23 December 2014
When Watts was a boy, he said, Christmas was simpler than it is today. “Well, there were five of us children – four girls and myself,” he explained. “I was the oldest. We used to always get a flat box of raisins – that was al-ways a Christmas present – and we always got a coconut or an orange, and then some type of toy. I would get a pocket knife or a pop gun. It was pretty cheap stuff, I guess – but five or ten cents was a lot of money back then.”
“I remember one Christmas I got a little pocket knife with a chain that hooked through your overall strap,” Watts said. “I went to the spring with a little half gallon bucket to get water. I don’t know if it was on the way down there or on the way back, but I lost my pocket knife. My mother looked and looked for it, but we never could find it. I remember I cried and cried and cried,” he said ruefully. “It was my first knife, and I was just a little boy.”
“My favorite Christmas gift?” he mused, “I don’t know. It was probably when I got a bicycle one Christmas. I guess I was about 12 or 13. ‘Twas a blue and white one,” he said. “I don’t remember the make of it – but it was a boy’s bicycle and that meant the girls couldn’t ride it,” he said with a grin. “I went everywhere on that bicycle.”
Not long after he got the bicycle, he suffered a head injury in an accident, and missed a bit of school. When he was finally able to go back, he was riding his bike to school carrying his briefcase in front of him. When he reached back to catch his cap as it slid off his head, he lost control of his bicycle and wrecked into a pole, scrap-ing his face badly. “I was supposed to be George Washington in the play at school that day,” Watts said, shaking his head. “Instead I got to stay home for a few more days. There was good news, though,” he added with a smile, “I was able to fix the bicycle.”
Christmas dinners consisted of foods his father had hunted, and his mother had canned from the garden. “Daddy used to hunt, so we had a lot of quail and turkey…we used to have a wild turkey for Christmas Day, I remember. My mother would make pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie, and she would serve canned vegetables – things she would put up from the garden, like snaps,” Watts said. “I liked the sweet potato pie better than pump-kin,” he admitted.
“I used to love to go to my grandmother’s at Christmas – that was always the highlight of the Christmas sea-son,” Watts said. “I was the first grandson, and she was so proud of me for that,’ he reminisced.
“Her name,” Watts said, “was Maggie – Maggie Watts. She never left Halifax County,” he marveled, “she lived her whole 90 years in Halifax. She was real skinny – she never weighed over 90 pounds. She always wore her hair in a bun behind her head, and she always had an apron on tied around her waist,” he remembered, lost in the past.
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