Janard: Looking back at Christmas in Rutherford County
I recall a past discussion about whether our county should promote itself as a Christmas destination.
Personally, I don’t see why not. We’ve certainly got the decorations for it. But for someone to really experience an authentic Rutherford County Christmas…well, I’m thinking they would need to stay here for the entire holiday season.
Because, really, it starts weeks ahead with the loaf of pumpkin spice bread, fresh out of the oven, that Carolyn from across the street brings over.
Yes, carols played early on the radio. The stores advertised their holiday deals for weeks. But it’s the heady scent of Carolyn’s pumpkin spice bread filling your kitchen that, to you, heralds the true beginning of the holidays.
Then, not long after, it’s bundling up your little boy on an early winter morning in Spindale to see the elementary school’s Storybook Character parade. Your cup of coffee steams in the chilly air as the two of you wave at the smiling children and teachers flocking by in full costume.
After the holiday parade season in Rutherford County had officially started, it seems entire bags of candy are being thrown at your feet at the Ellenboro Christmas parade, plus the two women next to you are giving your child most of the candy they’re collecting.
“It’s Christmas!” they laugh.
Just about. And now it’s walking into the holiday wonderlands of Spindazzle and the Medical Arts Pharmacy and Smith’s Drugstore. And no one frowns at your little boy when he can’t help but touch some of the glittering Christmas treasures on display.
It’s discovering Rutherford County’s thrift stores are also a vast source of Christmas riches – a good deal of them stamped “Made in the USA.” You stock up on entire sets of vintage ornaments for what seems like pennies. You also spot a round and white porcelain ... what is that, exactly? An igloo? Santa’s workshop? Wait, it has a lid. It must be a cookie jar.
But when you lift the lid, you find a music box attached inside that plays “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” So you take it home, whatever it is, and put it on your mantle. And hereafter name it the Christmas Globule.
It’s rolling out cookie dough with other moms, and with four eager little boys hovering in anticipation of pressing the dough into Christmas shapes. Then it’s being surprised by how painstakingly they do this.
It’s the lights. Oh, the lights!
In Spindale, even the Rail to Trail lit up for a breathtaking walking path at night. And after your town’s decorations go up, it’s seeing your mayor stroll along Main Street in a bright red holiday sweater surveying the results. He stops to chat with you, and to wish you a Merry Christmas.
It’s Carolyn coming back over with more goodies. Home-baked cookies, fudge in two or three different flavors ... you lose track of who’s getting into these heavenly treats the most; you or your child.
With mailing deadlines looming, it’s walking into the warmth of the Spindale Post Office with an armful of presents. And a postal worker offering to package them up for you, instead of just pointing to where they keep the boxes.
On a rainy Christmas Eve, it’s anxiously checking outside – again - to see if an overdue package from your son’s grandmother has arrived. The one that has the Lego City present he’s been longing for the past six months.
Just when you’re trying to devise some story for your child about how Santa got hung up in traffic, it’s seeing a mail carrier drive up to your back door in the pouring rain. She recognized your address, and knew that your house had a covered back porch. So she made a special trip to deliver your package instead of leaving it at the post office until the weather cleared up.
It’s each member of your family getting hand-crocheted hats for Christmas from someone you just met this year. You had no idea they had a talent for crocheting. No idea they were spending hours of their free time crocheting for you.
And then, this final recollection. Not from this Christmas, but from a year or two ago. You’ve just never forgotten it.
Driving by the lot where you bought your Christmas tree, you see the people who ran it have packed up and gone. The lot is now empty – except for three or four trees left behind for anyone who still doesn’t have one.
And not the straggly last pickings, either. These trees are tall, with lush, deep green branches.
If a holiday visitor to Rutherford County stays here long enough, I’m certain they’ll have at least a few moments similar to the ones I describe above. The kind you get from being the recipient of – or a silent witness to - something decent and good. And that usually transpires somewhere very ordinary, or even humble, but lives on in your heart and mind.
Which, if you think about it, is a lot like the very first Christmas.
Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email firstname.lastname@example.org