the surprise Christmas visit: you raised me up

If I could travel through time today, I would have no interest in traveling forward. No, I would opt for backward time travel to make a surprise Christmas Eve visit with my family in my hometown of Richards, Texas in 1956 because, you see, the people gathered in that small living room belonging to my grandparents on my daddy’s side “raised me up.”

My mom Selma  and my dad Glenn are sitting on a traditional beige three person sofa with my other grandmother who I called Dude. My mom and dad are in deep discussions about the Christmas cantata they are having at the Baptist Church where my dad leads the singing because he has the loudest male voice that can carry a tune and my mother plays the piano because she has had this job since she was a teenager.

My mother’s oldest brother, Marion, who is currently unemployed and living at home with us in Dude’s house, sits in one of the dining room chairs brought to the living room for our family party to open gifts that night. My mother’s other brother Toby also sits in one of the dining room chairs with his cane leaning against it. Toby is also unemployed and living with his mother which means that I live with him, too.

My grandmother Ma sits in a living room chair that goes with her sofa in a prominent spot next to the Christmas tree my grandfather cut from our woods three miles outside of town. The assorted colors of bubble lights on the tree are bubbly…the tree has several ornaments I remember from other Christmas trees in this same living room. A few icicles were thrown in a haphazard manner to give the tree a kind of beginner tree look, although Ma has decorated her trees in this fashion for years. I know this for a fact because I helped her throw the icicles.

Selma’s tree, on the other hand, at Dude’s house was definitely the more polished decorating effort. My mother loved precision and a plan – her Christmas tree was a perfect example of both. The tree was always beautiful.

To the left of Ma sits my grandfather Pa. He sits in a special chair that also belongs in the living room but looks to be the most uncomfortable seat in the entire setting which seems to me to be unfair since he has been on his feet all day at the barber shop cutting hair and giving shaves to the farmers who want to look good for their families at Christmas.

My grandmother Dude has also been standing on her feel all day helping people find last-minute gifts at the general store where she works six days a week all year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I am sitting on the floor next to the gifts under the tree when Ma motions for me to begin playing Santa Claus and passing out the gifts. Ma insists that I wait for each person to unwrap their gift before I hand out the next one. I am impatient with the process and have the temerity to tell Ma. She laughs and says I can pass out gifts however I want when I have my own house and Christmas Eve party but in her home, the gifts will be opened to suit her.

Today is a rainy cold December day in 2017, and I am now more than 60 years past that Christmas Eve in Texas but I still can see those people, all of whom are now gone, as if they were here with me in this moment.

I have been listening this week to Celtic Woman: Homecoming in Ireland which I recorded earlier this week. I love their Irish voices and the concert which ends with one of their most popular songs: You Raise Me Up.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,

you raise me up to walk on stormy seas.

I am strong when I am on your shoulders,

you raise me up to more than I can be.

If I could speak to my family again in that little living room on Christmas Eve, I would tell them that I am grateful for how they individually, and as a group, “raised me up” to be more than I can be. I stand on the shoulders of people who raised me in love and kindness and with the belief that decency and respect for others are the values that matter most in life.

At a time when we are looking for standards for how we should treat each other, I think love and kindness are a good place to start.

Stay safe during the holiday season, and stay tuned.



About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to the surprise Christmas visit: you raised me up

  1. Luanne says:

    What a lovely look back at a sincere meaning of Christmas. Makes me homesick!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dianne Heiser says:

    That was very touching, Sheila! I can relate!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wayside Artist says:

    I miss those Christmas Eves too, Sheila, and the loud, argumentative Italian American family who instilled kindness and compassion in all us kids as we feasted on cheese, pasta, seafood and Christmas cakes. While I’d love to go back for your reasons, I sure don’t want them to come forward into this sorry mess that is 2017.
    Your stories of home are so touching. Happy Holidays, dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at your Italian American family Christmases, too. OMG, the food must have been mouth-watering, but mostly I would have loved seeing you surrounded by your family…I hope that family will surround you with love this Christmas.
      We will be thinking of you especially this year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wayside Artist says:

        Like you, I played Santa and followed almost the exact instructions. Must be generational!
        If I had know you then, there would be no need to be a fly. You would be eating with us. My parents always welcomed a mob of friends. There was so much food. My mother must have saved all year to afford it.

        Though the family is much smaller, we will get together on Christmas and eat too much. You both will be in my thoughts too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Harry Hamid says:

    My family is so small (I am single with no kids, my brother is married with one) that i feel bad sometimes for my mom, who I know would enjoy the feel of a big family and lots of grandkids at Christmas. The idea is to appreciate what we have, though, and also to keep in mind that these huge family get-togethers of the past took a whole lot of effort to coordinate and prepare.

    I hope your holidays are great and memorable!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Harry, my grandmother baked pies and made divinity and fudge for a week before a holiday. I didn’t realize how much effort my family made for the holidays until I had a home of my own!
      Thank goodness for takeout!!
      I wish you and your mom and brother a wonderful and joyous holiday season!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, love and kindness to each other… so true. This is an idea I am trying to spread this holiday season. If you like it, please share it. Thanks, Rita

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thom Hickey says:

    Lovely! Warm and wise.

    Regards Thom.

    Liked by 1 person

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