By Bevely Leona Thompson-Lewis Guest Commentary
As I sit quietly on my sofa reminiscing about the awesome times of past holiday seasons, my memory always shifts back to the Christmas of 1958. A 5-year-old, pitiful, peanutty-looking girl I was. Even sadder than that because I thought my parents had told me something that was not true. The only thing I could remember about the weather on this Christmas Eve is that it was cold — cold enough for the big fireplace in the living room to require many logs. My dad and his brothers had been to the woods before he left for his night-shift job at Schering Plough over in Memphis. I became very worried when I noticed that it was getting darker much sooner than I thought it should. The plams of my little hands had become bery sweaty and dirty. The heat from the fireplace had sweated my hair so badly until my bangs looked like a puff of black cotton on the front of my face. Mother asked me once why I wasn’t playing with my older sister and brothers. I just sat there like I was getting ready to say a speech in front of a large audience like on Easter morning — nervous and cold. I can’t remember what I told my mother, but I knew if I left the front of that fireplace I might have missed him. I recalled the fire roaring away into the night. The next thing I knew, it was morning. I must have fallen asleep around 10 o’clock. It was Christmas morning 1958. The kitchen area was very quiet. The smell of the orange slices and peppermint candies on the coffee table lit up the living room. I stood motionless in the presence of my parents who were trying to start an argument about Santa eating so many slices of cake. That was enough. Where was he and when was Santa going to give me my gifts? When Daddy turned around and saw the serious look on my face, he began to explain that Santa had made a mistake and left my Christmas gifts at my fraternal grandmother’s home. My dad’s mother lived the distance of approximately two city blocks behind us. I could hardly muster up enough energy to pull myself together for the short ride in our Chevrolet to Grandmama’s. And there were my gifts. A fancy china set and a doll were right there in the middle of my Grandmama’s living room floor. Sure enough, Santa had remembered me. Those Christmas gifts instilled in me to always believe. And everything I set my goals for in life was achieveable. The 1958 Christmas gifts instilled in me a lot of courage. It took a lof of courage for me to grow up and go out into the world and compete with life itself. Thank you, Santa. [Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, Ms. Thompson-Lewis dropped by the Times office to see if I’d be interested in running this story. I read it and told her I’d be happy to do so. She also included a brief write-up from a friend who had a different, but just as relevant, Christmas memory, and I felp obliged to include it here as well] *** According to Pearlie Slaughter, a homemaker in West Memphis, her most memorable Christmas turned out quite different. Slaughter does not remember the year, but vividly remembers when she was about 11 or 12 years old, her father delivered her a brand new blue bike. The impact of the gift changed her attitude completely toward her father. However, Slaughter said, when her father passed, her father’s bank account had only $64 in it. Slaughter realized because of her father’s alcoholism, he had done the best he could under the circumstances. She would like to remember the blue bike, because that was the only gift she had ever received from her father.