December 2015
Simple Times

Christmas memories from Old Field Farm

 
  My grandparents James (Jim) and Vennie Inmon as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary August 9, 1959.

What is it about Christmas that makes us think of the past so much?

Was it because we were younger? Is it because we miss our families? Or is it because of Christ’s sacrifice that makes us want to share so much of our lives and share His Gospel with everyone?

Many of my regular column readers may know that my maternal grandparents were Vennie and Jim Inmon. Way back in 1983 I shared some of their Christmas memories with a local newspaper where I was a reporter.

Granny then remembered her childhood Christmases near Altoona in Etowah County and then in the edge of Blount County as special because she and her three brothers and two sisters looked forward to the big red apples and a sticks of candy they’d receive in their stockings. It was a special Christmas indeed when she received a small, black-haired doll whose head was made of china with a body of softly stuffed cotton.

Christmases with Grandpa Jim and their five daughters and two sons proved even more special. Grandpa was truly "Santa" and Granny his "Missus" as they sprinkled soot on Christmas tree branches so the children would see what a hard time Santa had dragging the tree down the chimney. Large sooty-black footprints also made a trail across the freshly scrubbed floor ....

Granny was only 13 or 14 when they married, so looking back now I can see that they were only kids themselves as they began welcoming their family of seven. (They were married for more than 50 years!)

Many of the toys their kids received were homemade, and Granny displayed a special talent for creating stuffed animals and dolls without patterns from scraps of fabric from old clothes and wherever else she could find. (Every time I make something similar to sell in my tiny general store I think of her sewing those little special critters and how my mama loved them!)

Granny ALWAYS made a chocolate cake and a coconut cake for Christmas. The coconut had to be hand scraped from a real coconut (and I remember thinking of how those coconuts – that we saw ONLY at Christmas back then – looked like little monkey faces). The coconut couldn’t be from a box or bag! The children had to leave the tempting cakes untouched in the middle of the table until the big day – but on Christmas Eve, Santa always helped himself to a large piece of each! Only later did my mama and the other kids put two and two together as they remembered Granny’s fondness for coconut and Jim’s for chocolate!

When the children were older, cutting the tree became a family affair, and they trooped through the woods until they found a pine that would touch the ceiling. Sweet gum balls were dipped in flour to make snowy ornaments, popcorn was strung and crepe paper twisted to produce other decorations.

My mama could also remember Granny twisting crepe paper in special ways to form ropes across the ceiling that all tied together in the center of the ceiling with a special homemade ornament trimmed with twigs of holly or other greenery in the middle.

Grandpa began to actually play Santa at Olive Branch Church and, until about two years before his death in 1964, he WAS Santa for numerous churches, clubs, the city of Oneonta and scores of starry-eyed grandchildren (including me).

Grandpa babied Granny until his death, but a lot of good-natured kidding and joking happened through the years! Granny always "snooped" to try and determine her present under the Christmas tree. One year, Grandpa hid her real present and wrapped a brown, stuffed teddy bear and placed it under the tree.

"I punched little holes in the paper trying to see what was in that package and I got sooooo mad," she told me later as she laughed.

The bear survived more than 50 years and was loved by a generation of grandkids and great grandkids, and nobody seems to remember what the "real" present was!

I inherited that precious brown bear after Granny died, but it was lost in a fire many years ago ....

Grandpa was sort of a handyman and could make many interesting things. At Christmas, he decorated their yard with cutouts of Christmas figures he made and painted. Of course, there was Santa, a snowman and other imaginary friends, but there was always an angel or two and sometimes even a specially cut out and painted nativity scene ....

As mentioned before, my grandpa died in 1964, but my Granny lived until the mid-1980s and EVERYONE in the family was REQUIRED to spend Christmas Day at Granny’s! By the time of her death, her descendants numbered near 100 and we basically all still trooped to Granny’s little, white clapboard house in Oneonta for Christmas dinner every year!

Although she was blind and basically homebound, she kept up with everyone’s activities throughout the year and she KNEW who didn’t come on Christmas, and they better have had a good excuse for missing!

Until near the end of her life, she made certain every one of her grown children, her grandchildren and then beginning her great grandchildren had at least one present underneath her tree!!! It didn’t matter to us if it came from the local five and dime store: it was personally picked out and wrapped by Granny and Christmas wasn’t officially Christmas until we opened that special gift!

And Christmas wasn’t usually Christmas unless several gathered around the old upright piano in the dining room and sang old-time Gospel songs!

My first cousins Shirley Evans Moss, Grace Evans Huie and Polly Evans Gargus usually formed the basis of the singing with my Uncle Gene Inmon providing a resounding bass! Several took turns playing the piano, but it was Grace who played by ear the most from the time she was so little her feet dangled from the piano bench!

I was so blessed to be a part of this huge family whose legacy continues onward ....

But the best legacy I received there and from my parents Paul and Inez Lowry and from my Grandpa Harly Lowry and his wife I never knew, Maud Smith Lowry, was the knowledge that Christmas was only the BEGINNING. That little baby boy was born in a manger to die for me and take away my sins!

The Christmas story is a simple one. But it didn’t end with the bright star above and it didn’t even end with the cross ... Christ arose so that any who repent, believe on Him and consecrate their lives to Him can share in His eternal life.

May your Christmas be filled with Christ’s true glory!

Merry Christmas from Suzy and all the critters at Old Field Farm!

Suzy Lowry Geno lives a simple life at Old Field Farm in Blount County. She can be reached through her website at www.suzysfarm.com.