Why, honey, how good it is to see you. And look at that
basket—tangerines and all manner of good things, I know. Just set it down
there, I won’t ask you to come in the house but on this mild day we can set a
spell out here in the sun. Crazy weather for December, ain’t it?—that little shower
first thing this morning and now the sun shining. Look how it sets the drops
alight on my little cedar tree there.
Why yes, hit’s just planted. I took me a notion I’d like a
little cedar to look at and Bernice’s boy dug one out of his pasture and brung
it over and planted it yesterday. He put that bow atop it and said it could be
Get you that rocker there at the other end of the porch and
we’ll holler at one another.
You uns doing good up there? Not no one taken this dreadful
virus since last we visited? Now, that’s just fine.
No, I ain’t going to Dor’thy’s for Christmas Day like usual.
Ain’t nothing usual about this year, is there? Oh, Dor’thy’s all right, so far,
but one of her friends from church has got the Covid and she visited Dor’thy
right before she got sick. So Dor’thy’s been tested and is waiting to see what
I’ll be just fine—I got all kinds of food on hand. Hit’ll
be a quiet day but I don’t mind that. I’ve had a plenty of them quiet days and
you know what? Hit’s those quiet times that send me back to the past,
remembering good times . . . It’s right
quare . . . sometimes this little house seems just full of folks from times
gone by and I can hear them laughing and funning and singing just as plain . .
Now you’ll likely think I’m crazy but what I do is to stretch
out in my recliner and close my eyes. That old heater is roaring and I can
smell the spice-smell of the bowl of tangerines at my side and the gingerbread
cooling in the kitchen. I just drift, warm and at my ease, and afore long I
hear Luther, telling Cletus the Christmas story and Cletus asking questions
like why didn’t Mary and Joseph come here for he would have let them have his
room. And then seems like I hear a whole crowd of folks a-jabbering away and
someone calls for quiet and Nellmarie, who was a young woman what lived with us
for a time, starts to sing “I Wonder As I Wander” and her pretty voice is a
clear as a bell a-ringing.
I just lay there with my eyes squinched tight and quick as
Nellamarie’s song dies away, fiddle music starts up and it’s all I can do to
hold still. Hit sounds like old Bill Gentry—one of Luther’s cousins—who was the
best musicianer you ever heard. By now I am grinning like a fool and hit’s just
as well ain’t no one here with me for I am having me a time, just laying
there in the recliner.
You don’t think I’m crazy, do you? I see how you’re
smiling. But, honey, ever since I lost Luther and then Cletus, I’ve learned to
be content with my own company . . . and my good memories.
Now, you know I got some Cherokee blood—my mama didn’t like to
talk of it but her mama, my Granny Beck, was half Cherokee and she used to tell me
stories. Those are part of my good memories. It was last week that I remembered
what she told me about the cedar tree—and it got me to thinking as how I’d like
a little cedar in the yard where I could see it everwhen I wanted. Bernice’s
boy is awful good to humor this old woman, don’t you think? Why, he 's going to get me a new little TV now that the old one has quit working.
What’s the story about the cedar? Well, hit goes like this. Seems like way
back when the Cherokee were first here, they got together and decided they’d
like things better if there weren’t no night. So they begged God to make it day
all the time and that’s what happened. No night at all and the corn and the
squash and the beans was growing like one thing.
Pretty soon though, all the growing things was just running
wild and couldn’t nobody keep the weeds outen the gardens. And it got awful hot
and folks got dreadful bad tempered and ill at one another.
Pretty soon, the people saw they’d made a bad mistake and they
begged God to make it night all the time instead. Now God knew that things were
made in twos for a reason—night and day, good and bad, and so on and though God
thought the folks was awful silly, God went ahead and did like the folks was
Well, you can imagine how it went. Dark all the time, didn’t
no crops grow; it got dreadful cold and the people had to spend all their time
looking for wood for their fires. Many of the people took sick and the older and
weaker ones begun to die off.
The folks that was left finally come to their senses and asked
God to put things back like they’d been at the start—day and night, light and
dark. And once again, God did like they asked. Soon things went back to how
they should be and the crops began to grow and the people thanked God for
fixing their mistake.
God felt bad, though, on account of all the folks what had
died during that long night and decided to invent a new tree to put their souls
into. And that was the first cedar tree. My Granny Beck always kept a bit of
cedar wood nearby—she said the smell of it always lifted her spirits.
And that’s what that little cedar yon does for me. Looky
there, the sun's starting to drop behind the mountain but see how it sets to shining those drops still clinging to the lacy green branches? Granny
would have said that each one of those little lights is one of my Cherokee ancestors. So you
see, betwixt the spirits in the tree and the memory folks in the house, I ain’t
a bit lonely this Christmas.
And I'll tell you what else. With a vaccine on the way and a good and sensible
president a-coming in, and a fine woman for his vice president— a woman, after all this time--how happy I
am! My heart is jest a-singing!
Law, there goes the sun. Without it shining on us, it's too cold to set out here and listen to an old woman's foolishness. You best get on home. I thank you for my Christmas and, if nothing don't happen, I'll hug your neck afore long. Now, you uns take care of one another and make you some good
memories to save up.
She was in her Jeep and halfway home when she noticed the foil-wrapped loaf on the seat beside her. Drat! How did it fall out of the basket? Shaking her head, she turned around to deliver the cranberry bread to Miss Birdie.
More rain seemed to be on the way and the lights from Birdie's house were cheery in the gloom of the late afternoon. She hurried to the porch. . . but stopped at the sound of a fiddle and voices raised in song. A beautiful haunting melody ended and was followed by a buzz of talk and a burst of friendly laughter as Cletus asked when Santy would get here.
It was cold now and she returned quietly to her car, leaving the loaf on a rocker and Birdie with her house full of memories.