“I have a great confidence in the revelations which holidays bring forth.”
“Mari and I spent our formative years in the ARK-LA-MISS
and the rest of our lives in the HIT-OR-MISS!”
In my last and final regular blog post I offered quotes (mine and others’) about women’s issues which led into a summary of many of my favorite things discussed in the blog, and then closed with a tribute to my most favorite thing of all: Mari.
Since that time, faithful friends have been so thoughtful as to keep sending me quotes, photos, links, and other materials they were sure would be of interest to me. In return, I have taken most of these contributions that relate to Christmas and added one or two of my own, especially about our fifty-first wedding anniversary on December 27.
Hopefully, later I will begin the new year by publishing a second addenda post with some additional closing tidbits to my blog, featuring quotes, links, photos, captions, and other memorabilia, especially about the Delta.
Christmas, Elvis, the U.S. Air Force,
And the “Real Sister Act”
To view a video sent to me by Pat Scavo of a great Elvis impersonator from French Canada singing the Elvis Presley version of “Blue Christmas,” click here.
To view a wonderful video sent to me by Ed Snider, a Ouachita Baptist College classmate, of a flash mob of the United States Air Force surprising visitors to the National Air and Space Museum with a medley of Christmas classics, click here.
To view a reverent yet rousing video, sent to me by my cousin Kay Barrett Bell, of the “Real Sister Act” under the direction of Andre Rieu singing “I Will Follow Him,” click here.
Christmas and the Past
“I have always thought of Christmas . . . as the only time I know of . . . when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people as if they really were fellow-travellers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
—Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew
in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
The reason I dwell on the past so much is because that is where most of the people and things of my life have gone, and where I will soon join them. Most people don’t realize that we are all destined to become—sooner or later—“a thing of the past!”
The difference between me and most other people is that I recognize that fact, I am honest about it, and I am actually looking forward to it! It’s the only way I will ever get to “go home again!”
Nevertheless, in the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Christmas and My Homesick Exile, Our Wedding Anniversary,
and Our Second Honeymoon
“I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.
“Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams.
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.”
Published by Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, GANNON & KENT MUSIC CO, CARLIN AMERICA INC
(To hear this song sung by Bing Crosby, click here.)
To read my earlier Christmas post titled “The Three Unwise Men: An Arkansas Christmas Memory,” about my “lonesome exile” at the University of Arkansas in graduate school back in 1960-62 before our wedding at Christmas 1962, and featuring this song, click here.
On Sunday, December 29, I plan to go forward in church, put a dollar in the Joy Jar and announce: “On Friday, December 27, Mari and I celebrated our fifty-first wedding anniversary. We were married at Christmas time in 1962 in the First Baptist Church of McGehee, Arkansas. Some of y’all have expressed appreciation for Mari’s reading of the Christmas scriptures in church recently. We appreciate your spiritual judgment in wanting to hear them read by someone who is actually from the Holy Land!” (For additional birthday/wedding anniversary Joy Jar statements, see my earlier post titled: “Mari: Anniversary Remembrances.”)
My New Orleans Honeymoon/Anniversary Story
“Mari and I spent the first night of our honeymoon on December 27, 1962, fifty-one years ago, in Monroe, Louisiana. Monroe is two hours south of our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, and the current location of the popular real-life TV show ‘Duck Dynasty.’ It’s where we took our first exciting lap on our planned journey to New Orleans and our first tentative step toward the foundation of our ‘Peacock Dynasty’!”
“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty in every age of life really never grows old.”
—Franz Kafka, Today’s Cryptoquote,
Tulsa World, 12/16/13
In the December 1 post of his blog titled Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind, my Ouachita Baptist College classmate and longtime friend Joe Dempsey of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, made this statement about some Delta musicians in New Orleans:
“These performers were making good music. After I salted their bucket and engaged them in a bit of conversation, I discovered that like me, they hailed from Arkansas. I failed to take note of their hometown, but I do remember that it was far north of my Delta home stomping grounds.” (To read Joe’s full post, click here.)
What’s interesting is that Mari and I had something of the same experience that Joe did. Back in about the time of spring break in 1963 we returned to New Orleans for a “second honeymoon” since the first one in December 1962 went so bad, as I described in one of my blog posts. (For the full story see “Our Honeymoon Was No Honeymoon for Mari.”)
After having Mari’s portrait painted by a sidewalk artist (see photographic facsimile below), we began walking north up one of the virtually deserted side streets. There we encountered an old black man and two women who seemed to be his daughters. He was wearing sunglasses and sitting in one of those narrow doorways right on the street with his daughters standing on each side of him.
I had stopped near them to reach in my pocket to see if I had forgotten my car keys when he must have heard me jingling change. So like blind Bartimaeus who called out to Jesus, he called out to me and reached out his tin cup for alms.
Being soft-hearted and not wanting to disappoint a poor old blind black man I reached back into my pocket and gathered up all the change in it which I dropped into his waiting cup.
Immediately he smiled an almost toothless grin and said with the traditional rural Southern black dialect and deference of that day, “Thankee kinely, Cap’n, thankee. God bless ya, suh.”
When I replied something like, “You’re welcome,” he must have recognized my distinctive Southern white accent and drawl because he asked, “Whur you frum, Cap’n?”
When I said, “Arkansas,” he immediately asked, “Whur’bouts in Awkinsaw, Cap’n?”
“Holly Grove,” I answered because that’s where Mari and I were living when we first started out teaching in 1962.
“Holly Grove, Awkinsaw!” he responded immediately and perked up noticeably.
“Do you know where that is?” I asked, a bit surprised.
“Aw, yassuh, I sho’ does,” he responded eagerly. “I used to pick cotton in Brankley [Brinkley], Awkinsaw [the seat of Monroe County in which Holly Grove is located].”
Then, as if in reminiscence of an earlier, happier time in his life he remarked wistfully, “I sho’ does wish I wuz still back in Brankley, Awkinsaw, pickin’ cotton. Yassuh, I sho’ does.”
So as we bid farewell, he called out after us again with heartfelt emotion, “Thankee kinely, Cap’n, thankee kinely. God bless ya, suh!”
That’s one of those “Kodak moments” that stick in your memory “’cause I sho’ does wish I wuz back in Holly Grove, Awkinsaw, ‘in them ole cotton fields back home’! Yassuh, I sho’ does!” But unfortunately, gone are the days, and now I am old and sick and tired and worn out and almost blind and left to “languish in lonely exile here.”
But as the opening Christmas song quoted above from my earlier, youthful exile in Fayetteville says: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
And as I always add to such longing reminiscences of bygone days, “At least my wife is still young and beautiful!” As evidence see the photo of Mari on our fiftieth wedding anniversary that I used to close my last regular blog post, and the photo of her below as she looked when the New Orleans sidewalk artist drew her portrait in Jackson Square on our honeymoon at Christmastime in 1962.