Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas Story

"I'm ready for my close-up", our little table top Christmas tree seemed to say. With the Canon G11 Santa left for me, I too, felt ready, and set the scene by randomly placing votive candles among freshly cut evergreen branches (a la Axel Vervoordt) and snapped this photo, and the one below.

When I was little, my mother told me about what Christmas had been like for her as a child, the youngest of five born to farmstead parents in the Mississippi delta. Growing up during the Great Depression, Santa Claus would bring her a pair of new shoes... and an orange. I remember her telling me that she always really looked forward to getting that orange at Christmas.

I didn't understand when I was kid, it just seemed so weird to me, a child of the suburbs, used to seeing oranges piled high in the produce section of every grocery. Somehow, now, it seems to me a perfect memory... a Christmas story from another era, yet one that resonates deeply for me today.

I lost both my parents this year, and the holidays brought bittersweet reminders of Christmas past. We listened to Dad's favorite Christmas music (he loved Nat King Cole's versions), watched classic movies like "White Christmas" (she loved Danny Kaye) and "Christmas in Connecticut" (he really liked Barbara Stanwyck),  and we placed some oranges around the base of our little tree... for my Mom.


  1. What a sweet story and a beautiful tree.

  2. Hi James! Loved your story! I have a small red tin of "Prince Albert Crimp Cut long burning pipe and cigarette tobacco" with its attendant photo of the prince himself on the cover on a shelf in my office. My dad never smoked, but I loved him telling the story of his bands of young friends harassing the corner grocer with the old joke "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"...then after the affirmative "Then why don't you let him out?". Memories are one of the most cherished gifts of Christmas. Best wishes, Trish

  3. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to your Mom and Dad and to remember them at this time of year.

  4. Hello,

    It's always difficult with the holidays, it's a nice way to remember then. Their memory stay alive thanks to those little things.

    Merry Christmas,


  5. hi there - you have had a difficult year and that is a lovely way to remember your parents. I bet your mother appreciated that orange 50 times more than all the plasticky disposable toys children today receive. Just puts it all in perspective. Happy Christmas (2 days later)

  6. How sweet to put some oranges for your mum under the tree.. pretty tough to lose them both in one year... Wish you many more good days with great memories, memories are there forever ;)

  7. The mosts simple things can become our fondest memories, can't they? Oranges have always been part of our holiday tradition, too.
    My Grandma and Grandpa used to gift a big crate of oranges every Christmas and it was my (burly) Grandpa's job to make the deliveries Christmas eve day while Grandma stayed home cooking up a storm. He had a number of houses to get to, but we always convinced him to stay and visit for a few minutes, enticing him to try whatever goodies we were cooking. He was so patient with us and always silly and fun. --A big kid himself. Everyone who knew him loved him and loved to be around him, so you can imagine how his grandchildren adored him.
    The scent of oranges takes me right back to those wonderful memories every year. I can just hear my Grandpa pushing open our back door, --"Anybody home?!" ~lb

  8. Dear James,

    We all have friends and meet people evry day but it's all about one thing and that's family, children, parents, sisters or brothers...that's the true & deepest love whatever happens.
    Warmest wishes,
    Brigitte Garnier.
    By the way, nice blog you have!

  9. I want to say thank you to all for your heartfelt comments. Some of these made me laugh, some of them made me think, all of them gave me a sense of gratitude. When I sat down to post some pictures from my new camera, I didn't intend to write this story... a sort of cathartic experience out of nowhere. Peace out.

  10. Dear James,

    welcome and thank you for joining my blog - though it is still in German only. I am visiting your blog for the first time and find it very cozy here :-) I`d love to see you dogs and need to read more of you and you life and your house. Hope you and your family had a wunderful Christmas !
    Best wishes from Eve

  11. Rituals of remembrance grow with importance as we age and lose our family. I think it forms a bond across time and space. Happy holidays to you and yours.

  12. Beautiful post. I never appreciated the simple gift of oranges and hard Christmas candy until I was an adult and realized that not every child
    received toys.

    Memories, following old traditions, and creating new ones is what make Christmas so special.

  13. I relate so much to your story, my mother was a child during First World War and living where the war was most brutal, a few Km. from Caporetto. Her Christmas gifts? Oranges, tangerines (very rare in Northern Italy then) and nuts! When she was explaining to her great grandchildren she did not have glass bowls on the tree they asked "Why did'nt you go buy some?"...
    Love your blog and I want to thank you so much for the gorgeous giveaway book I just received yesterday (I know how I would spend New Year's Day)
    Have a wonderful 2010!

  14. What a nice tribute to your parents.

    I used to hear stories about the oranges in the stockings from my mother as well. It must of been like a small slice of summer amidst the cold winters of Indianna.

  15. Dear James,
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life's passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!

    I´m sending this Irish Blessing to you & your familiy & the pack :-) and wish you a very happy new year !
    Kindest regards,

  16. I am enjoying your blog. In the above G11 photos, both are warm and speak of love and tradition. I especially like the close-up of branches. Well done.
    Happy New Year to you.

  17. Hello,
    Jane from My Pear Tree House in Australia suggested her readers should look at your story ... that's a very lovely memory of your mother, and it reminds me, particularly, not to get swept-up in the hype that is a commercial Christmas.

    I suspect your parents will be with you in spririt and love this Christmas. Your memory of them has spread all around the world!