“The good people who live honest lives will be a blessing to their children.” ~ Proverbs 20:7 (NCV)
I have been inspired by Patience Brewster, an artist, illustrator and designer of amazing Christmas ornaments, gifts and textiles, to share my favorite holiday memory or tradition.
But, Where. To. Begin?!?! With my crazy crew, I’ve got A LOT of stories and snapshots to pick from. Believe me, this has not been an easy task.
Most of my memories are funny and some traditions a bit quirky, like the “Find the Pickle” game we play every Christmas. But as I reflect on my life I realize some of my best memories play against the backdrop of an Oklahoma farmhouse. The sounds. The smells. The tastes. They flood my senses in a rush of nostalgia.
The bumpy dirt roads always woke me from my backseat slumber with excitement. We were almost there! Almost to the place where time seemed to stop.
Though I didn’t spend many Christmases there, much tradition was born from our gatherings. Lessons learned within that farmhouse still grace the table of my life today in so many ways.
This couple, Allen and June Cole, were the quintessential grandparents. They lived life on a farm where Grandpa wore overalls and Grandma baked the best homemade biscuits. She was a beloved school teacher and he a well-known cattleman.
They had three sons, the last of which became my Daddy. Dad is the perfect combo of their Best Selves: a hardworking man with a tender heart and sparkling blue eyes. They taught him to fear God and respect everyone. And to this day, he does.
Grandma was like a mother to Momma, too. Loved her like her own. Taught her to cook and bake and the lost art of etiquette. No mother-in-law was ever so cherished.
I was always a little scared of Grandpa. His six-foot stature seemed to tower over me and the other five-foot females in the house. He had rough hands and broad shoulders, perfect for hauling feed but intimidating for holding granddaughters. But his eyes danced. Sparkled when he looked at me. I knew I was loved. In my mind he was John Wayne and Grandma was Maureen O’Hara.
In a gruff voice he’d say, “Hello Granddaughter!” His powdered snuff can in hand and toothpick pursed, he’d reach out for a bear hug.
Grandma was different. Petite yet plump, she embodied tenderness and beauty. The scent of her Youth Dew powder made every embrace divine. Mom and I would often sneak away and smell her powder box. Her makeup and lipstick enticed me as I longed to wear just a smidge. Her painted nails didn’t hide the work of her hands; she was a dazzling icon of true homemaking.
One time, Grandma let me borrow her “yipstick” to wear and share with Grandpa. I was his “painted yady.”
While the men worked, we baked. We dreamed of opening JJ’s Bakery. One “J” for June and the other for Jessie. Of course, this was also the nickname given me by Grandpa. I am Jessie June, after all.
We’d spend the day rolling dough and forming them into biscuits. If it was Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’d find us making carrot cakes. Multiple carrot cakes. Even after Grandma passed away, Momma and I continued this tradition as carrot cake was Grandpa’s favorite. We knew we had done it right when he’d tell us “y’all stumped your toe on that one.”
Grandma was truly a teacher at heart. She taught Momma how to prepare and serve the perfect holiday meal. Together they planned the menu, made a list and shopped for ingredients. Specific ingredients, mind you, for some brands simply won’t do.
From start to finish, Grandma made certain Momma knew how to serve her family The Best. And she does. We enjoy Grandma’s exact recipes and menu every single year.
Though Thanksgiving was a staple at their house, we would recreate the same meal at our home in Texas for Christmas. If we couldn’t be in Oklahoma with them, having this meal was the next best thing. So was having steak and fried eggs for breakfast.
I guess now that I’m thinking about it, food plays the starring role in my memories and our traditions. But what could be better?
Grandma loved Christmas but Grandpa thought it was too fussy. Why bring a perfectly good tree inside the house? Of course, he did it because Grandma wanted to, but he stopped that nonsense once he was alone.
And he was alone for many years.
You’d think by all these memories Grandma passed just a year or two ago. But she didn’t. Grandma went to be with Jesus when I was ten years old.
I miss them both. So much.
How do you miss two people with whom you only spent mere days with throughout the year? How can you miss someone gone from your life when you were so young?
Love. Unending, unconditional love.
The truth is, Love is the centerpiece of my memories. The work. The baking. The lessons. The time and effort. These were all born out of an immense love for one another, a desire for togetherness.
No, dinner wasn’t always on time and sometimes the biscuits burned, but there was laughter.
No, no one was perfect and there were times we didn’t see eye to eye, but we believed in one another.
Yes, there were heartaches and many struggles, but together we pulled through.
Because This is Family. This is Tradition. These are the lessons passed down through the ages.
Faith. Hope. Love.
These three remain.
And the greatest of these is always Love.
So friend, what family memories or traditions do you hold dear? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to share your stories by commenting below.
“Follow the way of Love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1