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A child’s Christmas in the country

The older I get, the more I find I enjoy looking back to days gone by. Those times were no more perfect than today, but the passage of time allows me to remember the best and forget the worst. And here in the country, living very near to where I grew up, so many happy memories come to the surface.

If I close my eyes, I can imagine smoke drifting lazily up from one of the old farmhouse chimneys; inside the house, there’s a crackling blaze going in the living room’s brick fireplace. How good it feels to back up to it on a cold winter’s day!

Across the room, a pine, cut from the farm’s ‘Back Forty’, stands. It is decked out in fruit-shaped glass ornaments, tinsel garlands and silver icicles, glowing with the reds, blues, greens and oranges of the C-7 light strands.

The tree is, as always, a trifle lop-sided. There is a bare spot in one place, but we have turned to it toward the window so only we know the secret. My sisters and I, who decorated the tree, think it is quite beautiful.

At night, I like to stretch out on my stomach in front of the fire, take off my spectacles and gaze up at the tree, my near-sighted eyes transforming the ordinary bulbs into brilliant bursts of light and color. At Christmas, it seems, weak eyes can be a bonus.

Tantalizing packages, decked out in colorful paper and bows, have begun to appear beneath the tree’s green branches. My oldest sister is far too grownup to succumb to the temptation of slipping about, checking tags and shaking presents. I, however, am not.

(I am the youngest, after all, and surely it is my God-given right to be a snoop.)

We make hot chocolate, the real kind, with milk and cocoa and sugar, stirred in a saucepan on the stovetop, then poured into mugs to sip on a chilly evening.

Daddy takes wire coat hangers and straightens them out with the pliers form his overalls. We three girls poke a big fluffy marshmallow on the end of each one and roast them over the fire.

Sometimes my dreamy mind wanders as I toast and my lovely marshmallow goes up in flames. But other times, I manage to toast it a perfect golden brown, and that marshmallow – crusty on the outside, gooey on the inside – tastes like a little bit of heaven.

The flames warm my face, the tree lights glow; it is Christmas time in the country and that is a marvelous thing.

Angie Long is the Lifestyles reporter for the Greenville Advocate and can be reached at 382-3111 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate.com.