Tears and Laughter: Merry Country Christmas

Christmas in Southwest Alabama does not have the same feeling as the glistening Christmases portrayed in movies and on Christmas cards.

Not once in all of my life has a snowflake fallen on Christmas. Both sides of my family have been in the Clarke/Marengo area for 200 years and I doubt they ever saw a white Christmas either.

I guess that is best though. Snow paralyzes the Deep South. If it ever snowed here we would probably cancel Christmas entirely so that we could all go buy milk, bread, candles, and batteries.

What we lack in snow and holiday glow, we make up for in colorful lights. Every year I have friends who want me to ride with them to different places and see outstanding light displays in Mobile or Montgomery.

They tell me with great excitement how you can tune your car radio to certain stations and listen to Christmas music that will keep rhythm with the flashing lights.

These yards are over the top gorgeous. They are bright and dazzling and clearly take a great amount of skill and patience. There is no telling how many people have been inspired to wonder, “My God, how long did this take to put together?”

They are something to see, and some of them mixed with a song, can make you feel like you are standing on the edge of something wonderful happening.

But Christmas in the country is different. Some houses have an electric lighted candle in every window. Others have two, or even just a chosen one, like they have it on waiting for somebody to return.

There might be a snaggled strand of big-bulb lights draped over a row of shrubs. Sometimes portions of fences will be lined or only a section of a roof will be outlined. Some places look like the owners just connected string to string whatever they had in the attic, allowing them to stop just wherever they ended.

I question sometimes when I am driving along what it was that made them put them out to begin with. Why did they even bother? And yet, in me I already know. In the country, the slightest twinkling can seem magical.

We hang wreaths on gates out front of houses where only memories remain, just to stand for a moment on ground where old family used to stand.

We use their handwritten recipes and bake their cakes, so our hands go through the same motions as theirs.

I have never known anyone who eats fruitcake, but I still see them every year. There is always someone trying to recapture a slice of the way things used to be.

I can’t feel that spirit within lights that keep time with the beat of Christmas music on the radio. But a single strand of colorful lights outlining the front door of an old frame house, I can feel. It interrupts the dark and quiet countryside at night…and reminds me how very much I love and value this place we call home.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.