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Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

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My Great Aunt, Hazel Currie, recently shared a Christmas memory with me-an Appalachian Christmas memory.


The first Christmas I can recall clearly was in 1938. We lived in Cherokee County, NC along the Hiawasse River on the Harshaw Farm, where my Poppa was a sharecropper.

I remember Poppa bringing in a pine tree he'd cut in the woods-he'd even found one with pine cones-already decorated by nature.



My step mother, Carrie, allowed us children to use flour and water to mix up a paste to make chains of paper. In those days, flour was hard to come by- it still pleases me to know she wanted us to enjoy the act of decorating enough to allow us to use her flour. We also drew pictures of trees and stars and cut them out-threading a string through the paper for hanging on the tree.

We heard the John C. Campbell Folk School was having a Christmas party for children. The road to the school went along by the side of the river-it was about 3 miles in distance. I remember my step siblings, Mary Jo, Francis, Frank, Wayne, and I walked to the party. I can still see the beauty in my mind's eye. The school had decorated a huge Christmas tree and they had a little play about the nativity-with Mary and Joseph and a little crib for baby Jesus. I sat there lost in wonder-trying to take in every detail so I could relive the magic over and over.



After the play, Santa Claus arrived. I'd never seen Santa before and could hardly believe he was there. Santa carried a toe sack instead of a fancy bag-and in the toe sack were dozens of small brown bags full of the prettiest hard candies I have ever seen. Santa handed out the little brown bags chug full of candy tied at the top with a string. To say we were happy doesn't do justice to the emotion we felt.

On the walk back home, I wanted to talk about the play and go over every detail of the party, but the other kids were so happy they laughed the entire way home not wanting to talk-just wanting to celebrate.

After reaching home, I shared a piece of candy with Poppa and Carrie then I hid the rest-wanting to savor every piece of happiness I'd received from the party. The other kids soon ate their candy-but they never did find my hiding place!

I hope you enjoyed Aunt Hazel's story as much as I did! Leave her comment-I'll make sure she reads every one.

Tipper

p.s. If you'd like to see Pap and Paul in a Carolina Crafting Christmas Special click here! To read more about my Appalachian Heritage please visit me at the Blind Pig & The Acorn.

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Comment by Dot Jackson on December 22, 2008 at 11:27pm
Oh, Tipper, please tell Aunt Hazel that in her story I relived one of mine -- three years later -- that I treasure. We were living in Hothouse, off Highway 64 in the western end of Cherokee County, just before you crossed over Franklin Mountain into the red scald ruins of Ducktown.
Our school was on the top of a ridge where a path went across from Uncle Tommy Johnson's cornfield (and the Hothouse road) and came out down near Mt. Moriah Church. It was probably a five-mile radius, our "school district."
Anyway, I do not remember HOW we got up to the school, in the evening, for our play -- there was sure no way to drive, and it was dark by 5 o'clock, at Christmas, and the trail was so bad, crossing the creek on an icy footlog, with places so steep the laurel bushes were worn to a nub by our desperately clinging hands. And, the school had to be lit by oil lamps.
Nonetheless, we had a big crowd, and a Christmas tree, and I was the little orphan in the play and got to "sleep" under the tree. At the end, we got those little bags with an orange and such pretty candies.
That was 1941, about two weeks after Pearl Harbor, and our lives were about to change radically, forever. That era will always be the happiest time of my childhood, and Aunt Rosie and Uncle Tommy Johnson's place the dearest to my heart. It is falling in now; I saw it again, after many, many years, just a few weeks ago, and what I had thought of as a palace has been left to pass on. But then -- it's been nearly 70 years, and I am pretty much a ruin, too. But oh, the joyful memories!
Comment by Glenda on December 19, 2008 at 12:56am
Tipper, I love your aunt Hazel's story. Please tell her thank you for sharing it and thanks to you for writing it for us.

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