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A Christmas Memory

 

You’ve heard me tell of my grandmother. There is no other time of the year that I think of her more than the Yuletide season. There is no other time that I miss her more either. When I was a little girl, we all gathered at Christmas to celebrate. It was a time when everyone had time off, so the family from out of town could travel home and we could all be together. 

Our family had outgrown my grandmother’s small home, so my mom and her two sisters who still lived “in town”, took turns hosting the family gathering on Christmas day. Just between our family and my two aunts the total was 15 people, add whoever came from out of town, and it could increase to 29 and with Grandma it was 30. Nineteen grandchildren, seven children with seven spouses.

The children would play games, tear around and generally make noise. The men would watch football, talk bull, and drink beer while the women would be in the kitchen preparing the food, drink wine and catch up on each other’s lives. Amid it all sat Grandma. Talking here and there to whichever grandchild she saw, or to the daughters and daughters in law as they worked and talked.

Once the food was ready we all sat to eat. Grandma led the prayer and then we all stuffed ourselves. It was clamor, everyone talking, sharing stories, jokes, laughing, milk getting spilled and always some minor scuffle among the little ones. It lasted until no one could eat one morsel more. Then the men would get up and stretch, the women would clear the table and begin the task of cleaning up. Often the cards would come out and Grandma and a couple of the guys would play a game of 500.

Once the clean up was done, and all the goodies were set out, like cookies, cakes, and other traditional candies we had each year, it was time to gather back together. It would be time for the Family Sing. We’d sing the carols we knew. Obviously, the traditional children’s ones so the little ones could sing along, then the solos, like my mom and her brother singing “Oh Holy Night”, as the little ones grew older, they too performed solos. My sister and I always had to sing the traditional pagan carol, “Here We Come A Wassailing”. These days, my daughter and I sing “The Little Drummer Boy”.

Then came the best part of the holiday. We all gathered around my grandmother and she would recite the little stories and songs from when she was a child, or had told her children when they were little. Many have been forgotten, those that I can remember, I have written down and have shared with my children.

The family favorite though was almost lost to us until my Aunt Susie & I recreated it. Between the two of us, we were able to get it right. This is special to me for many reasons. One is because the warm memory it brings back of childhood. Of sitting beside my Grandma and hearing her say it each year, the tradition it represented. 

Then as I grew older, I realized that she cried each time she recited it at the end. I wondered what made her cry to recite it. My mom and her sisters often said it made her think of her dead son Pat. Or perhaps her son Danny, who died young and never had a full life. We really don’t know, because Grandma was a very private person and didn’t talk about her feelings. But I know that as we grew older and she’d recite it, there wasn’t a dry eye at the end. For me, it was that I knew, one day, she wouldn’t be there to recite it anymore.


Without further ado, I give you “Rastus”:


“Rastus! Come here you sleepy ting …  don’t you heah dat school bell ring?!

Come heah …  git your book and slate … you’s just fixin to be late!

And you be late too wi’ thout fail …  creepin round heah jis like a snail…

Whut you say boy?

You … cain’t … fine … y’r … books!

Wal, anuder boy in town trifllin as you is can’t be found!

You mos too lazy to draw breaf!

Bah, you shames me mos to deaf!

I tries to raise you right and you haint even fit to kill!

(long pause) 

(hands in prayer)

Bress de lord he gone at last…look how proud he walkin fast…

He so smart, dat boy of mine … and in school dey say he larnin fine 

Teacha told me night fo last, he’s de smartest in de class!

Oh, whut you say ma’am, I talks mad and scoll de chile when he am bad?

Wal, das so, but often I must speak bout him.

If I spoke my thoughts you see, dat boy’d git da biggity.

So’s, I acts like I am madddd … dat don’t make dat chile feel bad.

Dat little rascal am so smart … he done larnt to read my heart”.

After I got married, she told me that when she was going to the Women’s Normal College studying to become a teacher, she was given an assignment to write as a black woman about her child. What struck me when she told me this was the depth that an 18-year-old could feel not just what a mother would feel for her child at that time, but a black mother. I was amazed by it.

