Archived Story

Christmas with Mamie Lee

Published 11:00pm Friday, December 21, 2012

Mamie Lee died on Thursday.

She worked for Mama for 21 years and I say “worked” loosely because she, Mama and Dora, who worked for my grandmother, gathered in the kitchen every morning to catch up on the “news” of the day. Then, Mamie would turn on the radio to listen to the Rev. Warren Walker on WBAM. She’d hang the clothes on the line and walk around the house shaking a rag at the dust.

She ate dinner with her plate on her lap while watching “As the World Turns,” with Mama. They watched another “soap” and then Mama took her home.

Mamie Lee was family for all those years.

She started “working” for Mama before my brother was born and “retired” not long after his 21st birthday. She’d “got him raised,” she would laugh and say.

So that would make me about five years old when Mamie Lee came into my life.

In thinking about her and the many days that she was in my life, one memory stands clear. Maybe, because it’s Christmastime.

I was nine years old. It was Christmastime and there was magic in the air. I had written my letter to Sandy Claus and, since Mama said I’d been “borderline” good, I was hopeful of getting the BB gun I’d seen in the window of the Western Auto Store and a zillion BBs to go with it. I’d also asked for a pair of roller skates but I wasn’t counting on that.

The day before we got out for Christmas, some of the children at school said there was no Sandy Claus, that it was your mama and daddy. I believed in Sandy Claus and those “some” children said I was a baby.

I believed but I had to know for sure so I went into a full-blown, question-asking fit. “Is there a Sandy Claus, Daddy? Is there? Tell, me. Is there a real Sandy Claus?”

For a thousand times, Daddy said, that, yes, there was a Sandy Claus.

If I had stopped there, my little heart would not have been broken.

I got the BB gun and the zillion BBs under the Christmas tree. I did not get the roller skates. I’d been “borderline.”

I got some things in my stocking that I liked but I couldn’t shake the sadness that came with my newfound “knowledge.” I knew then how Adam and Eve must have felt when they chomped down on that apple and God gave them knowledge.

Christmas afternoon, I sat on the back steps, taking an alternate bite of peppermint candy and soda crackers, trying to get the taste of Christmas to come back to me.

Mamie Lee asked me why I was sitting there with the long, awful looking face. I told her there was no Sandy Claus.

“What’s Sandy Claus got to do with Christmas anyway,” she said. “Christmas is about the Baby Jesus. You still got the Baby Jesus in your heart. You still got Christmas. What you moaning about?”

Mamie Lee told me that, when the Baby Jesus was born, the Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Mary and Joseph and that’s’ why we give presents at Christmastime to people we love. She said presents are most special when they come from people you love and people you love back, like your mama and daddy.

“So, put a smile on that long face cause Sandy Claus ain’t got nothing to do with Christmas noway.”




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