making memories

christmas-in-dixieWith his Christmas email to me, my friend Richard attached a Cox family Christmas morning picture from the mid Fifties. I have an electronic copy somewhere, as does my brother Rick, who posted it on Facebook. That’s where Richard saw it. He knew my brother and I had lost touch since Obama turned the country into a Socialist haven, so he included a copy in his Christmas greeting.

The picture shows the Cox siblings pawing through the Christmas bounty for that particular year. I’m pretty sure I was seven, maybe eight. We had recently moved into the brand new Jim Walter home just off Highway 25.

I remember turning away from the camera so the flash wouldn’t blind me, exposing my oversized ears for posterity. Rick is playing with the gas powered airplane that constituted the primary Christmas gift for the two of us. He was, even then, interested in the mechanics of things.

Our dad would take our primary gift away from us later in the day and never let us touch it again. Anytime the airplane flew, it was with my dad in control and for a very short time. He never got the hang of gas powered airplanes. With every crash the propeller broke. Dad would fashion a new one in his basement shop but the aerodynamics weren’t the same. Eventually the plane just disappeared.

My sister had not yet become aware of the tea set or Monkey Joker doll on the other side of the scraggly tree. Each December the family would travel up the road to Dad’s childhood home to visit his mother and pick our tree. Must not have been much to pick from this particular year. My baby brother David was born in May ’57 so he wasn’t sure what was going on. He’s still like that.

There are two sets of cap pistols in the picture. I always got twin pistols because there was no such thing as a left handed gun holster in those days; at least not at the Western Auto in Centreville, or the Sears catalogue.

The old cherry table in the background was made by my dad’s uncle during the Thirties. As I write these words it still serves as my desk. We always had a bowl of fruit sitting on that table during Christmas, and usually some of those candy orange slices. Prosperous times brought chocolate covered cherries to the feast.

My parents liked board games and usually found a selection of assorted ones to display under the tree. We rarely played any of them except for Chinese Checkers. Is Chinese Checkers considered racist these days?

I know buying toy guns for seven year olds would be politically controversial today. In those days, guns were primarily a tool, not the very symbol of evil some people make them out to be, or the fantasy object of Freedom Lovers. I got my first real gun, a bolt action 410 shotgun a couple of years later.

Two pair of new shoes can be seen under the tree. We considered that cheating. Shoes, socks, and underwear didn’t count as Christmas gifts, although my parents always included those when listing the bounty we’d received to admonish our ungrateful attitude soon after the immediate magical atmosphere evaporated.

We were not very wealthy but weren’t aware of that. We were also making memories for all time, but weren’t aware of that either. Recollections linger long after people, places, and Christmas gifts disappear. Remember that during this special time. Remember that everything matters.

Also on my brother’s Facebook page is a group picture of the four Cox siblings and our parents from thirty years ago. This was the last time all of us were together. My parents are gone and the rest of us have grown old, stubborn and solitary. The only solid unchanged thing from that picture is an old, scarred homemade writing table.

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Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.