Christmas Story
by John Henry Faulk, as recorded in 1974.


www.npr.org/ramfiles/wesun/19981220.wesun.08.ram

"The day after Christmas a number of years ago, I was driving down a country road in Texas, and it was a bitter cold, cold morning. And walking ahead of me on the gravel road was a little barefooted boy, with nondescript ragged overalls, and a makeshift sleeved sweater tied around his little ears. I stopped and picked him up. Looked like he was about twelve years old, and his little feet were blue with the cold.

He was carrying an orange. And got in and he had the brightest blue eyes one ever saw, and he turned a bright smile on my face and said, "Ah'm a goin' down the road about two mile to mah cousin's, I wanta show him my orange ole Sandy Claus brought me!"

Well, I wasn't going to mention Christmas to him, because I figured he came from a family that, kinda don't have Christmas. But he brought it up himself! He said, {chuckling} "Did old Sandy Claus come to see you, Mister?"
And I said, "Yes, we had a real nice Christmas at our house, and I hope you had the same."

He paused for a moment, looked at me, and then with all the sincerity in the world, said, "Mister, we had the wonderfullest Christmas in the Newnited States down at our place. Lord, it was the first one we ever had had there. See we never do have 'em out there much, don't notice when Christmas time comes. We heared about it. But never did have one, cause, uh, well, you know it's just Papa said that old Sandy Claus -- Papa hoo-rahs a lot -- Sandy Claus is skeered to bring his reindeer down into our section of the county, cause folks down there's so hard-up that they liable to catch one of his reindeer, and butcher him for meat!

But jist several days before Christmas, a lady came out from town, and she told all the families through there, our family too, that they was, old Sandy Claus was comin' to town to leave some things fer us, and if Papa'd go in town, he could get some Christmastime for all of us. [Sniff.] Papa hooked up the mule and wagon. He went in town, but he told us chil'ren, he said "Now doncha y'all get all worked up and excited, because there might not be nothin' to this yarn that lady told."

And, but shucks, he hadn't got outa sight up the lane there, but we was done a watchin' fer him to come back. We couldn't get our minds on nothin' else, you know! And Mama, she'd come to the door every once in a while and say, "Now y'all quit that lookin' up the lane, 'cause Papa told you there might not be nothin." Heh.

But, long 'bout the middle of the afternoon, we heared the team, jingling the harness 'acomin, and we ran out in the front yard, and Ernie, my little brother called out, "Yonder comes Papa!" {chuckle} Here come them mules, just in a big trot, you know, and Papa standin' right in the bed of that wagon, holdin' two big ole chickens, feathers all picked off; and he was just yellin' "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!" And the team stopped right in front of the gate, and all us chil'ren jest went a swarmin' out there like a -- like a flock of chi-chi's, you know, and just a crawlin' over that wagon, and a lookin' in.

Mister, I wish you could a' seen what was in that wagon! Just bags of stripedey candy, and apples, and oranges, and sacks o' flower, and some real coffee, you know. And just all tinsely and purty. We couldn't say nothin'; we just held our breath and looked at it, you know. And Papa just stood there wavin' them two chickens, a yellin' "Merry Christmas to ya! Merry Christmas to ya!" And a laughin', that big ole grin on his face.

Mama, she come a hurryin out with the baby in her arms, you know, and when she looked in that wagon, she just stopped. Then Papa, he dropped them two chickens, and retched and caught the baby out of her arms, you know, and held him up and said, "Merry Christmas to you, Sandy Claus!" {chuckles} And the baby, little ole Alvie Lee, he just laughed like he knowed it was Christmas too, you know.

And Mama, she started tellin' us some names of all them nuts. They wasn't just peanuts. They was,.. She had names for all of 'em. Mama knows a heap o' things like that. She'd seen that stuff before, you know. And we's all of us just a chatterin' and a goin' on at the same time, us young ones a lookin' in there.

All a sudden, we heared Papa call out, "Merry Christmas to you, Sam Jackson!" We stopped and looked, and here come Sam Jackson and that old cripple-leg mule o' his'n up the lane. And Papa said, "Sam Jackson, did you get in town and get some Christmas this year?"