My grandmother was born in 1906. I know very little about her childhood, except that her mother died when she was very young. Leaving her, a sister and two brothers to be raised by her father and an aunt. For a time, she lived with this aunt along with her siblings. If she had any contact with black people growing up, we are unaware of it. 

What I personally know of my grandmother, is that she was a progressive minded woman and raised a progressive family. Who in turn raised, progressive children. We were all taught that the measure of a person was not in their skin, but in their character.

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Joyous Yule!

 

         Or Winter Solstice or Merry Christmas, depending on your path! I love this time of year a time of giving and peace. Yule begins around the 20th of December to the 23rd. My family starts the day before Solstice and we go through the 1st of January. 

Yule is the longest night of the year and when the dark half of the year begins to yield to the light half of the year. We celebrate the Sun’s “rebirth” with boundless joy! It is considered the Holiday of Light. 

Correspondences of the season are:

Candle Colors: Red, Green, Silver, Gold & White

Stones: Emerald, Ruby, Bloodstone, Diamond, Garnet, Alexandrite, Blue Topaz, Cats Eye, Citrine, Clear Quartz,

Herbs/Spices: Nutmeg, Rosemary, Sage, Cinnamon, Bayberry, Chamomile, Cloves, Ginger,

Incense: Frankincense, Myrrh,

Plants: Holly, Evergreen, Mistletoe, Poinsettia, Yule Logs (Ash is the Traditional wood of the Yule Log), Pine Trees, Ivy, Cedar, Pine Cones, Bayberry

Food & Drink: Cider, Eggnog, Wassail, Mulled Wine, Traditional Cookies, Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef, Breads, Caraway Cakes, Fruit Cakes, Nuts, Apples, Oranges,

Bells are a special decoration for this time of year as well. It is believed that they drive evil spirits away as well as attract the faeries.

If you are wondering why the holly is so special, it’s not just because it’s an evergreen that is abundant in the winter months. It is believed that it is a holy plant. Long before the dawn of Christianity, in pagan traditions, the Holly King represented the waning year. Each equinox, he battles the Oak King. In the spring, he loses the fight. But he returns in autumn to win his throne beside the Earth Mother, over whom they are fighting. 

During the spring battle, messages are pinned to the cloak of the Holly King, so he may give them to the dead as he goes to them until his return. For this reason, holly is linked to the cycle of death and rebirth. Its leaves flourish in the winter when most plants die, and its red berries symbolize the sacrificial blood in service of the Earth Mother.

 The Ivy, so beautiful, again is nature’s proof of the Divine, the Feminine Sacred, its three-pointed leaves symbolizing the Trinity of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Earth Mother herself. Therefore, the holly and ivy are often referred to in association with each other in folklore traditions.

At Yule, wreaths of holly and ivy represent the union of the Holly King and the Earth Mother, from which the sun would be reborn and New Year’s cycle would begin again.

It was at this time of the year that Mistletoe was gathered by the Druids. They believed it sacred because it grew without roots in the ground. It was believed to represent the seed of the divine and therefore a gift from Earth Mother. The gathered Mistletoe was blessed then dispersed to put in the homes of the village. It was to bring great blessings of fertility, abundance, protection, luck, love and promise to the home it was kept in.

Yule/Winter Solstice/Christmas … is a time to set new goals, new ideas, dreams, hopes, projects are born, thoughts, and energies turn to the new season ahead. The power flow shifts from endurance to death to rebirth. Earth’s tides are turning as the dark of winter prevails. While waiting for spring, use your energy to regenerate and renew. It is a time to rebirth the mind and soul; to work on spiritual paths and personal growth.

Even though for many of us there is months of cold ahead, the days are growing longer as is the light, and the warmth will follow. Blessed Be …

May your month of Lights be Merry & Joyous my darlings …

Wildly Yours,

Wild Thing

Goddess of the Cosmos, Queen of the Faeries, Mistress of the Dragons, Lady of the Mist

 

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