Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas 2011: It Does Matter

It Does Matter
Christmas 2011
A Holy Reminder
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            As the world around us seems intent on destroying those things we hold dear, we find ourselves at the dawn of the most sacred of days.  Christmas has arrived. 
Here in southern New Mexico we can actually say we have a Holstein Christmas with patches of snow still covering the ground.  What a blessing the moisture has been.  From October, 2010 until October, 2011 we had begun to think we had been forgotten. 
Our young cows and our old cows suffered mightily as the monsoons only teased us with the hope of rain.  A year with less than two inches of rain is something none of us ever want to face again, and  . . . can’t face again.
  Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
     Let your heart be light.
            From now on our troubles will be out of sight . . .
Watching Kathy make candy yesterday, makes me realize that we may talk about Christmas being for the kids, but that is just an excuse for us.  It is really for us.
Oh, yes, the opening of gifts will be the highlight of the day as our children and grandchildren again take the stage with our attention, but Christmas has become the single day of the year that the door can be closed for a few hours.  That world outside is not welcome. 
 The smells, the sights, and the sound of all things familiar surround us.  We don’t have to compromise.  We don’t have to accept some contradiction of thought or demand imposed on our belief system and our heritage.
We will honor the way of life that makes our hearts again hopeful and reassured.  We will say our prayer . . . and tell our grandkids how much we love them.   
Have yourself a merry little Christmas.
     Make your Yuletide Gay
From now on our troubles will be miles away . . .
Fifty years ago we were no different from our grandchildren today.  After Christmas morning at home, we were on our way to Cliff and our first stop would be at my maternal grandparents, Carl and Leona Rice.  The smells of those days are reproduced from the same recipes and the traditions that were prepared and cooked at our house yesterday. 
They come alive every year from scraps of paper and tattered and yellowed reminders of notes from Nana, Ma Rice, Ethel Sperry, Grandma Lewis, Minnie, Aunt Ellen and other loved ones for which we now substitute. Fudge, divinity, peanut brittle, taffy and cream pies chain together generations now gone to the hearts and minds of our children.  Only the mincemeat, and the green tomato and pear preserves are absent . . . and I miss them.
By Christmas afternoon we were on the Mangus at my paternal grandparents, Albert and Sabre Wilmeth. Grandma Wilmeth always held court with her brood.  She alone kept the family together, and when she died . . . the unity of the family died, too.
We really didn’t want to eat, but we did . . . again.  Then it was to the horse pasture to catch something to ride or down to the creek to shoot at something.  Somebody always had a new gun.  We didn’t need supervision.  We knew darn well how to carry a gun.  We respected what we had been taught.
Here we are as in olden days,
     Happy Golden Days of yore . . .
There are a few things I remember about those very first Christmases.  There were the bubbly ornaments that hung on Ma Rice’s tree.  They had oil in them and they would bubble up from the bottom of a transparent bulb. The tree was freshly cut and I know it was a pinon.  It had been cut at the ranch on Sacaton.
There was the big wood cook stove on the kitchen side of the fireplace from the living room.  It kept the whole end of the house warm and it smelled good as some of those same recipes prepared yesterday were being fussed over and baked. 
Ma Rice, my maternal great grandmother, had come from Texas to the Gila Valley in 1884, 28 years before New Mexico even became a state.  Her generation remembered the Apache Wars and the Buffalo Soldiers that were stationed at places like Ft. Bayard for the protection of the scattered settlers.  In fact, we have a copy of her hand written letter in a special place in our library to her grandchildren about that time in her life.  She is our direct literary bridge to a West  . . . that is now history.
Faithful friends you are dear to us,
     Gather near to us once more . . .
Four children of another era were in our home the other night.  Joe Delk and Hank Hays and their wives sat by our fire and we reminisced.  We talked about two dads in particular, Forrest and Dick, and the wonders of a younger New Mexico. 
I was reminded that night of other men in those familiar ranch homes through the years.  They were men that didn’t always gather for family events, but Christmas was different.  With sunburned hands and faces (below their brow), they always looked half naked with their hats off.
Few times did we pray, but, if and when we did, those men would act very strange to a kid. There wasn’t a thing in their lives that seemed to scare them or put them ill at ease, but a crowd and the praises to God made them different. 
They could deal with a cow on the fight, a horned Hereford bull with rotting flesh in a wound filled with screw worms, a horse humped up wanting to pitch, or a Cat with a final drive out, but it was only Christmas that allowed them to interact with their Creator in a confined setting and feel welcome and secure . . . it was different, and  . . . it was so important.
Through the year we all will be together,
     if the fates allow . . .
Christmas was truly a time of renewal and hope. It was the one day that all could come together and be a united family.  It was bridge from daily difficulties back to the safety and spiritual haven of our God.  Think of the implications of that. 
Life creates enough complications, but life without a method to rebalance is indeed a life with difficulty.  Our world faces that dilemma.
Hang your shining star upon the highest bough . . .
As we have gotten older, the meaning of Christmas has curiously changed.  As kids it was the wonder of it all.  As young parents, it was the wonder of joy in our children eyes.  As grandparents, it is the hope for our families and the importance we now put on those things that don’t change, that provide lasting strength, and promote the loving kindness and glory that only God gives to our being and our World.
And have yourself a Merry little Christmas, now . . .
Open the door this morning to those things that are truly right and salutary.  Close it to those things that seek the destruction of those things we hold most dear . . . and tell your grandkids and your family that you love them . . . ‘just as your grandparents told you in those wonderful Christmases past.
Merry Christmas . . .

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “God bless our families and our way of life.  May we always fight for what is right . . . and be wise enough to understand when to stand and when to give.”


Anonymous said...


NW Post said...

For me it was popcorn balls, pumpkin pies, and those old style icicles we hung on the tree. They'd probably now tell us they were made out of lead or something and would poison us. Thanks, Steve. We remember, too!

Lookin' South said...

Ah, yea. Those fresh mornings when we were finally allowed to go outside and try those new gifts out. From the heat inside to the cool of the morning. It was indeed a renewal. Good, good, good.

Anonymous said...

If Steve would add those others that make the all time master list this would be more complete. Add Mary Agnew, Betty Blue, Mary Effie, Mary Helen, Mrs. Peru, Belle Eaton, Clella Chappel, Lenna Allen, and a pick from your own imagination, this would have hit the bell. Good memories.