Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jingle, Jangle, Jostle Christmas ~ By Allison Rhodes

Winter winds were blowing down the mountain into the South Carolina hamlet of Walhalla when my sister and I hatched our holiday scheme. It was 1957; Becky was 6 and I was 9. We wanted to surprise our mama and daddy with gifts we purchased ourselves. Only one problem: no money. When we spied the box of empty Coke bottles at our grandmother’s back door we knew what to do. The A&P paid two cents for every returned bottle. Out of the shed came the red Radio Flyer wagon and we began our day of work. To create the needed volume we scoured roadsides, went door to door and talked two grandmothers out of their glass stash. As our load grew, so did our excitement. We were on a mission.

We made at least four trips down Main Street to the A&P. Shoppers would stop and stare as the two runny- nosed girls pulled their metal wagon of rattling glass bottles. As the older sister I was becoming socially savvy enough to recognize expressions of annoyance on the faces of adult onlookers who did not appreciate the racket made by our entrepreneurial sibling team. It was the 1950’s and small town children typically ran free all day long. So we were sure Mama and Daddy had no idea what we were doing. The fluttery feeling of a shared secret was palpable in our endeavor.

We skillfully dodged the dreaded street evangelists who posted themselves in front of the A&P every Saturday thrusting pamphlets at shoppers. Once, when grocery shopping with Daddy, I took a flyer that urged me to consider where I would spend eternity. Fear filled me when I studied the caricature of a screaming man burning in hell. Today I was sure we were earning immunity from the flames by our work of love. When we had collected all loose bottles inside a one mile perimeter and redeemed each wagon load with the patient grocery cashier, we tabulated our profit. Fourth grade skills of division enabled me, the senior partner, to announce what we had for each parent. Time to shop. We went to Bell’s Drug store and finally decided on a beautiful deck of cards for our bridge-playing Mama and a new red pack of Winstons for our Daddy. Finally these thought-filled gifts were wrapped and placed under the family tree. We were satisfied with the triumph of giving from our own efforts.

Over half a century has passed since that cold Saturday. Different choices and paths added to the old sibling rivalry created distance between my sister and me. Now I yearn for the simple joy of joining our hands on a cold wagon handle and embarking on a shared adventure. Wonder where two women in their 60’s can find some loose Coke bottles?

Take time to remember and share your holiday memory. It can create meaning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sunbury~ by Marcia Mayo

This past Thanksgiving, my daughter Molly and I drove down to Sunbury, on the Georgia coast, where my parents had a home when my children were young. For Molly, who was only six when my folks sold their house to move into a retirement community, Sunbury seems a bit like a dream. For my two older children, though, it was a magical place very different from our home town, a place on the river where they could run and play with their cousins, watch and laugh with their grandfather at the antics of the neighboring peacocks, and go fishing and shrimping with their grandmother. There was even an electric car they could drive up and down the sandy roads to and from the dock. Sunbury helped to define their childhoods, embellishing their remembrances with the smell of river mud, the feel of the coastal sun on bare backs, and the taste of a low country boil. For me, it was a place to be a daughter again, turning over the reins of daily life to my mama and daddy for a few short days.

Sunbury is, to my children, what my friend Mary Summerlin calls a sacred place, a place that anchors them, a place replete with the gentle ghosts of fond memories.

What are your sacred places and what memories do you have of them?