Friday, December 21, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Memory

Jilda and I married in 1974. I worked for a small weekly newspaper then. I loved the work, but even with both of us working, we probably qualified for food stamps though we never consider applying.
We lived in a white and faded gray 12 x 60 house trailer. It was hot in the summer, and the winter wind blew through the windows enough to ruffle the curtains. The best thing about that trailer was the sound of summer rain on the roof.
Then in 1976 the paper changed management, so they "let me go" on my birthday on January 15.
I didn't have a regular job that year so we did whatever it took to keep the lights on, and a can of Spam in the pantry.
Then in December of that year, an old telephone guy I'd befriended at the paper recommended that I fill out an application with MaBell. I did, and on January 3, 1977 I started work.
Things turned around for us. Although I started out at the bottom with MaBell, I quickly moved up. We saved our money and in late summer of 1983 we decided to build a new house.
The lock & key price was $37,500. I fretted months before signing the papers because I had no idea if we could pay for the house.
Builders began construction in late fall with a target completion date of mid December. We desperately wanted to be in our new home by Christmas. The weather was unsettled (imagine that for Alabama).
But then the construction gods smiled on us and after a last minute flurry of work, the builder showed up and handed us the keys to our new home.
We were so excited. That first night we bought for a cheap bottle of champagne, and spent the night sleeping on a mattress on the floor in front of our great-room windows. We sipped champagne from Dixie cups.
That weekend we moved our clothes  and furniture from the trailer and began our new life as homeowners.
We bought a white pine Christmas tree that you could plant, which was the first of many. We had a Christmas Open House for all our friends that Sunday.
That year seems like a turning point for us. We'd shrugged off the shackles of poverty, and moved up.
It changed our lives.
I cannot think back on that Christmas without smiling.
Merry Christmas.


  1. How I love your story Rick. It makes you appreciate life so much more when you rise from the bottom. It makes you more compassionate.

    It's like us , when we built our own house from pine cut from the farm property. I pounded nails in the boards too. We built ours for $25,000. and my father in law mortgaged it so it was a great help as we had only one small salary and I was a stay at home mom.
    We moved in our own house in 1977 with our four kids.

    I love the idea of a living Christmas tree.


  2. Love your story. It's so wonderful to look back at how hard life seemed at first but how proud to have gotten through with hard work and determination. I loved the pic too! I found you both in it..I think! Merry Christmas!

  3. LOL I started adult life in a decrepit trailer working 60-70 hours a week. I wouldn't necessarily wish that on anyone; still, I look at a lot of somewhat spoiled kids today and wonder if they might be better off having to scrape by for a bit. I know it gave me a real sense of pride and accomplishment later in life. Merry Christmas!

  4. Merry Christmas and great photo!


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