Sam Jackson, you know, he sharecrops over there acrost the creek from our place. He shook his head, and said, "No, sir, Mr. Will, I didn't go in town. I heared about that. I didn't know it was for colored folks, too. I thought it was just for you white families."

All of a sudden, none us child'ren were sayin' nothin'. And Papa looked down at Mamar. And Mama looked up at him. They didn't say nothin', like they don't a heap o' times, but they know what the othern's a-thinkin'. They're like that, you know. All a sudden, Papa broke out in a big grin agin, and said, "Dad blame it Sam Jackson, it's shore a good thing you come by here! Lord, have mercy, I like to forgot! Old Sandy Clause'd have me in court if he heered about this. The last thing he asked me, if I lived out chere near you. Said he hadn't seen you around. Said he wanted me to bring part of this out chere to you and your family, your woman and your chil'ren."

Sam Jackson, he broke out in a big grin, and Papa said, "I'll tell you what to do; you getch your wife and chil'ren, and come down here tomorrow mornin'; it's goin' to be Christmas time, all day long! {chuckle} Ya'll come early and stay late!"

Sam Jackon said, "You reckon?" Mama called out to him, and said, "Yes, and you tell your wife to be sure and bring some pots and pans, 'cause we're goin' to have a heap o' cookin' to do, and I ain't sure I got enough to take care of all of it."

Well sir, ole Sam Jackson, he started off, a leadin' that mule up the lane in a full trot, you know, and he's a headin' home, to get the word to his folks, and his chilren, you know!

Next morning, just, you know how it was yesterday morning? Just rosy red, and looked like Christmas time. It was cold, but you didn't notice the cold, you know, when the sun just come up, just all rosy red. Us young 'uns were all out of bed, up before daylight, seemed like, jist runnin' in the kitchen, and smellin' and lookin'. It was all there, shure 'nuff.

And here come Sam Jackson, and his team, and his wife, and five young 'uns in there. And they's all lookin' over the edge. We run out and yelled, "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!" Papa said, "A Christmas gift to you, Sam Jackson, y'all come on in." They come in, and Mama and Sister Jackson, they got in the kitchen, and started a cookin' things up.

And us young 'uns started playin 'Christmas time'. It is a lot o' fun, you know. We just play Christmas gift with one another, and we just run round and round the house, and we'd roll in the dirt, you know. Then we started playin' .. go up to the kitchen door and smell. And we'd run up and smell inside that kitchen door, where Mama and Sister Jackson was a cookin' at, and we'd just DIE LAUGHIN'! We'd roll in the dirt, you know, and go chasin' around, playin' Christmas gift. And we'd play Christmas time, 'til we just wore ourselves out.

And Papa and Sam Jackson, they put a table up and put some sheets over some boards over some sawhorses, and every body had a place, even the baby! And Mama and Sister Jackson said, "Well, now hit's ready, come on in, we're goin' to have Christmas dinner." And I set right next to Willie Jackson, you know, and just he'd roll his eyes at me, and I'd roll mine at him, and we'd just die laughin', you know. And, you know, there was an apple and an orange, and some striped candy at everybody's place, and that was just dessert, you see, that wasn't the real Christmas dinner. Mama and them had done cooked that up, and they just had it spread up and down .. the table.

And so Papa and Sam Jackson, they had been sittin' on the front porch, and they come in. Papa, he sat at one end of the table; Sam Jackson sat at the other. It was just a beautiful table, like you never have seen! And I didn't know nothin' could ever look like that, and smell that good, you know.

And Sam Jackson, you know, he's real black, and he had on that white clean shirt of his, and them overhalls. Everything had been washed, and was real clean. Papa, he said, "Brother Jackson, I believe you're a deacon in the church; I ain't much of a church man, myself. But I believe you're a deacon, and maybe you'd be, you'd be, willing to give Grace."

Well, Sam Jackson, he stood up there, and his hands is real big, and he kind of held on to the side of the table, you know. He didn't bow his head, like a heap o' folks do, when they're sayin' the blessin'. He just looked up an' smiled. He said, "Lord, I hope you're havin' as nice a Christmas up there with your angels, as we're a havin' down here! 'Cause it sure is Christmas time down here! And I just wanted to say "Merry Christmas, to you Lord!" [handbells in background]

Like I say, Mister, I believe that was the wonerfullest Christmas in the Newnited States of Americer!"