Christmas, without a doubt, is my mother's favorite time of year. When we were children, she would start planning and saving for Christmas gifts before Valentine day. My daddy was a welder and made just over minimum wage for most of his working career and it took most of that money to put food on the table and clothes on our backs so if there was anything extra,the money had to come from somewhere else. My mother ironed clothes for people and one year stands out in my mind. With the money she earned ironing shirts and pants for the business folk of Dora she managed to buy my sister a Sylvania transistor radio with a leather carrying case; she bought my older brother a pellet gun and me a Huffy bicycle that I rode until I was grown. She also somehow managed to buy a few gifts for other neighborhood kids whose families were less fortunate than we were.Our house was always decorated with a live tree and lights as big as goose eggs. We also had several strands of bubble lights that had to warm up before they started bubbling. With all the gifts and the lights, our tree was more colorful than a lot full of Toyotas.
When I got drafted in April of 1971, it almost killed my mother. Vietnam was still a hot spot and likely destination for Alabama boys with limited "pull". She asked me as I was getting ready to leave, "do you think they'll let you come home for Christmas?"The first year I was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and I was able to come home, but the second year I was in Panama and coming home was not an option. She sent me boxes of candy, gifts and Christmas cards from all ofmy family and friends. When I called home on Christmas eve I could hear all the commotion in the background, but the noise did not drowned out the sadness in her voice. She said it sounded like I was a million miles away.Last year when mother fell in early December and broke her hip, the pain was almost unbearable. I came in after work a few days after the accident and she was crying. I asked if she was in pain, she said her hip was hurting but that was not why she had tears in her eyes. "I won't get to be home for Christmas." I was crushed. I was so distracted by her accident that it had not crossed my mind that she still might be in the hospital for Christmas.She has ALWAYS been home for Christmas.As it turns out, we got to spring her on Christmas day and we had afew hours to be together and sang Christmas carols, opened gifts and ate turkey till we spewed. Mother got to come home for Christmas and for this I was grateful, but there are thousands of men and women in the armed services who will not enjoy this gift. My heart goes out to them all, and to their mothers who undoubtedly feel their children are a million miles away.Merry Christmas