Off the Porch: Memories, the ultimate Christmas gift

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 05:48 PM

Christmas is a time when all of us with a few miles on our odometer, spend a little time looking back. I know that, for me at least, the memories I most treasure don’t involve even the best things I got for Christmas. There were some wonderful things under those spindly itchy cedar trees that came off the edges of our fields when I was a boy.
I think back to the year I got a Nichols 45 cap pistol. It was and still is the best cap pistol ever made. Look it up online and you’ll see they currently bring several hundred dollars. It came in a separate box from the holster and it came with black and white pearl grips so you could be a good guy or a bad guy. The loading gate worked, the cylinder turned and held cases and bullets that looked so real I could mistake them for the real thing today. That year I also got a black corduroy cowboy outfit Mama sewed for me on her Wizard sewing machine. I had a cowboy hat, and boots. It was something else.
Of course, there were other memorable Christmas gifts, the Bear fiberglass bow that caused me to constantly spend all the money I had on arrows because I was constantly losing them. The Daisy 25 BB rifle, a pump air rifle that cannot possibly be as accurate and powerful as I remember, made for a great Christmas. One year, I got an HO scale slot car set and I had so much fun with it that I found it and revived it when I was a grown man. Joe Clodfelter, Jerry Kennedy, Buzz Kennedy, and I all held regular HO scale races in my living room. Imagine, a Christmas present so good it spawned four grown men playing with it when they were in their twenties.
All of us remember those great Christmas’s, and we also remember the excitement of talking to Santa Claus, Church Christmas plays and speeches, peeking at wrapped gifts, looking for unwrapped ones, drawing names, and Christmas parties. Of course, after Christmas, there was the custom of bringing your best Christmas present to school on the first day after Christmas vacation. At least, we did that at Hasty. I remember Buddy Cox, I think, trying to trade me out of the Nichols .45. If I remember right, he offered a Mattel Shootin’ Shell pistol and rifle for the Nichols, but I said no way. Imagine now if half the kids in elementary school showed up with a toy pistol on the same day. It would make national news.
Of course, one thing I remember was the word, nutsonfruitsoncandy. Nutsonfruitsoncandy was the end of the answer to the perennial Christmas question in December in the late 50s and early 60s. The question was, “What do you want for Christmas?” Everybody you knew asked you the question, and in my generation, you responded with the main object of your desire and finished the sentence with and nutsonfruitsoncandy. Apparently this was something that only happened in the South because my Yankee wife, Cherie, never heard the phrase until she moved to North Carolina. 
In those days, mention of Christmas didn’t begin until we were a few days into December and it really wasn’t the Christmas season until the local Christmas parades were officially over when Santa Claus and his sled brought up the rear. Once it was Christmas, Christmas and thoughts of it consumed everything, much like my old friend, Ralphie in the movie, The Christmas Story. Even though they were city people, and obviously not from the South, that movie most reminds me of the excitement of Christmas of any Christmas program on TV.
In spite of all these memories of toys, school parties, and parades, the really sweet Christmas memories for me come when I think of Grandad and Grandmother, Mama and Daddy, Uncle Bill and Aunt Dinky, and Uncle Jake and Aunt Mae. The patriarchs and matriarchs of my family always held a Christmas party that occurred on Christmas Eve. Most of the time, it was at our house and the house was filled with all of them and my closest cousins. It was the biggest feast of the year with ham, chicken, beef, and a table full of vegetables, Mama’s or Aunt Dinky’s homemade light rolls, multiple cakes and pies and Mama’s fruit salad, a concoction that she made once a year, but in such a big batch that the leftover fruit salad lasted almost into the New Year. I liked to slather it on top of a big slice of pecan or strawberry cake iced with whipped cream. It makes my mouth water to think of it.
Of course, almost all of them are gone now; only Uncle Jake is still with us. I suspect the Christmas celebration where they are is even more spectacular than those wonderful times when I was a boy. I miss them much more than any of the above and they gave me a much better gift than I ever found under an evergreen tree. They gave me love and attention. They gave me an example of how to live my life, raise my children, and respect my maker. Most importantly, they made sure I knew that Christmas was really about a much more important gift. A gift of redemption for mankind.
They were wonderful people, men who fought in World War II, and women who toughed out the time they were gone, and took care of the home front. They were the stuff America is made of, and the best kind of it.
I hope during this Christmas, you remember pleasant memories of those who made you who you are, and I hope you resolve yourself to do a better job of giving that same gift to those God has entrusted to you. I hope you have fond memories of Christmas past, and that you make even more this Christmas. I hope you get what you want out of this Christmas and I hope you want the right things.
Have a Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to enjoy some nutsonfruitsoncandy.
A few years back, my neighbor, Bennie and his son, Addison, came by the house and asked of Addison could shoot his new gun he got for Christmas. We threw a few straightaway targets off my clays range and, on about his third shot, Addison hit his first flying target. It was a neat thing for him, but I believe I enjoyed it even more. It began a tradition that I keep every year. If you plan to give your child a new gun for Christmas and want them to be able to shoot it, email me and I’ll send you directions to the house. I plan to have the shotgun and .22 range open from 1:00 pm till 3:00 pm. We may even have some hot Chocolate! Merry Christmas!!
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com.