It was time again to retrieve the large collection of Christmas and holiday cards from the attic – many decades old, the vast majority rekindling memories of family and friendships and good and sad times, all of them representing pieces of the past.
Can there possibly be a better time than Thanksgiving to take this nostalgic trip?
It was 11 years ago when we did this the first time. My wife, Bea, was creating a Christmas alphabet book for our granddaughter, Melitta – A to Z, illustrated with appropriate and colorful pictures, religious and secular, cut from holiday cards. A is for angels and Z is for the noise Santa makes when he sleeps, with 24 others in between, each letter accompanied by a little verse.
Now there is a second granddaughter, Violet, who will soon be 3, and a new alphabet book to craft. The end-of-the-year letters and handwritten messages bring back memories and images that can never be totally erased. Here are just a few:
A childhood with nine brothers and sisters; a mom and dad who treated us all differently, but loved us all the same; friends who were classmates from kindergarten through the 12th grade; music lessons, sports, Saturday afternoon double features and those nights playing a card game, a cross between rummy and bridge, with my grandfather and two aunts.
Midnight church services on Christmas Eve, an early breakfast a few hours later, then the tradition of opening presents, one family member at a time, youngest to the oldest, and then starting over again. Our dad was always last and never tore the wrapping paper, unlike us impatient kids. Then we pivoted into the spirited Monopoly competition; who has Boardwalk and Park Place?
Returning to my hometown, Bay St. Louis, Miss., after Hurricane Camille in 1969 and again after Katrina in 2005 and witnessing just how brutal Mother Nature can be; seeing the homes of two brothers and a sister and nieces and nephews destroyed or significantly damaged, but also experiencing the princely response of people from around the country who came to help.
So many memories.
The early years writing sports and covering greats, such as Lance Alworth and Jackie Smith, both Hall of Famers; playing high school football, and being there when the Mississippi State basketball team upset Kentucky. The Wildcats center that day was Ed Beck, who, later, as a Methodist minister, would officiate at our wedding.
The short but inspirational time as an aide for Congressman Charles Weltner of Atlanta, who courageously voted for the Civil Rights Act as his Southern colleagues ran in the opposite direction. Later, he gave up his job rather than violate an oath he had taken to support all Democrats in the general election. He couldn’t endorse Lester Maddox, an avowed racist, for governor.
The many years in journalism under the guidance of some wonderful mentors, fulfilling a dream of being an editor just like my dad and working with some of the most talented people ever to grace a newsroom, and maybe, just maybe, making a tiny bit of difference in a few small parts of the world.
Most important of all are the flashbacks of family – our daughter and our son and their families and the love we share, of the journey we have traveled together and the struggles and successes that have helped define our lives.
If you, like us, have saved the cards and letters you have received, retrieve them from their hiding place and read them again. There will be smiles and tears and an occasional, “Wow, I forgot that.”
And there will be so many memories and so much to be thankful for.
Gregory Favre is the former executive editor of The Sacramento Bee and retired vice president for news for The McClatchy Co.