polo sweaters for women Family around the table are gifts worth keeping

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Lasagna is one of my fondest Christmas memories. My childhood in Spartanburg stretches from the 60’s through the 70’s. I have memories of the Christmas parade the day after Thanksgiving, the Santa Claus is Coming to Town TV show which aired on WSPA and featured local children sitting upon Santa’s knee sharing what they wanted for Christmas, and Buck Buchanan’s the Night Before Christmas dioramas that were placed in the Aug W. Smith windows on East Main Street.

Each a wonderful memory, but nothing tops lasagna.

My mom is a gracious hostess. Her warmth and kindness will make anyone feel welcomed. Christmas Eve was a time for family to gather, and it was my mother’s belief that it was a time to open our home to others. This tradition of an open home on Christmas Eve lasted for many years. So, not only was it my parents, brothers, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles, but it was educators, students from other countries, neighbors, pastors, or those who were alone. We would all gather in the living room of our ranch style home. Everyone had a story to share and something to contribute.

Mom, in her little apron, would scoot into the kitchen and eventually return carrying a huge dish of homemade lasagna. She would cheerfully announce that dinner was served.

We would squeeze around the dining room table. The salad, mom’s homemade salad dressing, bread, and lasagna slowly made its way around as each of us shared in our Christmas Eve meal. The food was fantastic, but it was the company, our guests, that would make the evening so memorable.

The time had come, and it was not dessert! Dad pulled out his black Panasonic cassette recorder with an attached microphone that dangled from a cord. He would sit at the head of the table and speak as if he was Walter Cronkite reporting on some significant world event. “It’s Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1978, and here we are on Bellwood Lane in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We have just enjoyed our dinner of lasagna made by my little bride, Sandra, and we have with us this evening Dr. John Harrington a Wofford College Geologist, Ted Wong who stopped by on his way from China.” Dad introduced each and every family member. One after another.

It was now time for each of us to say something “brilliant,” dad commanded. The recorder was passed from one to another, and we were given our moment to express such brilliance. The brilliance from his four teenaged children was probably somewhat disappointing, but others would offer words of thankfulness and hope for the New Year.

Dr. Harrington, always a gentleman, would lean into the recorder and, with a nod, thank my mother for the “fine meal.”

Ted would be leaving for China a few months later. Ted was not his real name, but a name we gave him since his given name was complicated. I have always wondered what Ted was really thinking as he sat in a Southern home, with people who changed his name, eating Italian food, celebrating a Christian holiday, while encouraged to utter broken English into a recorder.

My grandfather, a Citadel graduate, and military officer in World War II, would rarely show his softer side. This Christmas Eve was different. He was sitting to my left. He placed the recorder in front of him and he gently said, “Well here I am, and I am happy to be here with my family. I am not sure I will make it another year, but I am glad to be here tonight.” I recall thinking “What a downer! Who would say something so grim on Christmas Eve?” The passing years have changed my perspective. I believe he was doing his best to say “Thank you for loving me.” His voice would fall silent four years later.

The next morning we would wake to the sights and sounds of Christmas. I have memories of a train set, remote control car, and clothes. None of these things are with me today.

My memories are the gifts that I have kept. It is my recollections that I have tucked away that carry me back to a time of togetherness, family, friends, and my mother’s lasagna.
polo sweaters for women Family around the table are gifts worth keeping