Tis the season when I become nostalgic and remember Christmas time at my parents and an assortment of relatives’ houses. Being raised in Milwaukee, I understood what the late Bing Crosby meant by a White Christmas. We wished for light snow instead of a snowstorm. If that be the case, I would grab my snow shovel and go around the neighborhood knocking on old people doors. They would pay a reasonable price for me shoveling out the walkway to their house. If you knew my father, you would understand where I got the idea. Like Codis the first I would take every opportunity to earn a dollar. Mind you I performed those tasks early in the morning. So I could be back in time to enjoy Christmas Day with my family.
Oh, what Christmas Days those were; it seemed longer back in the day. My stepsister and I had to wait for momma and daddy to get up before opening any presents. They would usually come out of their room around nine o’clock. It was a long agonizing wait because we were up as early as five o’clock. The big day always seemed to fall on a day after our parents spent Christmas eve playing cards, nipping at beer or alcohol and entertaining guest.
In time, Mama Rosalie would begin to cook breakfast. Another long agonizing time as we had to wait until she finished cooking. She would not open her presents until after breakfast. Daddy followed suit which would make me and my stepsister so anxious. Then after waiting so long, we wouldn’t get a lot of the toys we wanted. We mostly received school clothes, things we needed and books. Over the years we got used to it. We didn’t have a chimney, so Santa Clause didn’t stop by our house. My daddy would joke about shooting Santa if he came through our Third-floor window. That’s when we realize there was no Santa. Because daddy would never shoot Santa, would he? We found other ways to amuse ourselves by collecting or earning money to buy ourselves a toy or two.
By early afternoon, the visitors would start to stop by and wish us a Merry Christmas. If an Uncle or someone didn’t come to our house, my father would allow me to ride with him to their home. It must have been a golden rule established in my relatives’ southern hometowns of Arkansas. Go by and visit the sick and shut-in. Always check on your family members. Somehow between Christmas Eve and the big day, we would see all our relatives for a minute or two. At one time, I thought every black person in Milwaukee was related to me in some form or fashion. Daddy seemed to know everybody in the city.
Yes, I do remember Grandma Gracie who had her own little apartment within walking distance of our house. Cousin Buddy, his wife Ruby and their three kids (Louis, Larry and Ruby Jean) who lived on the first floor of our three-story building. From other places in the city, there was Uncles Monroe, Aunts Mittie Lue, Calvin & Marjorie, Peach & Vernese, Abe & Rose, Curtis & Verdia, Clarence & Gertherene. Aunt Lacireen & Uncle RT, Aunt Lena & Uncle Colrolus still lived in Arkansas. Of course, they all had kids, some were the same age as me. While others were older and younger, there were cousins Roy Lee, Johnny Lee and Vernell to name a few. This was to name just a few whereas we all managed to see one another during the holiday season. Our parents would look to that ritual.
It is that foundation from which I was raised I find comfort in being myself. One always found themselves protected from all the outside ills of society. If somehow, we encountered a problem we always knew how to handle it. Or our parents and that assortment of relatives would come to the aide of those who needed it; anytime and anyplace. They were people who worked hard, played hard and worship God on Sundays and other occasions.
I can’t tell you how many times my Grandma Gracie said she was going to pray for me. Especially during my teen years. When I was finally allowed to go around the corner from my house. Or that old warning, “Boy you are getting a little big for your britches, aren’t you?” With that, she meant I was beginning to act outside my age. They never wanted you to grow up so fast.
I think about those people today. I missed the conversations we had about family, history, life and the current state of the black race. Now you may understand why I write books and articles about those people. How I do miss my mother, father, stepmother, mother-in-law, uncles, aunts and a host of other goodwill people of their ages. Around Ninety-Eight Percent of those old Southern Souls have passed on and left a legacy of people like their children and me. I, my siblings and cousins who are left are now the older generation of migrates from Bradley County, Banks, Arkansas and the surrounding area. With pride, we say we are chips off the old blocks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love and enjoy the family my wife and I have brought into this world. I am always happy to see or talk to my sisters, brothers, and countless cousins spread throughout the United States. My wife and I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the career success we had before retiring from the rat race. But we also know that success is a credit to those old Southern Souls and God. We love and enjoy the new friends and acquaintances we’ve made and can claim today. Yet, there is no denying the value of having come from those Southern Souls of the past. God broke the mold with many of those people. I know that many of you know exactly what I am talking about from members of your own family. May they rest in peace knowing they did a very credible job at life.
Peace, stay vigilant for our American Rights, Blessings and Merry Christmas to you all…from the Hampton Family.
Codis Hampton II
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We are in a continuing effort to publicize my book, Gracie Hall-Hampton, the Arkansas Years 1917-1953. It examines an era of Jim Crow that many in our society may have forgotten occurred against people of color. Meanwhile, we celebrate the publication of my latest and fifth book, Misguided Intentions. Click on the publisher-Authors page at https://outskirtspress.com/MisguidedIntentions
Enjoy the book I wrote honoring my father, entitled Remembering Moz. Get a copy at https://outskirtspress.com/rememberingmoz
Get any of my books by visiting my Amazon.com Authors page at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B017TYFKBI?ref_=pe_1724030_132998070
Copyright 2011 Codis Hampton II, all rights reserved. A bi-weekly blog for your enjoyment