The Night Before Christmas…and Grandpa was soused!
In the early 1960s for Christmas, my mother and I would board the train in Jackson, Mississippi and ride to Jackson, Tennessee to spend the holidays with my grandparents. Mom and I called it our “Jackson to Jackson” trip. My great-uncle and great-aunt often would be there, too, coming down from Sikeston, Missouri. Granddaddy, a railroad man, and my great-Uncle Lonnie, a banker, were married to sisters, my grandmother Ruby and her sister Iris. The two couples traveled and socialized together and were the best of friends, defying the proverbial in-law image.
That socializing part was evident one Christmas Eve when, in an attempt to assemble a toy service station that Santa was to deliver to me on Christmas morning, Uncle Lonnie and Granddaddy got a little too enthusiastic. They did have help in the form of one Jack Daniel’s (oh, it was more than one, I’m sure). Incidentally, my grandfather was the only man I have ever known who actually preferred Jack Daniel’s Green Label variety over the Black Label, though he could have picked whichever he wanted.
Maybe that explains why the lights on the Christmas tree weren’t the only things that were well lit in the living room that night. As they began the building process, these two men in their sixties were having a time and getting louder and louder. So loud, in fact, that they woke me up from my long winter’s nap which I’m sure included visions of toy filling stations dancing in my head.
Well, with the surprise blown, what could they do but invite me to join them? Who knows – I might have as much expertise as anyone in assembling a toy gas station. So there we were – two grown men and a five-year-old, with parts spread out on the living room floor, all offering opinions about what should go where. My mother, Grandmother and “Aunt Itie,” as I called my great-Aunt Iris, got a huge kick out of the whole event.
My mom and grandfather told this story about our unique “night before Christmas” until both of them died. One of my favorite family photos shows two men on the floor with a kid in footie pajamas trying to figure out why part A won’t go into part C of a toy service station.
In the photo, Aunt Itie is looking on and shaking her head.
She was probably thinking, “Yes, to all a good night, indeed!”