Christmas is a time of the year that we bustle around getting ready for the big day, Dec. 25. We experience strenuous activity as we get everything together for the most beloved holiday of our year. When shopping around Starkville, people seem to be kinder to each other. They say, “Hello, how are y’all doing? Got your Christmas shopping done yet? We’ve only got a few days left!” The Salvation Army bells ring in front of Walmart, sounding like a familiar Christmas carol being sung instead of rung. Suddenly all of our memories and the words of a popular Christmas song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” flood our minds as we think of the past.
Think of all of your past Christmas memories. Did we ever have snow in our deep south of Mississippi? Did we imagine a snowflake or two? Did we seem to smile and laugh, waiting until the big day arrives? Do you still believe in Santa Claus? Are you going to leave him a chocolate chip cookie and a warm glass of milk on the kitchen table? Will you wear red and green clothes and sweaters, and will you pull you coat /sweater tighter around your shoulders and chin to stay warmer when the cold December winds blow? Will the tip end of your nose freeze, and will you keep your ears tightly covered to stay cozy? Will your past memories dominate your thoughts, or will you make brand new memories this year? Will you ever grow up and grow old? No. Keep your memories close to your heart and, for goodness sake, never grow up.
Let’s make this an extraordinary kaleidoscope Christmas. I’ve just put your Christmas card into an envelope, addressed it and stuck a stamp on the right side of the top of my envelope. It’s in the mail, and each one of you will be receiving it through Starkville Daily News by special delivery on Dec. 25 just in time for Christmas. I hope you’ll save it, tuck it away in a drawer to keep as a new memory for this year.
When I was a little girl my favorite toy was one that Saint Nick picked up from Morgan and Lindsey’s Five and Dime Store on Main Street in Starkville. It was hidden away underneath our tall Christmas tree. I quickly tore into the big red bow and white paper. Inside was a tiny cardboard kaleidoscope. It was my brand new gift in a tube containing an arrangement of a glass mirrors and pieces of colored glass on paper which produced thousands of constantly changing patterns of colored reflections. I would look inside the tube and spend hours rotating it to see my very own new artistic world. When I would rotate it, and then I would give my new kaleidoscope a tiny shake. Suddenly my life and everything in it shifted and changed. I could make believe by just peeping with one eye into my own new magical, colorful world. I loved it.
I think I was born with a pencil, brush, and a tube of paint in my right hand when Dr. Feddy Eckford, M.D. and his daddy Dr. Jim Eckford, M.D. brought me into this world. I was born in a two story white clap board house near and behind the old Felix Long Memorial Hospital near Welch Funeral Home today. This old house was our only Starkville Hospital. I was born on March 4, 1942. My precious mama was 30-year-old Elizabeth Lewis McReynolds, and my precious daddy was 35-year-old John Andrew McReynolds II. I have one sibling, Johnny Andrew McReynolds III who is four years younger. On Dec. 24, 1964 at the age of 53, Mama died at the Felix Long Memorial Hospital early that Christmas Eve morning, and she was buried the next day.
To be perfectly honest, Christmas has never quite been the same, but each year I try to cherish and remember all the Christmas memories I had of Mama and Daddy, too. Daddy lived to be almost 97 years old and died on June 27, 2003. He remained a widower all those years after as he said, “My best friend died.” He always called her, Elizabeth. Mama was a musician majoring in music over at MUW, and she played the piano beautifully and by ear too. My parents named me for the Christmas carols, but she added an “e” to Carole. She loved music and Christmastime as well.
One of the last memories I have of Mama was one late November afternoon as we walked together on the cold north side of my old family home into the back porch area. As we got to the first step leading into the home, Mama suddenly said, “Carole, it is so nice to have a family home to come home to. It was as if she knew that she did not have much longer to live. She felt that she would be going to Heaven very soon. A few weeks later in the bedroom which is our master bedroom today, Mama slipped into a liver coma in the home she was born and married in so many years earlier. She died only a few weeks later. This was around Thanksgiving of 1964.
Mama was born in this very home on July 9, 1911, the very year that her own granddaddy completed building our home. The day she was born her father, William Elmer Lewis, planted six pecan trees that are still standing and still producing pecans each year. Think 100 years of Pecans falling each year in the yard off the tree. Mama and Daddy were married in our family home in a lovely home wedding with 4 inches of snow covering the ground Dec. 22, 1935. December was the month of her marriage and her death. We are all a part of our past birth, our growing up years which is our present, and our getting older years which is our future. We have to live in the present, and we can live only today.
To me as an artist, every day is a wonderful, colorful, happy,