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First Christmas at home sweet home

Snow cyprusThirty-one years ago this week, we moved into our new home. Spending our first Christmas here changed our lives...it became more permanent.

Our first 10 years together, we lived in an old gray and white singlewide trailer. The wafer-thin insulation allowed the winter wind out of the north to flutter our kitchen curtains.

In August, the trailer became an oven, so we often spent evenings in folding lawn chairs in the front yard of the trailer park until bedtime. I think we were both anemic from all the mosquito bites.

I worked as a reporter for The Community News and Jilda worked at Keynote Fashions dress shop. Together, our salaries were barely enough to keep the lights on. Thankfully, our families had deep freezers, and shared with us when there was too much month left at the end of our money.

Christmas was a little thin in those years. Our first tree was one we cut from the side of an old red-rock road. We didn’t spend much on Christmas presents, but they were creative.

Then, in 1976, my job outlook darkened when I was fired on Jan. 15. As it turns out, it was also my birthday.

I was out of work a year, but we somehow made it through “drawing my pennies,” and picking up odd jobs.

Then, in December of ‘76, I got a call from G.M. Young, a gentleman I’d befriended while working at the paper. He said that I should fill out an application with South Central Bell.

I’d never considered a career with the phone company, but my unemployment checks had run out and I had no prospects, so I jumped at the chance.

After filling out a mountain of paperwork, and taking a battery of what I thought were strange tests, I got the call.

They offered me a job as a garageman beginning Jan. 3, 1977.

I started out earning $3.17 an hour gassing up trucks. I thought I was robbing the phone company but I didn’t share that with anyone. I showed up early and worked a little over each day.

We began saving our money, and in 1983, we signed a contract to have our house built. It wasn’t big or fancy, but it was something we could afford.

The thing that sold us was the vaulted roof with floor to ceiling windows in the living room that made it hard to tell where the outside world ended, and the inside world began.

In some ways that seems like a lifetime ago, and then.... well, you can finish the sentence.

As I stand at the front windows this evening looking at our yard, I can see the first Christmas tree we had in this house. It was a white pine.

I stood on my tiptoes and placed the Christmas star on it without a ladder. It’s now over 60 feet tall.

Through the years with Ma Bell, we flourished. Many of my coworkers asked why we didn’t move to the south of Birmingham, which was much closer to work. The houses were bigger and the neighborhoods more affluent, but we never saw a place there that looked like home.


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