I love Christmas. It is a most wonderful time of year indeed; but I have to say, the years have changed my perspective…
As a child growing up with two brothers, it was the one time of year that we didn’t have to be threatened with “the belt” to get along (and my dad did not give idle threats…). And back then, December seemed to be about 6 weeks long! It took forever for Christmas to come!
I loved that Christmas meant spending time with extended family. I always looked forward to going to Kannapolis, NC where we would celebrate with my father’s side of the family, then heading to Salisbury, NC to see with my mother’s side. Both sides were equally fun, but these were two very different sides of the family.
My dad’s family, the Allmans and the Hodges, were not a large bunch in number, but we were HUGE in fun. My grandfather, Rev. Lester Allman, had a sense of humor that has been passed down from generation to generation, and still lives strong today in his grandchildren and several of his great-grandchildren. My dad has one sister, Aunt Linda Hodge, and she and her husband Gene have two daughters, Gina Lynn (now known only as “Gina”) and Angel. Every year, the cousins (less Rob – he considered himself too old to hang out with the “little kids”) would escape to the living room and start working on a Christmas play that we would perform for the family. And they endured it graciously.
Now, the Allman’s and Hodge’s were practical jokers. At some point, someone would receive a well thought out gag gift (that sometimes literally made you gag) that would take the spotlight and send us all into hilarious laughter. I guess the “gag” gift I remember the most was one to my dad received from Aunt Linda. The box must have boasted something really special, but inside awaited a baby potty filled with chunky peanut butter with chocolate bars interestingly placed in the peanut butter (use your imagination….enter the “gag” part). Strange sense of humor, I know…
Both my grandfather, Rev. Lester Allman, and my grandmother, “Lib” are in heaven now (He was 6’4″ and she was about 4’6″). I can’t tell you how much I miss the days of sitting backwards in our wood paneled station wagon headed to Kannapolis for Christmas.
Gina Lynn, Chris, and Me…groovy times (circa 1976?)
The Loman Christmas was a huge event. My mother has 4 brothers and between the five of them there are 12 grandchildren (and numerous great-grandchildren at this point). Because of the size of the Loman family, we drew names for the gift exchange amongst ourselves and then we also received a coveted gift from our grandparents, Rev. Harold Loman and sweet Elizabeth (they actually bought us toys when we were little and not clothes). I could not wait to tear into our presents! But as is the case for most celebrations, we had to eat first.
My uncle, Larry Loman, who is retired from the US Navy, started a tradition one year by bringing cold, boiled shrimp for everyone to enjoy. Wow! That was quite the treat back then! And I discovered that I loved “shrimp cocktail”! So did everyone else…which led to Uncle Larry counting out the shrimp that we were each allowed have. They were both so yummy! But, don’t DARE go back and try to get more. Ouch…he was hard core about his shrimp…
Once everyone”s gifts were opened, the last, and probably most anticipated activity took place; the passing out of the envelopes. My grandparents gave each of the grandchildren a $50.00 bill and every year I received an envelope marked “Robbin”. Forever I have spelled my name “Robin”, but since every year there was a $50.00 bill enclosed in my envelope, I never said a word.
We dressed up for Christmas…(I know you’re all saying, “Bless her heart…”)
Of course, life goes on and things never stay the same. Today, all four of my grandparents, my own father, Rev. Max Allman, and both my father-in-law, Charles Riggins and my mother-in-law, Kay Riggins, are in heaven. I miss them so much. And even though between my two brothers and I there are 13 grandchildren, seldom are we ever all together due to the different directions in which God has led our lives. I do thank God every day that I am blessed to live right next to my mother, Janice Allman, (whom I struggle to keep up with most days), but I sure do miss my daddy being there, too. Every year at Christmas, dad proudly presented the family with a big, fat beef tenderloin, cooked just perfectly by his own hands, including all the trimmings to enjoy together.
Christmas is different now.
I miss my own children looking forward to going to both sets of grandparents’ homes, excited to be exchanging gifts with their cousins, anticipating what each will receive from Santa and, who knows – maybe coming up with a Christmas play to present to the family. I miss making multiple side dishes for a feast that will more than feed all 25+ family members on the Riggins’ side of the family and then doing it all over again to feed all 21+ in mine. I miss shopping for just the right present that I think a niece or nephew or sibling or in-law will believe to be the best gift they’ve ever received.
I’m not whining, just missing my family that I don’t get to see often enough. You see, we’ve been through a lot together and my love for all of them goes way back and grows every day.
This is my oldest brother, Rob (in this picture, he was still known as “Robbie”), and me. Who knew this cowboy would grow to be news director for CBN in VA Beach, VA?
Maybe 1970? Taken at the parsonage when my father was a pastor in West Jefferson, NC
This is my younger brother, Chris, and me. I’m not sure why in all of his younger pictures Chris has his finger stuck in his ear like that. I think a gentleman from our church taught him that trick…? I’m so proud of how the Lord is using Chris in ministry as tenor for Greater Vision – wow what an amazing voice!
1972-73? Taken at the parsonage on Davis Street in Burlington, NC
There’s no doubt I’m blessed and through the strides this world has made in communication, I can talk to my brothers and the rest of my family nearly any time I choose. But there’s nothing like being together. Because when we are, whether the Riggins’ or the Allmans’, there’s sure to be lots of laughter and even more love.
Life will always change, but Christmas is still magical. Next stop…grandchildren….:)