‘Twas the Night before Christmas
When all through the house,
Family was gathered, gifts under the tree,
Dinner was ready, how delicious it smells,
When what to our wandering minds should occur,
But the birth of a child,
She was coming today!
About twenty people were crowded in a tiny four-room house, all gathered to celebrate Christmas. The floor around the tree was stacked high with red and green wrapped packages, many of the gifts were homemade. It was a cold and exciting Christmas Eve, and what a feast the family had brought to the house on Avenue A in Denton, Texas.
Every surface in the little kitchen was filled with the special foods of Christmas, baked ham and roasted chicken, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, baked corn, vegetables of every kind, Mamma Hays’ homemade rolls, all bringing the wonderful aromas of dinner cooking.
And no one could ever skip the desserts, my Aunt Gladys’ famous divinity cake with lemon filling, Aunt Pricy’s coconut mound pies and fried Apricot pies, my mother’s burnt sugar cake and fried chocolate tarts, and Aunt Johnnie’s pecan pies. And if you were still hungry you could sample the homemade cookies, fudge, pralines, divinity, and date loaf candy. Oh, what blessed memories of family and food and laughter.
Bill and I moved back to Texas in September when he left the military and were excited to celebrate Christmas with family. Bill was enrolled at North Texas University finishing up his degree; he was also working for the Denton Record Chronicle reporting the local farm news, which was quite a learning experience for a city boy. We had left Kansas City and Army G-2 life behind us and were settling in for long-awaited visits with the family we had missed for several years.
So why am I sitting in a rocking chair in a robe, you might ask.
And why are twenty people packed in a little four-room house when my parents had a larger home in Dallas?
‘Twas the night before Christmas and I was in labor, we were having a baby! Plans changed earlier that day, instead of Bill and I going to Dallas for Christmas, everyone loaded up the food and came to Denton. Our baby was coming and on the predicted date! And if you know her, she is never late!
It was quite a day, the family started arriving early afternoon, and at six o’clock everyone watched me slide in the car and leave for the hospital. The doctor arrived in a flurry of activity all dressed up in a suit and sporting a Christmas tie. He examined me then sent me home saying the baby would not be born until Christmas Day, I think he just wanted to go back to his party! So we returned to the house where everyone was waiting.
I sat in the rocking chair (it had arms to help me up), Bill knelt behind the rocker with his arm around me and staring at me like I might explode any minute! As labor became more intense and closer together, presents with my name were dug out from under the tree. I rapidly opened baby gifts in both blues and pinks. Back then there were no sonograms and we didn’t know if a son or daughter was on the way. At eight o’clock Bill took me to the hospital again and this time a caravan of cars followed us. This baby was not waiting until Christmas Day!
I’m not sure Flow Memorial Hospital in Denton will ever be quite the same; my noisy family filled the waiting area near the delivery room and was singing Christmas carols. I could still hear them when at 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve my first child, my daughter Kimberly was born!
I really don’t know what happened to that wonderful dinner that filled the kitchen in my home or to all the wrapped presents. I was told that lights burned bright in that house and there was a celebration that lasted until Christmas morning!
I saw a movie earlier this season entitled “Every Christmas Has a Story.” That title caused me to think about the many Christmases of the past, and I realized that every year a new story unfolds for each of us. I remember the excitement and anticipation when I was a child. I remember the celebrations at my grandparents and other family homes. I remember fifty years of celebrating Christmas in my home in Irving, some all-nighters putting toys together, some sad ones when a loved one was gone, some catastrophes such as water pipes bursting under the house, some exhausting, and some perfect and glorious but I don’t think any ever topped the Christmas Eve Kimberly was born. As I age, I cherish each and every one of them— oh yes, every Christmas has a story and every story is special…and I remember.
I was recently asked what I think the spirit of Christmas means, and I answered quickly it was not Hallmark movies even though I do love to watch them. Then I had to stop and think. I thought about what it is not, it’s not the frantic shopping trips or the decorations; it’s not the wonderful meals and presents; it’s certainly not all the hustle and bustle of the season.
For me, Christmas is a celebration of love. It signifies a time of rebirth, a time to pause and cease striving, to put worldly conflicts aside, and just love the ones the Lord has put in my life. But it is not only dear memories of my loved ones, it goes deeper than that. It is a holy time, the original Christmas story happened 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, when our Lord came to earth in human form to save his beloved people.
Through the years I have thought about Mary and the birth of Jesus on Christmas. I remember when I first looked at my tiny baby girl that Christmas Eve; it was the most incredible love I had ever felt. And I knew how Mary looked at her Baby Boy.
Perhaps the spirit of Christmas is the incredible love that God felt for His people and the love that we feel for Him and for our families. I think how blessed I am to have daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I think how blessed I am to have a stepdaughter and stepson. I think how blessed I am to have friends, both old and new, and the many friends where I live today.
‘Twas on the night before Christmas that I learned what love truly is. That same love fills my heart today when I look at this daughter who was born on that unforgettable Christmas Eve—she will always and forever be my baby girl.
So with a heart filled with love and joy
I wish my first-born daughter Kimberly
A very, very happy birthday!
I wish all my family and friends
A very, very merry Christmas!
P.S. How about sharing a story with me in the comment section below!
lots of forgotten memories for me-very good gary
What a story!
Merry Christmas, Betty. Great story!
Betty, thanks for sharing this wonderfui story. I could almost feel I was there.
Lovely story, a gift for your children and grand children!