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Archive for heritage

collect . My Childhood Christmas in Vinyl

I don’t remember us having a record player at our house until I got the little green and blue kids version from Santa one year. He brought my eight-track cassette player with the removable speakers too, and my first stereo. The turntable took a back seat to the double cassette deck in that one. But as far as vinyl goes, Christmas music was synonymous with the big white record player at Grandmother’s house – and the small collection of classic Christmas albums we kept there. I can clearly remember lifting the cover of the record player, choosing the speed, moving the arm, and hearing the scratch of the needle, an experience practically lost to my children and their digital world. I’m slowly trying to pique their interest these days with our little orange Crosby.

We’ve been at Mom’s this week, making merry with an updated set of traditions. But, yesterday I pulled out the records from Grandmother’s and found so many of my favorite songs and memories staring back at me. In fact, some of my first memories of music center around this collection of Christmas records. Each year growing up, we spent about two weeks at Grandmother’s house on the farm, and the records served as the background score for a lot of holiday traditions and fun. They are an odd mix of unnamed choral singers, big band crooners, and old school country – with a little pop and folk thrown in, courtesy of Aunt Betty. Most are classics now. Some were already classics in the second release versions we had. And not only the music. The album covers! Like favorite book illustrations, they instantly send me back to childhood Christmases.

The Little Drummer Boy (late 60s?) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) compilations — those illustrations! I don’t know the singers, but I’m pretty sure this is where I learned most of the Christmas carols I know.

No Christmas is complete without Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 re-release of 1957 classic) and the classics, “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his one and only style. I think everyone in the family took a turn as background singer on this album each holiday season. I’m betting this album is also why I know my mom saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair before he reached iconic status. Stories just seem to abound around old Christmas albums.

I attribute a lot of my love of show tunes, crooners and the big band sound to Saturday evenings at Grandmother’s watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on E-TV… and to The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966). For sure, it’s the reason why I sing ” Marshmallow World” every time we make hot chocolate! My grandmother loved the Perry Como (1961 reissue) and Bing Crosby (1973 reissue) albums, with their rich voices. My favorites were “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and Bing’s iconic rendition of “Adeste Fidelis”.

My Aunt Betty loved records. She always brought new ones home. The old John Denver and Olivia Newton John LPs she handed down to me where my favorite childhood songs. I have most of her records now, but her love of classic country music didn’t really stick. I’m sure she’s responsible for the country and folk albums that were part of our Christmas collection… Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas (1971), Glen Campbell’s That Christmas Feeling (1968), Christmas in My Hometown (1970) from Mississippi-native, Charley Pride, and Emmylou Harris’ beautiful Light of the Stable (1979). I love Tennessee Ernie’s version of the Negro Spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, along with Charley Pride’s “They Stood in Silent Prayer” and Glen Campbell’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”. I also remember thinking as a little girl how cool The Partridge Family Christmas Card (1971) was, since it was so obviously a younger sound. I felt like I was a girl in the know listening to it — even though it was really before my time!

Memories, memories! When I look through the issue dates on all these records, I realize what classics many of them already were before I ever heard them in my 70s childhood. I realize it every time one pops in my head in response to some family activity. It’s fun to think about what the sounds added to how we celebrated Christmas. I’m already humming them again!

grow . For the Love of Daffodils

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It’s daffodil season, the sure sign of spring, and I cut these from the backyard last week for my desk. I was particularly excited to see these this year because a few of them came from plants my great grandmother grew!

Our farm house has a collection of daffodil bulbs that bloom each year along the fencerow. It’s behind the house and separates the “yard” from the front pasture, and my grandmother planted them sometime when my mom was a child. There are also a row of them that usually sprout up in a line out in the side pasture marking the place where an old fence once stood. And then, randomly with almost inexplicable origins, there are some that tend to crop up across the road, next to ditches, and various other odd places around the yard. I’m not convinced on whether my grandmother planted those, or if they arrived by pure magic! These daffodils are ones we look forward to seeing when we make what’s become the annual spring break trek to the farm in search of carefree days (and muddy play, like this year).

One of the places where we play at the farm is the “hay yard” just down the road from our farmhouse, and its actually a cleared plot where my great-grandmother’s house once stood. I can vaguely remember the house, although it was long abandoned by the time I probably saw it. The house was the last home of my grandfather’s parents, and my mom remembers walking there to visit her grandmother and get orange slices. I guess that’s why more daffodils were there.

For the last year or two, we’ve noticed a huge number of daffodil bulbs blooming in the pasture on the south side of the hay yard, and I like to imagine my grandmother and great-grandmother planting a few that then started multiplying over the years. I suppose they’ve been there for much longer that we can remember seeing them, but our more recent pasture adventures brought us into close contact.

I’ve long wanted to dig up a collection of those daffodils to bring home and enjoy another piece of the farm in our own little garden spaces. Last year when we visited for spring break, we took the opportunity. We loaded up a pick-up truck bed practically full of daffodil bulbs with their blooms still in place and brought them back to Starkville to plant. You can see a few bonus shots of baby Sally “helping” with the planting in the photo evidence below!

This year, Sally is much bigger, and the daffodils have sprouted! Most of them have only put out greenery this year, which is common since we transplanted them while the blooms were still on. However, a few, like the ones above, have graced us with their yellow springtime goodness. I’ll be excited to see their progress next year when they are more accustomed to their new digs!

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growing . My Grandmother’s Roses

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Happy Tuesday! I’m very excited this week about how my little garden is growing because the climbing roses are finally blooming! I’ve been watching for these small, light pink beauties, and I thought I would share some photos and a little of the story of growing them. My grandmother planted the climbing rose at our farmhouse probably sometime when my mother was young. It’s been blooming next to the fence behind the house and beside the road for as long as I can remember. Even when the house wasn’t in use and the fencerow overgrown, the rose still bloomed. And now, it has spread along much of the fencerow leading to the farmhouse — a testament to perseverance and a yearly joy and reminder of many good times at the farm.

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Last year, we spent Memorial Day weekend at the farm, and my Mom and I dug up a few clumps of the rose and piled them into a couple of 5-gallon buckets. If it had thrived for years on the farm with no care at all, I was hoping that my questionable green thumb could make it work in my yard. We brought it home, but didn’t really have time to replant it right away. We combined the clumps into one big black plastic pot with drainage and sat it in a relatively sunny spot in the backyard. We eventually trimmed the longer vines, cut off some of the dead parts, added in some more soil, and let it go again. Only one or two green shoots survived, and I was pretty sure we would have to try again next year.

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But, I was wrong! We checked on it through the summer and fall and the rose started putting on new growth. I had picked a spot beside the porch of our storage building that I thought would be nice for the climbing roses, so we moved the pot there to see how it would fair. It kept its green through temperatures in the teens this winter and started growing! We got a small trellis for it to climb and trained the new shoots toward the lattice. Mid-spring, the rose started to put on buds, and I’m excited to say they are in bloom now! I’m waiting until it finishes its blooming season, and we’ll actually put the rose in the ground with a new and larger trellis, hopefully to give it more room to continue climbing. It’s been very special to me to have something in my own garden that my grandmother had in hers for so long, and to enjoy success in this little gardening experiment. I’ll keep you posted on the rose’s next journey into soil and our progress expanding the trellis area. Meanwhile, enjoy some of these glimpses of the first blooms.

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