Holiday Greetings: We are blessed with two holiday stories filled with memories from two of our seasoned Florida tellers: Katie Green, who lives in Dunedin, and Cheryl Floyd, who lives in Deland:
By Cheryl Floyd
“With the holidays coming, I was thinking of my childhood and all of these wonderful memories came flooding back.” I received those precious words in a text message from my daughter recently, of course, the note made me smile.
I was close to her age and very busy with family and career when my mother passed away. We lived a thousand miles from her and didn’t have cell phones with video chats. Times are changing so quickly, let’s not take for granted the technology we have to stay connected even if we can’t be together in person.
My mama made holidays special with foods she served only once a year: divinity candy, fudge, and pies with pecans from my Grandparent’s tree, fruit salad with maraschino cherries, lemon and chocolate meringue pies. Oh! Also, she made the best banana pudding with vanilla wafers. What treats do you remember from your holidays?
We celebrated Christmas with all our relatives at my grandparents’ home in southwest Louisiana when I was a child. Santa miraculously arrived on their front porch while we shot fireworks and played in the backyard. Presents covered the living room floor. I have no memory of gifts I received the year I was eight, but will never forget my cousin giving his girlfriend an engagement ring on the nose of a large stuffed, white toy poodle. We all knew the ring was there, but sadly all she could see was the poodle she unwrapped until Mike said, “Look, Marie, doesn’t it have the cutest nose?” We all cheered and clapped as she cried tears of joy after finally spotting the ring.
My husband and I celebrated Christmas Eve 2015 at our home with our oldest daughter and grand girls here in town before heading to Texas the next morning to visit with our younger daughter and extended family. As we exchanged gifts our daughter shared a very special story of how she would remember us when we are gone. My husband wiped tears from his eyes and told her that story was the best Christmas present she could have given him. We didn’t know that one month later he would be gone, through an accidental death. The story lives on.
Many times holidays bring sadness because loved ones are no longer with us or they are too far away for a visit. Why not put together a collection of stories of your own holiday memories to share with loved ones; or add an extra line or two of memories to that greeting card. Do you have holiday food traditions? Want to give a treasured gift? Write down a recipe with a memory story on a keepsake card. Share them with friends or family this holiday season and ask others to share a memory or two from their family traditions. Our shared stories connect us.
Healthy, happy holidays for your soul, from my home and heart to yours.
Cheryl Floyd, Speaker/Storyteller and Life Coach is a graduate of East Tennessee State University Storytelling Program. Her career includes over thirty years in education, publishing, coaching, public speaking and writing. Cheryl is also a gardening and butterfly enthusiast. Cheryl is a southern girl with her early traditions steeped in her Cajun Louisiana roots and the lyrical power of the language permeates her storytelling style. Learn more at: www.cherylfloyd.com
Our second story is from Katie Green, who will be one of the Fringe tellers at the 2022 Florida Storytelling Festival, Jan. 27-30 at the Lakeside Inn in Mt Dora.
Keeping Family Traditions
Telling stories about our lives is to value our existence and rekindle our love and appreciation for each other. We tell stories about events that are important to us, and, in this way, define our values and re-create our existence.
By Katie Green
When I was a child, Christmas was a time of travel. No matter where we lived, my parents and I went to my grandparents’ house in southwestern Virginia. In December, we traveled to Meadowview, Virginia by train from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Long Beach, California, or Houston, Texas.
We rode in a Pullman compartment with beds that were pulled down out of the walls by the porter. Meals were taken in the dining car, where tables had white linen cloths, heavy silverware, and a small bouquet of flowers.
During the Korean War, there were many soldiers on the train from Texas to Virginia. I remember how polite and handsome they were in their Army or Navy uniforms; how happy they were to be going home for the holidays.
Times were different then. People trusted each other. I remember falling asleep leaning against a soldier while my parents drank coffee, smoked cigarettes, and chatted with other travelers. The soldier sang me to sleep with a popular song containing my name: Nancy with the Laughing Face. (Back then, I was known as Nancy Kate.)
It was dark when the train went through Birmingham, Alabama. My mother pointed out the colored Christmas lights on the small houses next to the railroad tracks. She told me that the Christmas spirit of love was in everybody’s homes. It was not about how many toys Santa brought.
Christmas at my grandparents’ house was always special. My mother had 5 siblings, and they were usually there with their families. They came from as close as Galax, Virginia and as far away as Pocatello, Idaho. The extended family filled the old farmhouse. We decorated the fir tree with colored glass balls, strung popcorn, and tinsel. Then we sat back to watch the new, candle-shaped bubble lights. We were warmed by the coal-burning fireplace while we listened to Christmas carols on the big, upright static-filled radio in the corner. The evening ended with everyone singing Silent Night together. Grandma would say, “That song always makes my eyes leak.”
The years go by quickly. My husband and I are now the grandparents. These days travel is more difficult. We are happy to have friends and family gather at our home at Christmas to make music, sing songs, and tell stories. I hope that our children and grandchildren will have fond memories of the holidays and that their stories will continue the tradition.
Katie Green is one of the founding members of the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling (LANES). Katie has performed and presented workshops at National Storytelling Network, Sharing the Fire, Connecticut Storytelling Festival, Three Apples Storytelling Festival, Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center, Friends General Gathering (Quaker), and hundreds of libraries, schools, and museums. She is a member of the Florida Storytelling Association, Storytellers of Old Tampa Bay, NEST. and the National Storytelling Network.
Learn more at:Katie Green Storyteller Home (katiegreenstories.com)