CHRISTMAS MEMORY CLOSE TO HEART

‘Tis the season again when families gather around a hearth and a tree, forgiving past slights while holding close memories that linger like the woody aroma of a log-burning fire rising from a neighbor’s chimney.

In the spirit of hope that attends this holiday season, I thought I’d share a message I received several years ago from my younger brother in Northern California recalling a talk he’d had then a letter he’d received from our father in St. Louis during a Christmas past.

*

“I was driving back from an early court appearance in Sacramento and the morning was thick with the tule fog.  And as I drove west towards other appearances in my neck of the woods, I’d see at times these wonderful sights of green fields and copses of trees emerging and fading in the fog. 

I’d called home to St. Louis, and Pop and I were just talking about one thing and the other.  And as I drove, I mentioned a few times what I was seeing as it unfolded around me. 

Just this Saturday, then, I received the note from Pop which follows.  I tried to follow Pop’s formatting (it was, of course, handwritten) but don’t know if you’ll receive it that way.  Emails often don’t seem to visually translate the same way as they’re written.  It doesn’t really matter, I guess, but I kind of view Pop’s letters like poetry and so the words as they appear on each line are like stanzas.  You’ll know the meaning nonetheless.

*

Dear Marek,

Your phone call this morning touched me.
I don’t know how, but maybe
it was the green fields, but I went back in memory
to a time long past when I was young
and the world was, too.

There I was again,
it was about 11 PM.  A friend
and I, both 22-years old, were walking
home from a movie at the Pageant Theater
this December night near Christmas.

I was wearing a dark overcoat. It
was snowing, large lazy flakes
drifting down, and it was silent, no
cars, no people, just we two.

We walked over to a tavern.
Even though the Depression was in full bloom
then, many men sought peace in
the company of others and a glass or [two]
of beer.  I walked in.

The lights were low as was the murmur of the
conversation.  And there, with all
those men, the smoke and the warmth
and the aroma of whiskey in this
room, I stood for a moment
completely alone in my thoughts.

It was almost Christmas and I
was a very lost young man. But
in this moment, for the first
time in many years, I was at peace.
It was just for a brief second, and
then I came back to reality and
had a glass of beer.

I wonder what brought
back to my mind that single moment
in my life 70 years ago.  It was
probably you, the fog, and
the green fields.

Love,
Pop

Isham Reavis in 1942 in sunnier times

*

Our father passed nearly a decade ago now, but like all families at Christmas time ours continues to pass around such family stories and reread old letters to keep those no longer with us closer to heart.

Here’s wishing that all today’s lost souls, young and old alike, find a measure of comfort – even if just for a brief second – in this season of sharing and hope. Wishing everyone, too, a very merry and joyful Christmas. 🎄

Marek, Pop , and I celebrating Pop’s 98th birthday Oct. 11, 2009

END

9 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS MEMORY CLOSE TO HEART

  1. Toni, thanks for sharing that wonderfully written note from your Dad, beautiful! I can see how his writing influenced yours, too. Happy Holidays to you and Toya, and hope to read and hear much more from you in 2020 and the many healthy years to come. Mike

  2. Toni- I loved this memory, mostly because I could feel the love that exists between the three of you.Life was simpler back then, but it doesn’t mean that we
    can’t have peace in our hearts when we care about others and show it by our actions and sentiments. Merry Christmas to you and Toya. Have always valued our friendship greatly. You are such an incredibly perceptive and talented writer.

    1. Bless your heart, Bob. We have all been fortunate through this sport to meet so many people of quality. Toya and I are blessed to call you a friend. The best of holiday wishes to you. Hope to see more of you in 2020.

      Toni

  3. What a great story and I appreciate as always you sharing these memories of your Mom and Dad.
    Wish we had lived closer and I missed a lot of that family history.
    Continue of sending those special ones
    Wishing you the very best of holidays and the best in 2020.
    Your Cousin
    Vicki Gibbons-Charlottesville VA

    1. Great to hear from you, Vicki. Merry Christmas to you, John and Jen. Hoping all are well and warm and wishful. We just returned from our annual visit to Hawaii for the Honolulu Marathon. Glad you enjoyed the story. Always nice to bring Pop to mind. Love, Toni & Toya

  4. Toni: Merry Christmas and Happy (and healthy) New Year to you and Toya! It will always be more exciting and dramatic with an Olympics on the horizon.

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful family memory with us. Would love to meet your brother some day.

    Your father was a dapper dresser back in 1942! He looks sharp, buddy!

    I am one of your few friends/readers who knows what the heck the Pageant Theater is in STL! It is always fun to read about earlier memories from back then. What are we gonna reminisce about with our aging youngsters or nieces/nephews some day in the not too distant future? I hope it is as good…..

    1. Thanks, Craig. Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well. Not sure our memories will arouse the same emotions as our parents’ generation. They went through so much more than we did growing up. But it was the character they developed in those hard times that made them the strict but caring parents we knew. We were lucky to have been born when we were. And the Pageant Theater has also been reborn, I understand, helping anchor the east side of the Delmar Loop.

      Christmas wishes,

      TR

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