Along the Way

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As a child growing up on the outskirts of Mansfield, I helped my mom make homemade pralines and fudge each year on Christmas Eve. Well, I don’t know how “helpful” I was, but I loved to watch and “lick the bowls.”

She would put the pralines and fudge out on Christmas Eve, which for us was a bigger, more thrilling day than Christmas Day because the whole family came over to our house. And honestly, “whole family” just meant our two first cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandparents. But it seemed like a large crowd to us.

Mom always put out several gifts for us to open on Christmas Eve, and then the rest were put out by “Santa” to be opened on Christmas morning. Well, my sisters and I used to wait until Mom went to the store and then we would carefully unwrap our gifts that were under the tree. We would inspect them, and then meticulously tape the wrapping paper back on.

But that wasn’t half as mischievous as what my cousin, Willis Wilburn, used to do to the presents underneath our grandmother, MeMe’s, tree in Pelican, La. Willis would secretly unwrap every gift under MeMe’s tree and put a half-eaten cookie inside each one. Looking back, some of those gifts went to MeMe’s friends, and there’s no telling what kind of fruitcake they may have thought MeMe was. They probably assumed the stress of the holidays had taken its toll.


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