Christmas morning, 1991. Non and Dant's trailer house on a trucking yard in the oilfields of west Texas. Light from the early dawn tinted the eastern sky a soft golden hue as Mom, Dad, and I -- bundled up in the new clothes and jackets we'd opened earlier to the music of Bobby Helms -- pulled into my grandparent's carport. The rosebushes that lined the carport, twining up the trellis and over the top of the makeshift garage were sleeping for the winter, but I knew in my nine-year-old mind that they would be back, blooming bright and beautiful before school was over for the year. After all, every May my grandma, Non, let my cousin and I choose a rose to cut and take to our teachers. The pump jacks squeaked and moaned in the field across the street and a lone longhorn-- one of the wild ones that would never let me pet it -- mooed an echoing moo while we carried in armloads of presents.
"By God, it sure took you long enough to get out here," my grandpa, Dant, would say to Dad. Dad's reply was, without fail, "Well I didn't want to come too early and wake you up, you need all the beauty sleep you can get!" Dant, dressed in socks, a white tee-shirt and blue jeans complete with Skoal ring, would just duck his head and smile before giving Dad a hug and saying, "Well you know I was up at 4 am today." Dad joshed back, "Well I was up at 3:30!" Always 30 minutes earlier than Dant! It was all just for show though. Everybody knew I was always the first one up on Christmas morning!
Non, busy in the kitchen, was all smiles as she asked Mom to check the fat, fluffy biscuits in the oven while she tended to the sausage patties frying in her old cast iron skillet. Breakfast in the country. Now I have never liked sausage, but there was something about Non's Christmas sausage and biscuits that was simply irresistible to me.
After breakfast, my cousin China and her mom, my Aunt Jay arrived, bearing their armloads of gifts. While China and I sorted out presents, the adults sat around talking and nibbling at what was left of our annual Christmas breakfast.
After the insurmountable task of present sorting was completed, China and I were on pins and needles waiting for the go head to dig in and rip some paper! Dant would sit nonchalantly in his easy chair, the feet up, one hand on the remote. "In two minutes, we'll start opening presents." We would squeal and "get ready." Two minutes later, he'd flick stations on the old tv set ... "Uh oh," he'd say, "That last minute wasn't any good, it was rotten. Gotta wait one more minute." Again, we'd squeal and pick which present we were going to open first, then change our minds and pick another. When our attention has been changed from opening to picking presents to open, Dant would bellow, "Go!" Out of all of us there, I think we all enjoyed our silly traditions, but no one more than Non and Dant.
Once the presents were opened, the trash was picked up, thank you's were thanked, and everyone was exhausted, we would load up our goodies and head home to cook (and nap), because we were due back out at Non and Dant's around 1 or 2 to eat a gigantic potluck lunch/dinner featuring Mom's delectable broccoli rice casserole, Dant's ham, Aunt Jay and China's green bean casserole and baked macaroni, and scores of other yummies.
Then, with it being Christmas in west Texas, China and I donned our light jackets and went out on the yard to play! After all, the temperature was usually about 59 degrees!
Sara's book A Heart on Hold is available through 5 Prince Publishing. Her book A Heart Broken will launch in 2013 as well as her children's book Chunky Sugars.