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Dave Peyton: Memorable, merry backwater Christmas to you and yours

December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas from one backwater inhabitant to another.

I was recently told by a native of West Virginia, who has since moved to an enlightened area, that I live in a backwater state.

Frankly this time of the year, I feel privileged to live in the backwater.

Peyton Place is the home to a dozen deer who spend many hours ever day browsing on grass in our yard and nibbling corn we leave for them.

When Susie goes outside to call our outside cat for breakfast or dinner, she says “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” The deer often come running. We think that they believe they are cats.

The birds keep us company. The woodpeckers, who have extremely serious eating habits, fly from one feeder to another searching for the best suet.

The cardinals provide color in this rather colorless time of the year. To awaken before true dawn and see them in the tree outside the living room window is a joy. Cardinals, I have learned, wake up early and are usually the last birds to leave the feeders at night.

Raccoons, possums, squirrels and the occasional skunk are here as well. Not all of them are welcomed but they are here nonetheless.

I suppose all this makes it a backwater. It is the kind of backwater a baby was born in a few thousand years ago.

He was born, so the Bible says, in a stable and was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

It’s an old, old story, especially significant to Christians.

As the late great poet Carl Sandburg, in his poem “Star Silver,” said:

“The vagabond Mother of Christ

And the vagabond men of wisdom,

All in a barn on a winter night,

And a baby there in swaddling clothes on hay

Why does the story never wear out?”

But there is irony in this festive holiday season. A friend on Facebook noted recently that Christmas is supposed to be so joyous it hurts him a little since his son died during the season years ago.

The response to that message was thought-provoking. Several of his friends said they too lost friends and relatives to death during the holidays.

I added my own message. My mother, Lois Genevieve Duncan Peyton, died on December 11, 1952. She was 47, and I was nine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that strokes, heart attacks and deaths spike during the Christmas season. They suspect it is because people are rushing here and there, trying to make Christmas the perfect season the sellers of the commercial Christmas tell us it should be but can never be.

Alas, if you are searching for the perfect Christmas, you will never find it in the presents, the food, the decorations or the tree. It’s all good but it doesn’t make perfection.

I only have dim memories of my mother, but I believe she was overdoing it despite the fact she had high blood pressure that couldn’t be controlled with the few medications available in 1952.

Since I live in a backwater world, I celebrate a backwater Christmas, more or less.

The only tree we have is a small ceramic one on our dining room table. We have a “nativity scene” on our mantle. We will exchange a few presents with my son, who will visit us from Atlanta. And we will have ham, turkey and “all the fixings” for dinner with our son and Janet, our good friend.

Merry Backwater Christmas to you and yours.

And above all, stop and remember the story that never wears out.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.

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