I recently had the opportunity to partake in the madness known as Black Friday at Walmart. My pregnant daughter really wanted to go and I couldn’t send her into the abyss alone. While I did score a vacuum cleaner for $8.88 and really enjoyed watching the mayhem, I could help but wonder how this became Christmas.
My father, Charles Don Castle, was born in Illinois Bend in 1932. To say times were tough would be a gross understatement. But when you ask him about his childhood, his memories are nothing but fond.
He was raised on the old home place that had been in his mother’s family since about 1897. Arrowhead and squirrel hunting were his favorite past times. His home was a typical shotgun house, meaning you could stand at the front door and shoot out the back door without hitting any walls. Three rooms in total. The living room, that doubled as his parents bedroom, the kitchen, and the kids’ room. The remnants of which still lay in the pasture. There was no outdoor plumbing, but the well and the outhouse were just a few yards from the house, so he never thought this was an inconvenience.
I recently asked him about what Christmas was like when he was a little boy. I asked if they had a Christmas tree, he said no. I asked if he hung a stocking, he said no. I asked if Santa came to visit, again he said no. It made me sad to think of my Daddy, who always made my Christmas’ very special events, as a little boy with nothing for Christmas.
“So, ya’ll just didn’t celebrate Christmas at all?”, I asked. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. “I didn’t say that”, he replied. He told me that Christmas was one of his favorite childhood memories. I reiterated his list: no Santa, no tree, no presents. He smiled, his blue eyes twinkled. “Ah, but there were bananas!”, he said.
“Pap would ride into town (St Jo) and take the train to Gainesville every year right before Christmas. He would bring back the biggest bunch of bananas you have ever seen.”, he explained. He held his arms wide, indicating the bunch of bananas was at least three feet long. He went on to describe how my grandfather would hand this large, yellow, bunch of bananas from the rafters in the kitchen of their home. “You know what the best part was kid?”, he asked, “I could get a banana anytime I wanted it.”
It was a very important lesson my Daddy taught me that day. Christmas isn’t about the hustle and bustle, or the decorations, or the gifts. It is a time to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, to spend it with true friends and family. It is a time to really appreciate what is important in your life.