The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 9, 2013

Commentary: Should ole acquaintances be forgot

By Karen Middleton
For The News Courier

— The Christmas season is quite naturally a time when we wax nostalgic.

At least I do.

Many of my Facebook friends have posted photos from Christmases of their childhoods. I enjoy seeing these photos and realize the reason for posting old holiday photos.

No present-day Christmas could ever possibly live up to the memories of bygone days.

For one thing, we were usually on the receiving end of gifts and were blissfully unaware of how much stuff cost.

So, I got into the spirit of the season and dug out an old photo of my ca. 1953 school Christmas program and posted it on Facebook.

I remember that event well. I attended a one-room “country school.” All grades, K-8, met in a single room. There was a long recitation bench at the front facing the teacher’s desk.

Each class was called to the front for lessons. Because there was no buffer zone, students would learn subliminally the lessons of other grades even if they were concentrating on their own subjects at their desks.

It was the same with lines from Christmas plays and songs after we went into rehearsal. By the time the big night arrived I knew all the parts. My anticipation built until I could hardly stand it until it came time to take my place on stage.

Our dads built the 10-inch-high stage that was stored in an outbuilding in two sections when not in use. In those final two weeks before the program we went into intensive rehearsals, and there was not a lot of lesson work.

Heavy wire was suspended from the ceiling at the corners of the stage to hold side and front horizontal wires on which bed sheets were threaded, secured by large safety pins. The more responsible of the older boys were designated as curtain-pullers.

Also of prime importance for “that night” was attire. My mother made most of my clothes. That year she made me a flared red corduroy skirt and a gray wool vest with red corduroy piping. A white frilly blouse and patent leather shoes completed my ensemble.

I stood upon the stage and loudly and joyfully sang Christmas carols. Tone deaf that I was and am, it was several years before anyone broke it to me that I sounded awful.

So now here I am 60 years later and the faces I once knew like siblings are strangers. I know the names of the girls, but the names of many of the visible faces of boys are lost somewhere in my aging gray matter.

So, I’ve posted the photo to my high school alumni Facebook wall in hopes some of those I-knew-you-back-then images will come forward and say, “Hey, it’s me,” and I will say, “Of course, I knew you all along.”

— Karen Middleton, though retired from The News Courier, is a frequent contributor and is the editor of Boom magazine.