Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

     The other day while I was driving down the road listening to Christmas music a certain nostalgia hit me.  The song was, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams (the best version of the song in my humble opinion- anything by Andy Williams is top notch.)  Memories began to flow.....of my dearly departed Mother and Father, of my sweet niece Patricia who left this world far too soon, and of my childhood and past Christmases in general.  I thought about the first Christmas I spent with my lovely wife, and subsequently met my new family in the Great State of Wisconsin!  My dear sweet mama always used to tell me, "If you marry a woman whose mother doesn't like you then you are in deep trouble.  Make sure she has good parents before you marry her."  Well, Cheryl most definitely had that covered, and a fine extended family to boot.  I also began to think about how fired up my kids get this time of year, just like I used to, and a general "Circle of Life" feeling came over me.  Christmas memories are a good measuring stick on whether you've had a good life I believe, and I sure have some good ones.  There would be no way to share all the great memories of Christmas past, but this post is dedicated to three of them.  The best gift I have ever received is up first, an ode to Christmas lights is on deck, and the "New Perry Family Tradition" is in the hole.  That is the official transition from football to baseball in Ye Olde House of Perry, if you didn't catch the obvious baseball reference.  Here we go!  Merry Christmas to all!!
     What was the best gift that I have ever received?  A Jukebox style disco stereo system complete with light show feature in 1981?  No.  A brand new Honda XR 100 Dirt Bike in 1984?  Getting closer, but still no.  A picture of the 1992 National Championship team autographed by none other than Gene "Bebes" Stallings himself!!  You're are burning up, but as much as I love my Tide, that is still not it.  If I had to choose just one.....Hmmmmm.  It has to be a gift from my lovely wife on one of our first Christmases together.  She gave this old boy a trip to New Orleans.  That's right, an actual trip to New Orleans.  No one had ever given me a "trip" before, more less to one of my favorite cities.  I felt like I had won Wheel of Fortune or something.  Nawlins is my kind of town, and it was quite the trip.  We spent most of our time in The French Quarter during our stay, and I ate some of the best pralines, Crawfish Etouffee, and Beignets (at Café Du Monde of course) while we were there.  I had my fortune told by the famous "Chicken Man," but this was before my Straight Edge lifestyle choice and I don't remember anything the man said.....this was mainly due to the amount of Hurricanes that I consumed at Pat O'Briens.  Cheryl and I had spent the entire afternoon at the Piano Bar in Pat O's.  Those Hurricanes will flat out creep up on you, let me tell you.  Before I knew it I was in a bidding war with a guy from Tennessee over which song the Piano playing lady was going to perform.  For those of you that don't know, you write the name of a song on a napkin and tip the Piano player for your song to be played.  Mr. Tennessee wanted "Rocky Top," and I couldn't have that.  I countered with "Yea, Alabama," then "Sweet Home Alabama," and even threw in "Stars Fell on Alabama" for good measure.  This guy was a sly Big Orange fan, because he backdoored me and tipped the gal 10 bucks.  Wooooooo!  Rocky Top Tennessee!..........I hate that song.  Cheryl decided it was time to leave when I attempted to request a Jimmy Buffet song.  Not just any Jimmy Buffet Song, but the one with the title, "Why Don't We Get Drunk and ****."  I'll leave it at that.  Look it up.  We ended up in a fancy restaurant called, "The Court of Two Sisters."  Actually, we were recruited to go by some guy I couldn't understand.  I spilled a drink all over the white table cloth, dad-gum Hurricanes, I'm glad I don't drink anymore.  All in all it was an awesome trip, and it was by far one of the coolest things anyone has ever done for me!  Thanks Cheryl!
     Christmas lights are some kinda cool, that's a fact.  25,000 Imported Italian twinkle lights!  My brother, Frank, was a firm believer in the Christmas Light Sciences.  I'm sure Alabama Power used to love him every time Christmas light season rolled around.  These lights were an awesome spectacle, and probably only second to those of Elmo Matthews of old-school Fultondale lore.  If you lived in Fultondale at a certain time you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Elmo's lights were legendary.  My brother put on his light show in Graysville, Alabama or as the locals call it, Blossburg.  He had Santa Claus lit up, Reindeer lit up, blue lights, green lights, red lights, lights in the grass, lights on the roof, etc.  Daddy used to say, "I bet that boy put lights on dog poop in the yard."  Only he didn't say poop.  It was a spectacle of the light fantastic- Christmas style.  He was a bit Griswoldesque I must say, and Clark would have sure been proud of these lights.  They would just about blind you as you approached.  To use a biblical term to describe the brightness, it would be a combination between what turned Lot's wife to salt and blinded Paul on the road to Damascus.  Well, that may be a stretch, but it was quite an experience to see these lights.  If you drove by real slow and looked really close, and if the night was very quiet, you could see Frankie out there enjoying his creation of magical lights, and a Budweiser.  Scrooge he was not.
     Every year when Christmas rolls around my clan begins the preparation for the cross country trip to the great white North.  Wisconsin to be exact.  This is our tradition.  Some folks eat turkey, some folks eat ham, some folks sing Christmas carols, and some folks watch It's a Wonderful Life.  We travel across the country to visit the coldest place on earth.  That's how we roll.  Cheryl's people are from Wisconsin, and I'll tell you one thing:  You have to be one tough customer to survive the winter up there.  No doubt about it.  Great place.  Great people.  Awesome food.  Cold as hell.  I'm not kidding at all, trust me.  I'm a good old boy, born and raised in the Heart of Dixie, the great State of Alabama (Roll Tide) and I can handle 99 degrees with 100 percent humidity, but 20 below with snow is not habitable for this guy.  It's quite an impressive sight to see all the snow, and it is beautiful, I will not dispute that, but it's cold.  It's so cold it reminds me of a story I heard once.  It was a funeral.  A lady had passed away, and her husband was overseeing the funeral.  It happened to be extremely cold that day, and the husband leaned over and told the minister presiding over the service, "Get to the part with the dirt."  He said, "I love you baby, but it's cold out here."  That is Wisconsin.  I consider it my second home, but it will make a believer out of you, when it comes to weather.  Our yearly Christmas tradition has introduced us to some sites of interest ("Boobie Bungalow," the Corvette museum, the world's largest peach - no relation to Boobie Bungalow); sand paper sheets outside of Louisville, Kentucky;  and an amazing Windmill farm in Northern Indiana that has to be seen to believed.  Those are only a few things about our annual trek to the Great White North.  This is our family tradition, and to be honest while very cold, it's pretty dang cool.
     Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year, just like Andy Williams said it was.  To me Christmas is a pretty magical event all the way around.  The memories that are created will last a lifetime or longer if your traditions live on with children and family.  You should be with folks that you care about this time of year.  My sweet Saint of a Mother used to always tell me, "It's better to give than receive."  I thought she was pretty much full of it back then, but let me tell you....she was right!  Merry Christmas to all!