Monday, November 30, 2009

I Love Christmas

(Four generations ... Neenie, Bigmama holding Molli, Mother)

I love Christmas. I love the music. I love the decorations. I love the giving and receiving of gifts. I love the food…I really love the food. I love the memories I treasure in my heart of Christmas past and the hope I cling to for Christmas future. I try with all my might to enjoy and celebrate Christmas present in such a way that would be pleasing to our Almighty God whose Son we adore.

I could probably write an entire book about all the interesting Christmas memories I have, but I will spare you that-for now. I am not easily moved to tears. I don’t like sappy movies or books. But get me started on Christmas stories, and I’ll have to admit that my eyes get a bit misty.

When I was a little girl, we lived in Iowa. It seemed that we were a million miles away from my Grandparents and the ride to get to them, which we did at some point most every Christmas, took even longer than it did in the summer. My Neenie’s house would be decorated so beautifully. I have some of those decorations now and I cherish them. Things were sort of fancy at her house, and we always got THE LECTURE about behaving, not running, no fighting…yada yada yada!

We usually stayed with Neenie and Bobo (my maternal grandparents) but would drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s house ( my paternal grandparents) to visit with them, about 30 miles away. Grandma would greet us at the door and tell us, ‘you know where you are and you know where the food is…help yourselves!’ I can remember Mother telling us (along with the above lecture) to PLEASE not act like we hadn’t eaten for weeks. But, who could help it? Grandma had fudge, divinity, rice krispies treats, potato chips, oranges, bananas, R.C. colas and Pepsi (in bottles in the refrigerator and ever so much better than what we drink today) and it was ours for the taking. If we ate it all up, more would be there the next day when we came back. It was like paradise. She kept the goodies in tins on the table and we could just go and get it. In fact, she meant it when she said to help ourselves. She was too busy to get it for us. Boy! Oh, Boy! My mouth waters today when I think about that table in her house.

Except for one year. I imagine it was the Christmas of 1962. We didn’t go home for Christmas. You see, Daddy got us up in the night and we were taken to the home of family friends. We had been so excited because Mother was expecting a baby. He (I was sure it was going to be a boy, all the other kids but me were boys…so why wouldn’t this one be, as well?) was due close to my birthday. On December 23, if my memory serves me correctly, Mother lost that baby.

When Mother came home, we got another lecture. We weren’t to make demands on her. We were to be quiet so she could rest. No fighting, fussing, running, etc. She was pale. Christmas became not the normal laughter and cheer, but rather sad.

Until…a car pulled up in the driveway. It was Bobo and Neenie. And Bigmama. Neenie’s mother. God bless her, Bigmama had on her apron and had ridden all the way to Iowa wearing it. She came in and took charge. Believe you me…she knew how to be in charge! Food was prepared. Gifts were opened. Christmas took on that magic again. We were with family. I knew it was important if Bigmama came.


I don’t have any idea what I got that year for Christmas. I’m sure there were pajamas and probably a doll under the tree. I’m equally as sure that we read the story of Christ’s birth from the Gospel of Luke, because we did that every year. I imagine we said a prayer and were thankful for all of our blessings before we tore into the gifts. I couldn’t swear to any of that.

What I can swear to is this; Family mattered to us. Not only our little family, but also our extended family. I learned by example that when things don’t go as planned or when bad things happen…family comes to help get you through. I learned that if Mother couldn’t care for us, someone who loved us very much would step in and fill in for her until she was again able to do that. Some of those people weren’t family, but they loved us and took us in.

More often than not as an adult, I have been far away from my parents, brothers and sister. I have made Christmas in tiny apartments, beautiful homes and even in temporary military housing. I have eaten Christmas dinner in a chow hall full of GIs who were probably as homesick as I was. One Christmas, we were living in the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters with Marines during part of the Christmas season. I read “Winnie the Pooh” along with the Christmas Story to my children in the common room, and had some pretty big Marines move their chairs closer and ask me to keep going long after the children had fallen asleep. I’ve shared Christmas with dear friends, and made some new friends over Christmas dinner.

To me, Christmas is about being content wherever you are. It is about the Joy that came to the world and resides in my heart. It is about little children singing “Away in a Manger” and it is about having a spirit of generosity. So, if I am far away from those I hold dear, I remember that the place Christmas truly happens is in my heart. It has nothing to do with location or company. It has everything to do with God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

I’m praying for each of you to enjoy a Christmas experience so sweet that you will cherish it in your heart the whole year long.

~ Mollianne

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Daddy, Snow, & a Bicycle ... part 2

Christmas Morning!!

