreement. 

A real Christmas Tree was always important to us.
Barry never minded struggling with a tall tree, forcing it into a stand and helping me with the lights. Stu is the same. He strings the lights for their tree and Gay prunes any branches that need to be cut to enhance the cone shape expected. She knows how to make a Charlie Brown tree look like a Fraser Fir.

I have  not  had a real tree in my  house since Barry died. I bought some small artificial trees over the years, but  it was not until this year that I found one I  like. It came with the LED lights already strung and all I had to do was stick the two parts together and plug it  in. Not so  much fun, but it gives a nice Christmas touch with the lights Gay and I strung on the windows behind it.

Gay and Stu still buy the real tree, wrestle it into the stand, and Gay still prunes away anything that doesn't look like a Christmas Tree. The three of us open gifts on Christmas morning. We miss Barry. I feel an emptiness that will never be filled, but we enjoy our Christmas morning. Stu makes a great Santa Claus as he gives out the gifts, even some for our canine family members. 

The years pass quickly, and before we know it, it will be December 2017. 

When we were young, it seemed we had plenty of time. Now I reflect on Christmases past and wish I could go back to visit some  of those times. I'd like to do a few things differently.

I wish I had made a big effort to include Barry's mother in our holidays after she was too old to drive down to visit us. She spent many Christmases alone. 

I wish I could see my mother in her kitchen making fruit cake and eggnog, having a little drink of the whiskey with Stan, her son-in-law, before pouring it into her recipe. Her house smelled like Christmas to me, and I miss that smell. I miss her.

I wish I could tell my father how much I appreciated his picking up pecans all during the fall, having them cracked and picking the fruit from the shells by  hand. He  put in hours and hours of time to give each of his seven children bags of shelled nuts for Christmas. I don't think I ever really thanked him for his thoughtfulness and hard work.

We can't go back, but we have great memories that will be with us, in our hearts, as long as we live. We can make new memories, and we can share our memories with others, in our writing, in our family stories, our journals, and our stories will become their stories one day. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers in the United States and in other countries in this wonderful world.


Elephant's Child said...

A beautiful, nostalgic post.
Memories to hug to yourself on dark days, and darker nights.
Regrets? Part of what makes us human I think.
I hope the warmth and the love dominate tomorrow. Happy Christmas.

DJan said...

Thank you, Glenda, for your Christmas reflections. I am wishing you and your family, especially your furry ones, the best Christmas possible. You are cherished by many of your followers, of which I am one. Blessings to you. :-)

Barbara Gabriel said...

Such great memories. I really enjoyed reading about the Christmas tree farm.

Glenda Council Beall said...

EC, I like "Regrets are part of what makes us human." I suppose we all have them. Thanks for your good wishes. Today was lovely. Gay and I cooked all afternoon for our dinner with my niece and her family. Stu made stuffing like his father did.

Glenda Council Beall said...

Hi DJan,
We had a lovely day and Lexie had a great time. She enjoys Christmas, playing with new toys, and hanging in the kitchen waiting for something to drop on the floor. She thought she liked broccoli but decided it was not that good.
Hope your day was wonderful and that your new year will be great.

Glenda Council Beall said...

Hi Barb,
Glad you liked this story. It was an adventure of sorts, two women embarking on a farming venture with the weekend help from our spouses.Gay could have continued but I was not physically able.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

Leigh Hamilton said...

Aunt Glenda,

I love reading the stories of home and the farm. I live in Fincastle, Virginia and have for over 20 years. We live on 6 acres in the Shenandoah valley with the Blue Ridge mountains out the back windows and Allegheny out the front. Daddy {Uncle Jr.} now lives in Magnolia Manor in Americus. I spent 2 hours on the phone with Carrie tonight talking about all the old Christmas memories with Gertrude and Pa. Santa's Forest brings back so many memories of Capp - he hated the summer work too!
Thank you for all the stories of home,
Leigh Hamilton {Hancock}

Glenda Council Beall said...

It is wonderful to hear from you. I am so happy you like to read my blog. I know you have many memories of the farm because I believe you lived there with Salita and Max at one time and spent much time with them and their children. Christmas time seems to bring forth our childhood memories and it is nice to have someone to reminisce with about those times so dear to our hearts.
I hope you will continue to visit my blog and leave comments when you can. Happy New Year!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sweet memories! merry Christmas! I agree if the stories are not told they will be lost:(

Abbie Taylor said...

Glenda, I hope your Christmas this near was just as good as in past years. Thank you for giving us another glimpse into your life. Happy New Year.