By: Stacey England, Staff Columnist
During our holiday travels, my mother and I used to play a game we called “I Spy.”
As we would round the last hairpin curve down Kennison Mountain, the first one to see the tiny town of Marlinton, West Virginia, below would yell “I Spy”!
Isobel and Sam Deal enjoy a visit with Santa Claus, while riding a train, during the Christmas season in 2011. Photo by: Doug Deal.
We traveled to Marlinton for every holiday occasion to spend precious time with great Aunt Maud. We’d yell the same phrase when we turned onto her street and spied her house. Each of us would hope the other would forget, and we would be the victor. I would like to point out that being a back seat passenger had its disadvantages. That, and my mother was a vicious cheater.
We never missed a holiday trip to Marlinton. No circumstance, no situation, no bad weather would keep us from making it over that mountain. My mother drove our little Chevy Celebrity through driving snow, tire chains we never used in Georgia crunching away. We were postal carriers, and these trips were our solemn duty.
Holidays in Aunt Maud’s home are the fondest memories of my childhood. All of my favorite aunts and uncles would travel from near and far, up and down the mountain, making the traditional pilgrimage to be together.
During the holidays, a child could consume sweets all day, track snow into the house, interrupt the conversations of adults … my Aunt Maud’s home was a safe haven for mischief. As the only child in the house, I could do no wrong. Can you imagine the weeks of undoing my Mother must have gone through?
Holiday meals were a day-long event. The women were up early, dressed in their best—and covered in ridiculous, frilly, hand-made aprons to protect their polyester shirtdresses. We’re talking about stockings, girdles, shoes, the whole nine yards.
The women cooked all day. They laughed about things I never understood, and shooed me out of the kitchen at every chance.
Meanwhile, the men watched football with the TV on silent, with another game broadcast on the radio. Much of this was slept through, but test one by asking the score and they’d come straight out of a snore with “31-24 top of the 3rd, 1st down and ten!” Pipes were smoked, fires were stoked, and THEY laughed about things I never understood.
After being tempted all day by the aromas coming from the kitchen, the table was set. It was a beautiful table with lace linens, and silver, and place settings, which the children and men had neither interest nor knowledge in. Birds were carved, gravy was poured, desserts were oohed and ahhed over before being devoured. The ladies retreated to the kitchen to wash and put away, while the men found this the perfect opportunity to nap.
The next day, we all packed up, said tearful goodbyes, checked the snow chains, and headed back over the mountain.
I’m so thankful that my mother never failed to get us there. Without knowing it, she gave me a great gift of beautiful memories just by throwing me in the car, and telling me not to put my tongue on the glass 87 times.
Where will you go this holiday season? What will your children and grandchildren spy? Are you just beginning to create these traditions? More importantly, how many times will your kids lick the window?
Safe travels to you, and may you create a multitude of story-worthy holiday memories.