I slept in the "North Bedroom" and it was cold there. I was buried under several quilts, still sleeping, when there was this wonderful voice, "Charlotte, Wake up!" I poked my head out from under the cover and there was Daddy Jim, sitting on a Bicycle! Not a shinny new bike with white wall tires, just a rusty old bike. I promise you, it was the prettiest bike I ever saw… to this day I have never seen one so beautiful to me.

I was out of bed before you could say "Jack Robinson!"

Then, Daddy Jim said, "Go look out the window--"

SNOW!!! Eight inches of white fluffy beautiful SNOW! It was so bright and shinny, so clean and white, and still falling on the holly bushes.


Suddenly, I started for the living room.

Daddy Jim caught me, in those wonderful strong arms, and held me.

He asked me, "Where are you going?"

"My Daddy is in the living room!"

I just knew he would be! I had a bicycle and snow. Surely God had answered my whole prayer!

Then came the gentle and loving reply from my Daddy Jim, "No, he isn't. Charlotte wait! Don't you think two out of three is not bad? Your Daddy loves you very much and misses you terribly. He will be home when the time comes. Now, let's have Christmas!"

And have Christmas we did! Family, Food, Snow and a bicycle! But most of all, we had love to spare and it was one of
the Best Christmases I can remember. Somehow, I knew that Daddy would be home and we would have lots of Christmases together.....and we did!

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Daddy, Snow, & a Bicycle ... part 1

It was the early 40s with World War II raging on two sides of the world and even in small towns the squeeze was felt. However to a young girl in a small Tennessee town, thirty miles from Memphis, {which by-the-way, was a long trip in the 40s} it meant only two things: My Daddy was GONE to war and my Mama came and went. She followed Daddy from place to place as long as possible and when that wasn’t possible any longer, she found work in another town a few miles away. Today a few miles away is not a problem, just a commute. In those days tires and gas were rationed and parts for repairs were almost non-existent. Other things were rationed, but I only remember those things, shoes and sugar. Hershey bars were scarce and any chocolate was hard to come by.

We left Memphis, to live with my Daddy Jim and Bigmama in Oakland, Tennessee. They are a whole ‘nother story in themselves. My Daddy Jim was bigger than life, had a fabulous sense of humor, and was unusually handsome! He loved a good time, family gatherings, and he especially loved Christmas. I cannot remember a childhood Christmas without being at Daddy Jim and Bigmama's house.

This year was my Daddy's second Christmas away, Every night, after supper, Daddy Jim went down to Uncle Carl's Place {bus stop, pool hall, small grocery store, gas station, and "hang out" for the men in town, after supper} and would come home before my bed time. On this particular December night, Bigmama and I were listening to the radio. Daddy Jim came in and sat down, and I was immediately in his lap, as always. It was my favorite place… warm, full of love, and he smelled good too.

"What do you want for Christmas?" he asked me.


"Charlotte, you heard me, what do you want for Christmas?"

"Three things,” I responded

"Well, tell me what they are, and we will see what we can do."

"My Daddy home. Snow. A bicycle"

Silence again, but this time not mine. It was Daddy Jim's.

"I don't know about those, are there any more things you might want?"

"No Sir, just those three things."

In the next days, Daddy Jim, Bigmama, and Uncle Ebb asked that same question. I think they were hoping that I would add something else. My wishes never wavered. The answer was always:

"My Daddy Home. Snow. A bicycle"

Now, Daddy was deployed to the South Pacific, it does not snow much in west Tennessee[at that time I could not remember ever seeing snow], and bicycles were not being manufactured. Folks were hanging on to what they had, and if you had one, you couldn't get tires.

Prayer was a constant in our home. At meals, upon rising, bedtimes and other times during the day. It was not unusual for me to see Bigmama, in the garden or by the kitchen stove praying. Every day, we asked God to keep "the boys safe", meaning Uncle Charles, Uncle Bob, Uncle Gene and My Daddy.

Again and again, I was asked, Charlotte, what do you really and truly want for Christmas?” The answer never changed. To be honest, Christmas looked to be somewhat of a disappointment.

Our tree was up--Daddy Jim cut it and brought it home. There were some gifts under it, including Hershey Bars (I knew ‘cause I could smell them). Daddy Jim always managed somehow, to have Hershey Bars quite a bit.

