West: Nothing like Christmas in the country

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Remember your last white Christmas?

In this neck of the woods, it's been a few years ago.

While, there is always a slight chance of snow on Christmas eve or Christmas day, it is pretty unlikely unless you live in Idaho, Minnesota, Maine, Upstate New York, the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Naturally, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada Mountains all have a high probability of seeing a white Christmas.

The rarity of a White Christmas in Tennessee makes such an event even more memorable.

I remember such a Christmas Eve that happened more than a few years ago.

We were visiting Pa and Granny Van Hooser near Short Mountain and it started to snow. At that time, I was the only grandchild so my eyes were about to bug out of my head.

I "suffered" through the long, endless meal (it was delicious chicken and dressing by-the-way) before being relocated to the living room where a beautiful cedar tree stood under the stairway. It was a beautiful tree lit with red and green bubble lights (remember those?) and covered with foil icicles. Strings of popcorn and hand-painted, homemade ornaments decorated it. I can still smell it decades later.

Yours truly, of course, was under orders to sit in a chair AWAY from the tree and away from the warm fire that was blazing away in the fireplace. (Yep, that was before I learned to keep my hands to myself.)

Naturally, that fireplace was a spot of great interest to me. We didn't have such a thing at our modern, all-electric home. To top it off, I was under special instructions not to get near the fireplace with any of the colorful, bright wrapping paper. I had to sit by and watch my grandpa burn that paper after all the gifts were unwrapped. (Most of it was saved for another use.)

So after the wonderful meal, I was stuck near a warm fire, impatiently waiting along with the men folk. Normally, a nap would have followed, but not on Christmas Eve.

Those fellows had great stories to tell. I normally enjoyed listening to every word, especially those from my Pa. He could tell a great tale in his own, quiet way.
Naturally, a few jibes were sent in my direction, but I didn't really anticipate any switches or lumps of coal in my Christmas stocking.

My thoughts were drifting away when I heard a tapping at the window.

Turning, I was shocked to see the face of Santa Claus looking back at me through the icy window. I jumped out of my chair and turned around ... and Santa was gone.

Then there was a knock at the side door.

Running across the room, I pulled back the curtain and WHAM ... there was Santa again.

In the blink of an eye, Claus disappeared into the darkness once again. Wow, he was fast.

"Did you see him ... Did you see him?" I roared.

Naturally, none of the adults in the room had seen a thing.

My Father, Grand Pa denied it all, blaming it on my fertile imagination. Uncle John couldn't deny it. After all, it was him that pointed Santa out.

The rest of the crew just grinned and shrugged. Nope, didn't see ol' Claus. Even my own Mother hadn't seen him (and she would never tell a falsehood).

"No sir, no Santa ... my imagination must be running away from reality."

But I knew what I saw. It was a couple of quick looks, but I absolutely knew it was Santa Claus.

I looked around the room. Everyone was there ... except for Granny.

"Ah-ha," I thought as I dashed back to the kitchen only to discover Granny there drying dishes.

"What's your hurry?" she asked with a little grin dancing on her face.

"Embarrassed, I had nothing to say and headed back to the living room which was warmed even hotter by laughter.

Still doubting my story, the grown-ups opened the side door. There, for anybody to see, were Santa's footprints.

But before the investigation could continue, it was finally time for gifts!

I got more than my share, including one suspiciously marked in cryptic handwriting "from Santa."

Inside that bright red package was a red-striped flashlight. It was made from metal...and it actually worked!

That was the first of many flashlights. Yep, I still collect them.

I wish I still had that original. It was a beaut.

By the way, the next Christmas that little trick with Santa Claus just didn't work as well.

But there were younger brothers and cousins to come. While they may deny it, I can remember them hopping up and down at the site of old Santa.

Yup, even in this day and time, there's nothing like Christmas in the country.

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Christmas 2015, Mike West
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