It was not long now till the big day. I was sitting in my favorite spot when Daddy Jim came and gave me a detailed explanation of what to expect on Christmas Day. He said that the only way my Daddy could come home was if the Army sent him. My Daddy was helping our fighting men to know Jesus and have some comfort and help. He would be home as soon as the war was over, just as soon as he could. He asked me if I knew that only God can make it snow. He asked me if I had been talking to God about both of those things, Daddy coming home and snow. I told him that I was praying for those things. Then there was the remaining matter of the bicycle. Bicycles were not being made and folks were not selling their old ones. He told me that he had tried… but could not find a single bicycle.

So---That was That!

{for the rest of the story, check back here tomorrow!!

nothing like building a little Christmas anticipation.}

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ward Lee Buster

Ward Buster was born on November 4, 1903. He was my Sweet Daddy’s father and my Grandpa. When I was very little, I called him PawPaw, but that slipped easily into Grandpa as I got older.

My relationship to him was always that of a granddaughter to her Grandpa. He gave me nickels and told me I was a pretty girl and bought me candy cigarettes at his country store. He had a soft voice and often winked when he told me something. I don’t recall having deep philosophical conversations with him. It was just simple and looking back, very sweet. He loved me and I loved him. That was enough.

It wasn’t until after he died that I came to know more of the man he was. When I went home for his funeral, I had a two- party check in my wallet that I needed to get cashed. I went to the bank and starting explaining away and when I got to the part about my Grandfather, Ward Buster, who had died the teller said, ‘Honey…if you are Ward Buster’s granddaughter, we will cash that check. His word and his name are solid here.’ I don’t know about you, but that hadn’t ever happened to me. I found out by the respect I was given that my Grandpa was an honest man.

I’m told that he was the ‘white sheep’ of his family. He had some brothers who might have been rough fellows, and perhaps on the wrong side of the law on occasion. At the family cemetery once, I asked my Daddy if we were kin to the man on a tombstone that had the Buster name. Daddy laughed and told me that Grandpa would have said, ‘They may be kin to us, but we aren’t kin to them!’

When I was very little, Grandpa and Grandma lived on a small farm in Eugene, Missouri. They had chickens and a horse. They might have had cows at that point, but I only remember the chickens and the horse. And an outside pump for water. I always wanted to pump water from that thing, but was much too little and puny to do it. I remember Grandpa telling me to try again and he pumped the water while I held on. He smiled and put his hand on my head and said, ‘See! You did it.’ Grandpa ran the Shell store and it was an glorious place for a small child to visit! Wonderful smells and textures. Wood floors that creaked and cracked and what seemed to me to be an endlessly long counter. I recall sitting up on that counter and smoking my candy ‘Lucky Strikes’ thinking that I was a very big dog, indeed. I have the cash register from that store and it is one of my prize possessions.

Grandpa was quite a hunter and fisherman. He used to keep a small spiral notebook in his pocket with the number of fish he caught for each day of the summer that he went fishing. I can remember calling a date out to him and he would look it up and tell me how many fish he’d caught that day.

I never once saw him outside without a hat on, even if he was just walking out to the car. He had ball caps and nice hats. I have one that is a London Fog tweed and I wear it on occasion.

He loved baseball, and he especially loved the St. Louis Cardinals. I remember sitting very still and listening to games when I was wee-tiny. We would sit in their living room and listen on the old radio. The last time I saw him, he was watching the World Series. I don’t believe that the Cards had made it, but he was cheering for the National League.

I’m told that he was quite a ball player. I have a picture of his team from the 1930s when they were the Mid-Missouri Champs. I asked my Daddy once what year Grandpa graduated from High School. Daddy laughed and said that Grandpa didn’t graduate from High School, although he went for quite a few years. I asked Daddy what that meant, exactly. The answer I got was that he went until basketball season was over and then he would find work. The next year, he’d do the same thing. I don’t know if that is legend or not, but it is a good story. I do know that Grandpa was a very smart man, even if he didn’t have much in the way of higher education. They tell me that he could add up a column of numbers quicker than I could punch the numbers in to my calculator. What an amazing gift!

My Grandpa, although he was an honest and good man, did not become a Christian until he was in his 60s. I remember going with my Daddy to Jefferson City, Missouri, and watching as Daddy baptized Grandpa. After that, I remember that he kept a Bible on his table beside his chair, along with his Louis L’Amour novels.

While this Generation to Generation blog is mostly about the women of our family, today is a day to honor one of our men. Ward Lee Buster. I miss his quiet ways and his gentle smile. His standard of honesty and integrity is one that I hope I live up to and am able to pass on to my children and grandchildren so that he would be proud of us…and would be willing to say that not only were we kin to him, but also that he was kin to us.